Basic Guidelines for Building and Installing Ramps

Wheelchair ramps create a safe entrance and allow wheelchair and mobility scooter users to gain access to their home and go about their routine activities. Quality ramps allow users to negotiate steps, thresholds, raised landings and vehicles with ease. These accessibility devices come in a large variety of shapes, styles, and sizes. There are permanent, semi-permanent, and portable ramps.

Ramps generally require a lot of space, especially if they are meant to overcome significant changes in level. There are certain critical elements that must be considered prior to setting up a ramp, such as the home entrance, type of accommodations (to provide for the disability), available area for ramp set up, ease of access from the points within the house to the doorway, and the width of the doorways. Here are some basic guidelines that must be kept in mind while building and installing a ramp system:

· Attractive design — Install an attractive ramp system that goes well with your home’s exterior appearance. Add landscaping around the ramp and try to minimize the length of the device using existing grade elevations. An outdoor deck can also be added onto the ramp at the entrance to make it look like part of the porch.

· Slope — The ‘slope’ indicates how steep the ramp system is. This is an important feature as it affects how difficult it is to travel up and down the ramp. If the slope is too steep, it may be too difficult or even be unsafe to use the ramp. The less steep the slope is, the longer the ramp will have to be. Building codes require a slope no steeper than 1:12 — meaning for every one inch of change in height, the system must be 12 inches in length. Slopes of 1:15, 1:18 or 1:20 require less effort and are recommended if wheelchair users have limited strength or stamina.

· Shape — Ramps come in different shapes such as straight, U-shaped, L-shaped or even switch-back shaped. The shape of the system mainly depends on the spacing or grading constraints outside the entrances.

· Ramp design — As the main floor of the home normally sits one step above entry stairs, porches or decks, the purpose of the ramp would be to eliminate this step. Generally, most homes have more than a single step. It is important to make sure that the landing area outside the door is large enough to accommodate wheelchair maneuvering.

· Landings — Landings (level areas) are required at the top, bottom and intermediate locations in a ramp way. Proper landing areas helps users to maintain a correct balance while performing tasks like opening doors, transferring in and out of vehicle, resting for a time and safely changing the direction of travel when the device makes a turn. Level landings should be spaced 6–9 m (20–30 ft.) apart and be at least 1,525 mm (60 in.) long.

· Length and width–A single length of ramp should not be more than 9 m (30 ft.) between the landings. On the other hand, the width of the device can range from 36" to 48", depending on the personal assistance or type of mobility equipment used;36" may be suitable for someone walking or using a cane, crutches, or a walker. 42" to 48" is appropriate for persons using a wheelchair, or where a person can walk with assistance at the side.

· Weight tolerance–Check the weight specifications of any system you are considering to build. As wheelchair ramps are designed for a number of different uses. Some are built for manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs and for just wheelchairs without the users. To prevent accidents, make sure that the system is built to meet your specific requirement.

· Features — Install safety features such as guard rails, crutch stops, balusters and handrails. The style and design of these features should meet the individual needs of the people using the ramp.

· Location — Make sure there is clear headroom of at least 2,100 mm (83 in.) above ramps and landings, as these devices may also be used by people for walking. Make sure that protruding objects such as window flower boxes, air conditioners or low awnings do not hang over ramp or its landings. The location of the system must be finalized after considering its position in relation to the drive way, parking areas and entrance and existing landscape items such as trees, shrubs etc.

· Traction — Traction is important in order to enable wheelchair wheels to apply brake as and when needed. Most aluminum ramps are built with a grooved, non-slip surface that maintains sufficient traction (even during heavy rain).

When it comes to building ramps, it is important to all these important factors. The best option would be to partner with a reliable accessibility equipment dealer to purchase and install a ramp. Reliable companies help with product design and also provide efficient support for installation and maintenance.

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Living Free Home is your local New Jersey provider of home accessibility equipment: stair lifts, modular ramps, portable ramps, wheel chair lifts, and more.

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