Wheelchair Ramps – Short Guide and Recommendations

What is the optimal length of a wheelchair ramp?

This is the most frequently asked question when it comes to wheelchair ramps. It’s natural—it’s the most important part about buying or building a ramp. Seeing as this article isn’t just meant for people who have dealt with ramps in the past, but also for people who have only now been put in the position to research the subject, we’ll give our version of the answer. 

First, you need to know that the optimal length of a ramp is closely tied to the slope’s degree. A slope of 5 degrees is recommended, a slope of 10 degrees should not be attempted without another person pushing the wheelchair. When you’re trying to determine the length of the ramp, you’re actually trying to find out at what point you should start building so that the distance will make it possible for the ramp to raise in increments and keep the slope at an acceptable degree.

The length itself is easy to measure. The ADA, for example, recommends a 1:12 slope (5 degrees), which means an inch of height requires at least twelve inches (or a foot) of length. It’s basically the same number of inches, this time in feet. So, if you have a 5” step that you need to overcome, that means that your ramp should be 5 multiplied by 12 (5*12), 60” or 5’. That number is for occupied mobility devices, the number of feet decreases slightly when there’s no one in the wheelchair/mobility scooter.

Characteristics of wheelchair ramps

Time

When thinking about buying or building a wheelchair, you should consider how long you’re going to use it for. If we’re talking long term use where you don’t need to move it as much, then you can look at heavier options. If you’re going to use it temporarily, a lighter option may be your answer. 

Portability

If you’re going to travel with the ramp, you should look at how easy it is to assemble. It may have other features that might make it easier to store in a means of transportation or a home. You can even look at how much they weigh.

Weight

When we speak about a ramp’s weight, we refer to the weight it can carry or we refer to the ramp’s weight. If we’re in the latter scenario, that number can tell us how easily we can carry it. If we’re talking about the first scenario, we can use that number and the second one and make an informed guess about its stability.

Stability

We use all sorts of information when we decide how stable the ramp is. The length shows us how steep it is depending on our needs, the material it’s made from can give us clues about how it’s going to hold up, and the weight how much heft it has. Additionally, there are extra safety measures that can make it more stable: pins, anti-slip mats to increase traction, slots to evacuate the water, and many more.

Material

As with anything, what ramps are built out of matters. They can be fabricated out of metal, plastic, rubber, or wood. Of course, those materials are reinforced, treated, and gone through many transformations to end up as ramps.

Size

The dimensions matter too. How big a ramp is most likely determines its purpose. You know about its length and its importance in ramp building, but width matters too. It wouldn’t do to get a ramp narrower than your wheelchair. 

Here are five recommendations that we believe cover a wide range of wheelchair ramps.

1. Titan Wheelchair Entry Ramp

8' Aluminum Wheelchair Entry Ramp & Handrails Solid Surface Scooter Mobility Access
Buy on Amazon

Why is this ramp on our list?

Best overall. In our opinion, this is the ramp that offers the best value for your money. It can be attached securely and it’s long so it can handle higher steps. The best word we can come up with when talking about how ramps should be if you need them for a long time is ‘solid’ and this fits that description very well.

Pros and cons

The Titan Wheelchair Ramp can be a little difficult to understand, especially when we go into specifications, but it’s easy enough to assemble. Its length is of 8’, with the overall width 36.75” and 35.5” on the inside. The border height is 1.88”. Its front transition lip is 3” and the back transition lip is 6”. With a height of 36.5” and a diameter of 1.5”, the handrails are spaced at 9”. They are also easily removable if an open ramp suits you more. The ramp’s total weight is 120lbs and it can carry a maximum weight of 850 lbs.  

Now, we’ll go into what does specifications mean. The ramp offers people the possibility of grabbing on to something, the handrails, which is very useful and even recommended when the slope gets over 5 degrees. Seeing as it’s built to handle for high traffic areas too—making it great for small shops or other businesses—there are a variety of mobility issues it’s equipped to handle: from people using canes and walkers, to manual wheelchairs, and finally to scooters. And the weight it handles only comes as further proof and assurance that it’s up to the job.

Besides the handrails, when we’re talking about safety we should mention the ramp extensions in front and back. Referred above as ‘lips’, they offer almost seamless progression between the ramp and its surroundings. More than that, it even has two pins at the end of the front extension to secure the ramp in place.

As far as points against it go, it’s not as portable as others on our list. With a weight of 120lbs, this ramp is heavy. And while that can also count as an advantage, it goes towards its heft and stability, it’s harder to take it down and move it.

Final thoughts

The Titan Wheelchair Ramp is, in our opinion, the best ramp overall.

2. Prairie View Industries SFW330 Portable Singlefold Ramp

Prairie View Industries SFW330 Portable Singlefold Ramp, 3 Feet x 30 Inch
Buy on Amazon

Why is this ramp on our list?

