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Which Wheelchair Ramp Should I Buy?

Portable van ramp

An aluminum ramp is the best choice for a portable van ramp.

Looking for the right wheelchair ramp? You’ll need to answer a few questions to help you find the best wheelchair ramp for your needs.

How do you plan to use the wheelchair ramp?

Does the wheelchair ramp need to be portable? If you are using the ramp for vehicle access or if you need to transport the ramp, you’ll need to find a portable wheelchair ramp. These types of ramps are lightweight and easy to carry. Some models fold into a “suitcase” with a handle for carrying, or they split into sections for lighter weight.

Permanent wheelchair ramps do not need to be portable or lightweight. They should be able to withstand exposure to the elements (if the ramp is outdoors) and be durable enough for continuous use, including foot traffic and wheelchairs.

Van ramps and utility ramps for vehicles need to attach securely to the floor of the vehicle to prevent slipping. They should also fold for storage inside the vehicle and be short enough to allow easy loading and unloading next to other vehicles.

Threshold ramps can be used indoors or outdoors to make the transition smoother from one room to another or from the outdoor landing into your house. Getting over the threshold requires extra “oomph,” especially if the threshold is raised several inches, but a threshold ramp makes for a smooth, easy transition over the threshold.

What size wheelchair ramp do you need?

Rolling a wheelchair up a ramp is much easier when the slope is gradual (no greater than 2″ rise per 12″ length). If the wheelchair is unoccupied, a steeper slope is acceptable (no greater than 3″ rise per 12″ length).

Follow the ADA slope recommendations for occupied and unoccupied wheelchairs and for home and commercial ramps. You also need to make sure the ramp length will fit in the space available.

What type of wheelchair ramp material fits your needs?

The type of material used to produce your wheelchair ramp will affect the cost, durability, and weight. If you need a lightweight ramp, aluminum is the best choice. Aluminum wheelchair ramps are the most popular option for portable van ramps and other portable ramps.

Wood is one of the cheapest materials, but it requires extra care for weathering the elements. Wood is used mainly for permanent ramps outside the home.

Steel ramps are inexpensive but heavier than aluminum. They are also subject to rust and corrosion.

Rubber ramps work well for thresholds. They are easy to cut for a custom fit, and they are silent for foot traffic as well as wheelchair traffic.

Loading a Wheelchair into a Vehicle

Wheelchair ramp

A portable wheelchair ramp makes it easier to load a wheelchair into your vehicle.

About 8 million people suffer from disabilities requiring the use of wheelchairs. Transporting these devices, however, can be cumbersome—something you can overcome through these practical suggestions.

Precautions

  • Purchase a wheelchair ramp for heavier models to eliminate need for lifting; choose from a portable wheelchair ramp, mounted, threshold, folding, or solid.
  • Modify your loading/unloading techniques to your unique situation.
  • Carefully read/utilize the instructions that came with your wheelchair.
  • Never lift excessively-heavy wheelchairs made for ramps/lifts.

Preparing to Load

  1. Place blankets/rugs over rear of vehicle to prevent denting/scratching; do the same for indoor seats to prevent tearing.
  2. Clean out the trunk prior to loading to create more space.
  3. When possible, make wheelchairs lighter by taking off removable parts; to prevent accidentally leaving these parts behind, immediately place them in a bag and put them in the vehicle before loading the chair.
  4. Fold the wheelchair, if feasible, making sure you keep your fingers clear of constricting or sharp parts.
  5. Decide where you will place the wheelchair, depending on your limitations and the type of vehicle; if possible, consider placing the wheelchair behind the driver’s or passenger’s seat. This can be less cumbersome than putting them in the trunk.
  6. Bring the wheelchair as close as possible to the vehicle, making sure that the wheels are straight, the foot rests made to stand, and the brakes are “on.”

Lifting a Wheelchair

If you are lifting the wheelchair into the vehicle, follow the safety tips below.

  1. Keep wheelchairs close to your body as you lift.
  2. Bend your legs, not your back—i.e., lift with your legs.
  3. Using two hands, lift the wheelchair only as high as necessary, in line with the height of the vehicle.

Loading with a Wheelchair Ramp

If you are loading the wheelchair with a ramp, follow the tips below.

