Fitting a ramp
If you have limited mobility and there are steps into your property, then it may be necessary to use a ramp. There are some important considerations to bear in mind.
- Ramps can be permanent or portable: the best option will depend on your requirements – see the pros and cons of permanent and portable options below. It may also depend on the owner of the property, because landlords have to give permission for installation.
- The height of the steps: this will have an impact on the length and gradient (steepness) of the ramp. Gradient can be calculated by dividing the height of the ramp by the length of the ramp. It is recommended that a ramp should have a gradient of at least 1:12 for a person self-propelling. For example, for every foot of height, the ramp should be 12 foot in length.
- A steeper gradient: this could be considered if the person has assistance and there isn’t the space to accommodate a longer ramp. Bear in mind that it could be a hazard for both walking and assisted wheelchair use if it’s too steep. A recommended gradient would be no less than 1:8.
Whatever ramp you opt for, always ensure it has a non-slip surface and, if commissioning a self-build ramp, ensure it has upturned edges to prevent wheelchair users from rolling over the sides.
When and how to install a permanent ramp
Permanent ramps are usually installed if the property is regularly used by a person using a wheelchair or scooter. This may be a necessary adaptation to make to your home, but you could also consider a portable ramp if it will only be used occasionally.
Permanent ramps can be made from timber or concrete. There are also a number of modular ramps available on the market that can be adapted to suit different locations.
A permanent ramp should have a level platform at the top so that the wheelchair can safely stop while the door is being opened. A handrail can also provide additional safety for people walking to the door, but usually the best option is to consider retaining steps at the side of the ramp to provide alternative access.
When considering installing a ramp, be aware that permanent ramps can be expensive and may take up a lot of space, as they will need to meet the recommended gradient requirements. Planning permission may be necessary depending on the property, so make sure you research the subject before you make any decisions.
If you require a permanent solution, but a ramp is not suitable (for example, if space is an issue and the height of the steps means that the length of the ramp becomes impractical), an outdoor wheelchair platform lift could be a better option.
Planning permission may be necessary for permanent ramps depending on the property, so make sure you research the subject before you make any decisions.
Portable ramps may offer you a better solution
If a permanent ramp is not suitable or necessary, there is a wide range of portable alternatives to consider. These are made of lighter materials and are usually less expensive than permanent options.
- Suitcase ramps are designed to be easier to carry.
- Roll-up ramps are a good option if storage space is an issue.
- Broad ramps, threshold ramps and oversill ramps are also available.
When choosing a portable ramp, consider where and how the ramp will be used. Will you need a ramp that allows you in and out of a vehicle, or will it only be used for home access? What type of wheelchair and/or mobility scooter will it need to accommodate?
Also, check the weight that the ramp can safely handle, because some powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters can be very heavy.
Portable modular ramps and handrails are also available, providing a wide range of access options for different types of buildings and entrances.
Where to buy ramps
The Ramp People offers a range of wheelchair ramps to improve access to different types of building entrances, and also sells threshold ramps.
Portaramp specialises in portable ramps that can be used for access to buildings, steps, public transport and vehicles.
Doors and door frames can also be awkward for wheelchair users, especially if they have to be approached at an angle. A suitable width is usually 800mm, but the wider the door width, the easier the access will be and 900–1,000mm would be considered ideal.
If the need for widening is more significant, you could replace the door with a larger frame or even install two doors. Some people prefer sliding doors for ease of use.
If you’re having difficulty at home because of poor balance or decreased mobility, consider installing grab rails.
Find advice on stairlifts, wheelchair lifts, hand rails and walking sticks, and avoiding common hazards on stairways.
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