Includes safety video. It seems that Prairie View Industries prize safety and, as such, they add a safety video with each purchase. Whether you are new at installing ramps and don’t really know what you’re doing or you are simply trying to make sure you got it right, such a video is beyond useful. 

Pros and cons

The video isn’t the only safety measure that Prairie View Industries have with the SFW330. It has been rigorously tested, has been welded rather than riveted together, and it has safety pins for additional security. Now, the pins will have to go into your floor, and maybe that gives you pause, but it’s still a good option to have.

The Prairie View Industries Singlefold Ramp can fold easily and can carry weights up to 800lbs. It’s a sturdy ramp, at 3’ in length and 30” wide, accommodating different wheel configurations that belong to a wide range of wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The ramp also has anti-slip tape on its surface to account for wet wheels.

It doesn’t do so well when the ramp is wet, though, making that one of our disadvantages. There are, however, mats that increase traction available for purchase because, when it rains or something gets spilled, slipping becomes a danger for everybody.  Also, as far as weaknesses go, there another you should know about. The hinges in the middle stick out, but not so much as to be a danger to a scooter or a wheelchair. If you remember they exist, they shouldn’t be a problem.

Final thoughts

Prairie View Industries Singlefold Ramp is a great and sturdy ramp.

3. DMI Portable Wheelchair Ramp for Home

MABIS DMI Healthcare Portable Wheelchair Ramp/Threashold Ramp, Adjustable, Telescoping, Retractable, and Lightweight Loading Ramp with Cover, Silver
Buy on Amazon

Why is this ramp on our list?

Exact fit. This ramp can fit very well wheelchairs that are wider or narrower than usual because you can arrange it so it matches exactly. It’s easy to use too. The ramp is made up of two separate ramps which can be placed as far or as close as you want them.

Pros and cons

A big point in the DMI Portable Wheelchair ramp’s favor is that it is adjustable; not only in width but in length too. The two components are telescopic, which means that they are able to be lengthened or shortened as needed. The ramp is portable, too, and takes little space since you can change its dimensions to make it smaller: 6.5” wide, 29” long. It doesn’t require tools to assemble and it’s perfect for storing in a vehicle or at home, in its carry bag.

The ramp’s light, at 6lbs each component, though it can carry weights up to 660lbs (each can handle weights of 330lbs). The length of the ramp can be adjusted by the press of a button. One ramp is between 3 feet and 7 feet long, with the interior width of 4.5”, 7” in total with the metal borders. The tracks’ width, however, is 4” because the borders come in about half an inch. And speaking of metal borders, the ramp’s made out of lightweight aluminum, that’s resistant to rust and durable.

Regarding the disadvantages, the manufacturers mention some themselves. It’s not recommended for powered scooters and wheelchairs, or, because those borders are on both ramps, for those mobility aids with a clearance of less than 2”. The manufacturer also recommends that this ramp be used by a person in a wheelchair only if it’s accompanied by a caretaker. That is for various reasons, not least of which are the steep slopes over three-four stairs, which are only considered a good angle to climb with somebody there to push you. Also, you should be careful that your wheels aren’t wider than 4”.

Final thoughts

It’s a great ramp for those who have wider or narrower wheelchairs. 

4. Drive Medical Single Fold Ramp

Drive Medical Single Fold Portable Wheelchair Scooter Ramp with Carry Handle and Travel Bag, 3 Feet Long, Gun Metal (3 Feet X 30 Inch)
Buy on Amazon

Why is this ramp on our list?

Portability. Drive Medical thought about those of you who would like a ramp that’s easy to move and take with you or to be installed temporarily. The ramp folds in half lengthwise and has a handy handle to grab onto. What’s more, included is a carry bag to protect it and make it simple to store away until you need it again.

Pros and cons

With the maximum weight capacity of 600lbs, this ramp is 37” in length, 4” in height, and 28.5” in width. However, the ramp has two borders on the outer edges that take a few inches off of how wide it is, with the width between the borders of 25.5”. Be careful, though, if you want to install it at the entrance of a house or something similar, you’d need the first measurement to make sure it fits, a width of 28.5”.

The ramp has slots, which are useful in keeping water off the ramp, and can comfortably climb 6”. That’s about one step if you want to keep it a manageable height. Some people put it over two steps, but as that makes the slope steeper it’s not recommended.

As for disadvantages, one that drew our attention was that it had problems with doors swinging outward. If you can’t imagine that ever being an issue, think about screen doors. They stop at the borders of the ramp, so if you want this ramp, you have to either shave them or get rid of the screen entirely. The second is the ramp’s weight. It’s around 20lbs and seeing as that’s pretty heavy we thought we should include it here.    