  1. Push the wheelchair in with wheels going in first; placing the handles/top of the wheelchair in last makes it easier to unload later.
  2. If using a non-collapsible/folding wheelchair, park your vehicle so that a ramp may allow loading safely away from on-coming traffic.

General Safety Tips

  • Ask for assistance when necessary.
  • Use a vehicle that is wide enough and not too high for wheelchair manipulation; vehicle modifications may be necessary.
  • Properly secure wheelchairs once inside.
  • Mishandling of ramps is dangerous; use them with care, according to directions.
  • Use a portable wheelchair ramp for loading if you suffer from back pain or don’t have the strength to lift heavy objects.

Wheelchair Ramp Selection Guide

Wheelchair Ramp Incline

Figure out the wheelchair ramp rise, length, and incline.

A steep wheelchair ramp is dangerous and difficult to navigate. For safety reasons, your wheelchair ramp should not exceed a 9.5 degree slope when the wheelchair is occupied. See the tips below to find the right wheelchair ramp for your needs.

Measure the Rise

To find out what size wheelchair ramp you need, first measure the rise (vertical height) of application. In other words, figure out the vertical distance between where the bottom of the ramp will be anchored and where the top of the ramp will rest. Measure the height of the stairs, landing, vehicle floorboards, or other elevated landing place.

Find the Ramp Length and Incline

Once you find the rise, use the chart below to find the correct ramp length that you need that is within the slope recommendations for your application.

Ramp Model Selection Chart

Ramp Model Selection Chart

Slope Recommendations:

1:12 Slope (4.8 degrees)

  • For wheelchair ramps up to 30 feet long and for commercial ramps (as recommended by the ADA)
  • For most strong, unassisted manual chair users

2:12 Slope (9.5 degrees)

3:12 Slope (14.5 degrees)

  • For loading and unloading empty wheelchairs and scooters

Safety Tips

Before using your wheelchair ramp, make sure it is properly set up and will not slip off the landing. Do not exceed the weight limits for your wheelchair ramp.

Wheelchair Van Ramp Buying Guide

Mounted van ramp

A mounted van ramp makes it easy to load and unload a wheelchair or scooter.

Looking for a wheelchair ramp for your vehicle? A van ramp is an easy way to make your vehicle accessible to wheelchairs, scooters, and power chairs. Here are a few tips on how to choose a wheelchair van ramp.

Portable or Installed

Van ramps are either portable or semi-permanently installed. A portable utility van ramp allows you to use the ramp only when you need it or transfer the ramp from one vehicle to another. If you will be using your van ramp on a regular basis, we recommend a semi-permanently installed ramp. The ramp mounts to the floor of the van inside the doorway. Some mounted van ramps include a spring assist for easy operation by one person.

Rear or Side Door Van Ramp

You can choose from either a rear door van ramp or a side door ramp. When parking, you’ll need to make sure you have enough room to the side or rear of the van to unfold the ramp. The ramp should not stick out into a traffic lane or parking lot row.

A side door ramp mounts inside the sliding door and folds in half to leave the doorway partly accessible for other passengers. A rear van ramp stores vertically inside the doorway and allows you to push the wheelchair into the back of the van. Keep in mind that a rear van ramp will take up most of your rear storage space.

Ramp Length

The longer the van ramp is, the easier it will be to push or drive the wheelchair up the ramp. Just keep in mind that the longer the ramp is, the more room you will need around your van to unfold the ramp. The ADA recommends a slope no greater than 9.5 degrees for an occupied wheelchair or scooter and a slope no greater than 14.5 degrees for unoccupied chairs.

Wheelchair Ramp Length

Wheelchair ramp

The wheelchair ramp should be long enough to form a safe slope.

How long should a wheelchair ramp be? Shorter ramps might be cheaper and easier to handle, but don’t skimp on length. If a wheelchair ramp is too short, you’ll have a difficult time pushing a wheelchair up the ramp (which can be dangerous) because of the steeper incline. Steep ramps can also be dangerous if there is snow, ice, or water on the ramp.

The ramp must be long enough to clear all of the stairs in the distance from the top of the landing to the bottom.

