The world brings more challenges to someone who must use a wheelchair, especially if the chair is a long-term addition to daily life. Going up or down the stairs is one of the greatest struggles experienced by those with limited mobility. When stairs lead into and out of the home, there is a massive loss of independence for the person using a wheelchair.
A ramp is one of the best ways to restore independence to a loved one who relies on a wheelchair. If you have never been homebound, you cannot imagine the joy of entering and exiting your home without assistance. The modification experts at AccessAble Home Modifications have installed hundreds of wheelchair ramps, and they know first-hand the difference a ramp makes.
Whilst a wheelchair ramp may seem like a simple project, a great deal of planning and preparation go into building a ramp. Before beginning any project, you should consider safety guidelines and the advice of professionals. Here are some vital points to address before starting to build a wheelchair ramp.
Australian Standards for Ramps 1428.1-2009
This is the guide for installing ramps. Even though it is for public buildings, the guide contains extremely valuable information to help planning and creation of a ramp for a residence.
1. Know the Rise of Your Steps
The rise is easy to calculate and is an absolute necessity for determining which ramp you need. To find out the rise, measure straight down from the doorway as if there were no steps. If that option is not practical, measure the height of each step and add the measurements together.
2. Determine the Proper Gradient
The gradient, also known as slope, will dictate the size of your ramp. This is critical for installing a safe ramp. As you can imagine, a short and steep ramp would be difficult to ascend without help. The same ramp would be dangerous for descending unless another person was there to control the speed.
Here is a breakdown of the rise and the correct gradient for ramps.
< 35mm 1:8
35mm to 190 mm 1:10
190mm and up 1:14
3. Factor in Occupancy
The angle will be determined by whether or not the wheelchair will be occupied or unoccupied. If someone is in the chair, an angle of fewer than 10 degrees is preferable. If the wheelchair is unoccupied, such as for loading into a vehicle, the angle can be between 12 and 14 degrees.
The Types of Wheelchair Ramps
While variations in materials are common among wheelchair ramps, the types are sorted based on the rise of the steps the ramp is replacing.
- A Threshold Ramp – It is common to use a threshold ramp for a step that is less than 35mm with a gradient of 1:8. Generally, this ramp works best on raised landings and doorways.
- A Step Ramp – If the rise is between 35mm and 190mm, and the gradient is 1:10, a step ramp is in order. These are commonly used for houses with a few steps up to the door.
- A High Step Ramp – Generally used for building with numerous steps, a High Step Ramp is necessary if the rise is more than 190mm and the gradient is 1:14.
- Portable Ramps – The portable ramp is a must for those living an active lifestyle. Constructed from durable and lightweight materials, these ramps are easy to move and load into a van, truck, or Ute. Portable ramps come in bifold or multifold versions and are surprisingly compact.
Other Factors to Consider
Once you know which type of ramp you want to build and where you want it, you should look over the place you would like your wheelchair ramp. Specifically, look for these obstacles:
- How much space is available for the ramp? While a large number of homeowners would like the ramp built directly up to the front door, there may not be enough room to build a ramp with the proper gradient.
- Architectural obstacles – Some homes can be difficult for ramps because of the home design. Several flights of stairs, narrow walkways, and ornate designs make ramp building much more difficult than conventional buildings.
- Landscaping concerns – You may not have ever noticed how close the trees are to the front door or how many flowers line the winding front walk. While not all landscaping features are insurmountable, some may dictate a change of plans.
Adding a wheelchair ramp can open up the world to someone who relies on a wheelchair. Simple yet priceless acts like enjoying the garden or visiting with a neighbour on the patio are possible.
If you have questions about the feasibility of a wheelchair ramp or would like to know more about your options, reach out to us at AccessAble Home Modifications. Our accessibility experts can answer your questions and set up an appointment for an in-home assessment.