Final thoughts

The Drive Medical Single Fold Ramp is a great portable ramp.

5. Prairie View Industries TH1032 Threshold Ramp

Prairie View Industries TH1032 Threshold Ramp, 10 x 32 Inch
Buy on Amazon

Why is this ramp on our list?

Threshold ramp. While the other ramps on our list are designed to help with one or more stairs, often found outside, this ramp is made for a high threshold or entryway. It can be difficult to realize the need for such a ramp if you’re not disabled yourself as it’s generally not considered a problem unless you have to get over that doorway yourself and you find out it’s very difficult or you can’t do it at all. But, since the problem exists, Prairie View Industries have come up with a solution.

Pros and cons

We’ll start with the dimensions so you can get a better idea of the product. The ramp is 10” long and 32” wide. It can hold weights up to 600lbs and its maximum offered height is between 0.5” and 0.75”. As you can see, it won’t reach far but, then again, it’s not meant to. If you have a threshold in your place of business or at home that’s a bit taller, this may be the product for you.  

The Prairie View Industries ramp is made out of aluminum, a light material, and so the weight of 4lbs isn’t a surprise. It’s easy to install and considering that the aluminum is durable it may last a while. Next to the anti-slip mat on the face of the ramp put there to aid traction and the wide stance, the ramp’s safe too. Continuing in the same vein, the surface is grooved to expel water and make it able to be walked on securely.  

There are holes at the top of the ramp, making it possible to be safely attached. That’s a great thing if safety is your concern, however, that would inevitably leave marks on the threshold. And while we’re on the subject of disadvantages, the ramp is made for doors swinging in the opposite direction from it seeing as a door won’t be able to clear the ramp unless the door is itself raised. Mostly, it means that the door swings inward and the ramp is placed outside.

Final thoughts

The Prairie View Industries ramp is a great ramp for thresholds.

FAQ

How do I make stairs accessible to disabled people?

The location of said stairs is important but not extremely. No matter if it’s at your place of business or at home, you have less than a handful of answers, but they come in a range of possibilities. You can build a lift—it costs more but it’s been proven to be useful for more people, like the elderly, mothers with children, or even tired people. At home, you can try a lift, if your home is big enough, or more appropriate is a chair lift for indoor stairs. And finally, the subject of our article today, ramps. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, there is surely one out there that’s the right fit for you.

Does my insurance pay for a wheelchair ramp?

That depends on where you live. Different states have different laws, not to mention different countries. In general, if you need it for medical reasons and have a doctor saying so, yes. If not, look at Non-Profit Organizations near you or that work nationally and see what sort of programs they have. Maybe there’s one that qualifies. Your best starting point, though, is with what your insurance can to provide. Look for the words ‘medical equipment,’ but you can extend the search to ‘medical benefits,’ and other phrases like it.

If I want a wheelchair ramp, how much is it going to cost?

It really depends on what your purpose for the ramp is. If it’s small, a threshold ramp, then it isn’t too much, around $50, if you know how to and can drill into your entryway. The more height it covers, the longer it is and the more material goes into it. There are portable ones that are still under $500 and usually easy to install yourself. And finally, at $1,000-$3,000, with labor price included, you can have a permanent ramp installed.

Can I rent a wheelchair ramp or do I need to buy it?

You can rest easy; there are places where you can rent a ramp. Of course, the question is should you do it. Not concerning aspects of safety, we aren’t discussing that now, but in terms of whether it’s worth it or not.

If you are temporarily injured and/or have just had surgery and it’s impossible for you to climb stairs, then yes. It’s a viable solution, with another one being a portable ramp. If a loved one who doesn’t live with you has a mobility issue, you can again, rent a ramp or you can buy a portable one.

There are situations in which you don’t know how long you’ll need a ramp and those are a bit more complicated. Most places that rent ramps but they have them for sale too will offer you a discount if you end up purchasing the ramp you are renting. If you find such a place, it’s more convenient to start off renting.

And if it’s something more permanent or it’s going to a while before improvements are shown, you should consider if maybe outright buying a ramp isn’t a better investment.

If I buy a portable wheelchair ramp, are they safe?

Generally, yes. Wheelchair ramps have anti-slip mats, slots to expel the water, ridges to help traction, and features for stability. The companies that manufacture them are aware of the elements’ impact on its stability, on the wear and tear that accompanies having a ramp in a dense traffic area, or the problems that might come up with certain aspects of it. They’re usually upfront about warning you before buying the ramp about possible issues. Whether it’s mentioned why their product may not be appropriate for you or that you should change an aspect of it if you want the ramp to work as you need, there’s a bit more transparency when it comes to wheelchair ramps. If you have a goal in mind, you can start by looking for ramps that will serve that purpose and compare them.