Do you have enough room at the bottom of the ramp to turn the wheelchair? If the end of the ramp is too close to a wall, fence, railing, or other obstacle, you could run into the obstacle or have a difficult time turning to avoid it. There should also be sufficient room at the top of the ramp to maneuver the wheelchair.

While longer wheelchair ramps are easier to navigate, they can also create difficulties when it comes to parking and clearance. The longer the ramp, the more room you need to set it up. Parking can be tricky, especially since you don’t want the ramp to extend into an area where other vehicles will be driving.

To find the correct wheelchair ramp length, measure the vertical rise from the bottom of the landing to the top. Then use the recommended incline for your wheelchair to find the proper ramp length using the incline chart below.

Wheelchair Ramp Incline Chart

Wheelchair Ramp Incline Chart

Choosing a Lightweight Wheelchair

Lightweight wheelchair

This lightweight wheelchair comes with quick-release rear wheels for easier transport.

Do you need a self-propelled wheelchair that’s easy to lift into the trunk or back seat of your vehicle? A lightweight wheelchair is the answer. Here are some tips on choosing a wheelchair that’s lightweight and transport-friendly.

Weight and Construction

Most lightweight wheelchairs range from 27 to 35 pounds. With removable accessories, you can take the chair apart so that it’s lighter and easier to lift. Look for removable leg riggings, arm rests, and quick-release rear wheels are features that you should look for if you want to make the wheelchair lighter and more compact.

Since aluminum is lighter than steel, most lightweight wheelchairs are constructed with aluminum. Even though it’s lighter than steel, aluminum is just as strong and durable. It also resists rusting and corrosion.

Transporting a Wheelchair

Most caregivers are strong enough to lift a lightweight wheelchair into the trunk or back seat of a vehicle. We recommend practicing safe lifting techniques to protect yourself from muscle strain and injuries. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

If you suffer from back problems or if the wheelchair is still too heavy for you to lift, use a wheelchair ramp to load the chair into your vehicle and to move the unoccupied chair up and down stairs. Folding portable wheelchair ramps and mounted van ramps are available in different sizes and designs to fit your mobility needs.

How to Set Up a PVI Folding Ramp

Since, setting up a folding ramp takes only a few minutes, portable folding ramps can be used either as semi-permanent or temporary ramps. The following instructions from PVI Industries will help you learn how to set up a multi-fold ramp.

1. Position the portable ramp about a ramp’s length away from the step, van, or platform where you want to set up the ramp. Stand the ramp up on its end with the open ends down and the handle side facing you. Reach down and lift the first half of the ramp toward the step or landing area, and set it down on top of the landing. Make sure the hook is pressed firmly against the step.

Step 1

Step 1

2. Open the top half of the ramp.

Step 2

Step 2

3. Unfold the top half of the ramp towards you and make sure that the ramp hooks are pressed firmly against the landing area.

Step 3

Step 3

How to Set Up a Portable Wheelchair Ramp

Portable wheelchair ramp

Make sure the wheelchair ramp is stable before use.

A portable wheelchair ramp provides access to landings for wheelchair users. Ramps are available in a variety of styles and lengths depending on your needs. The following instructions will help you set up your ramp for use.

Portable Wheelchair Ramp Setup Instructions

Joining the Ramp Halves

To join the two halves of a multifold ramp, lock the two halves of the ramp together by aligning the hinges and rotating the cam pin to the locked position. You can either join the two halves before setting up the ramp or you can set up one half of the ramp and then attach the second half of the ramp by aligning the hinges and locking the cam pin.

Setting Up the Ramp

  1. Position the wheelchair ramp about a ramp’s length away from the steps or landing.
  2. Stand up the ramp on its end, with the open ends on the ground.
  3. Unfasten the Velcro straps located near the bottom of the ramp.
  4. Make sure the handle is lined up with the center of where you want the ramp to be.
  5. Bend down and grab the bottom half of the ramp. Unfold the ramp and stretch it out towards the step or landing area.
  6. Set the lip of the ramp down on the landing. The top lip should rest securely on the landing, with the ramp pressed firmly against the step. Make sure the landing is substantial enough to hold the ramp securely.
  7. Make sure the Velcro straps are located on the underside of the ramp to avoid a tripping hazard.
  8. Unfold the top half of the ramp.
  9. Then unfold the ramp lengthwise. Make sure the ramp is pressed firmly against the step to prevent the ramp from slipping off the landing during use. The ramp should be centered on the landing.

Securing and Testing the Ramp

  • Whenever possible, anchor the top of the ramp to the landing surface with the steel security pins provided.
  • Test the ramp to make sure it is stable before allowing an occupied wheelchair on the ramp.
  • Use the built-in level to check the slope. The ADA recommends a maximum 2:12 slope for portable wheelchair ramp use. For loading unoccupied equipment, a 3:12 slope is acceptable.

Removing the Ramp

To remove the ramp, reverse the setup process. For easier carrying, separate the two halves of the ramp.

What Is the Best Wheelchair Ramp Material?

Portable aluminum wheelchair ramp

A portable aluminum ramp is lightweight, cost-effective, and portable.

Which type of material you should use for a wheelchair ramp depends on a number of different factors, including cost, maintenance, safety, durability, and portability.

Cost

Wood is one of the cheapest sources if the labor is donated. The cost of labor to build a wooden wheelchair ramp makes it one of the most costly sources in the long run. Steel is the lowest cost material available, although it is less popular because of its weight and its tendency to rust. Concrete is one of the most expensive materials, while aluminum is in the low to medium range as far as cost.

Maintenance

Wood ramps require the most upkeep to maintain their appearance and safety. Steel requires occasional care to prevent rusting. Concrete and aluminum ramps are practically maintenance-free, which makes them a better option for long-term ramp use.

Safety

An anti-slip, high traction surface coating reduces the risk of slipping on any ramp surface; however, snow and ice accumulation can make the surface dangerous. Drainage holes in a steel or aluminum ramp help to prevent this problem. Another safety concern is the tendency of wood material to rot over time. Without proper maintenance, a wood ramp can rot, warp, or split.

Durability

Steel and concrete wheelchair ramps last the longest. Aluminum ramps are durable, but the raised traction grooves wear down over time. Wood ramps deteriorate the fastest, due to rotting.

Portability

Aluminum wheelchair ramps are the most portable ramps available. They are lightweight and easy to carry. Portable steel ramps are available, but they are heavier and bulkier than aluminum. Wood and concrete ramps are permanent and not portable.

Wheelchair Ramp FAQs

Portable van ramp

An extended hook and steel security pins hold the portable van ramp in place.

What keeps the ramp from slipping off the landing?

The lip of the ramp is designed to rest firmly on the step or landing. The weight of the ramp and the weight of the wheelchair or scooter will hold the ramp in place. Steel security pins are included with PVI wheelchair ramps to anchor the ramp even more securely. Van ramps are available as portable ramps or mounted van ramps.

What happens if the ramp is too steep?

Manual wheelchairs will become too difficult to push if the ramp is too steep. Electric wheelchairs and scooters will either bottom out or stall on a steep ramp. If the chair bottoms out, the bottom plate or footrest will get stuck on the ramp and disable the drive wheels. If the chair stalls, the wheels will keep spinning but the chair will not have enough power to climb the ramp.

How do I install a van ramp if the threshold is higher than the van floor?

A conversion kit is required if the rear door threshold is higher than the van floor. You can purchase a conversion kit from a wheelchair ramp manufacturer. This kit lets you properly mount the ramp inside the rear door opening without interfering with the threshold trim. If you prefer a do-it-yourself option, you might also be able to raise the floor using a wooden pallet or platform secured to the van floor.

What about bumper cutouts?

If your vehicle has a cutout in the bumper that is larger than 30 inches wide (for example, a Cadillac Escalade), you will need to lay a piece of plywood (2×4) across the bumper to bridge the cutout and provide a solid platform for the wheelchair ramp.

Will a portable van ramp scratch my bumper?

PVI utility ramps are designed with an extended lip to clear the rear bumper; however, even with this extended lip, the ramp may still come in contact the bumper on some vehicles. If this happens, we recommend laying a rug or strip of carpet over the bumper before installing the portable ramp to prevent the paint on your bumper from getting scratched.