Published 10/02, Copyright 2002 , WheelchairJunkie.com
Suess' Guide to Portable Ramps|
By Mark E. Smith
Think back to your early education, and you may recall that among your first lessons was that square
pegs and round holes are not compatible just like hungry foxes in dens and nesting hens in holes. In
the wheelchair world, squares and circle - that is, wheels and stairs just like circles and squares -
are at odds with each other, forcing you to require a polite elevator where there are daunting stairs.
Alas, though, in keeping with conglometry geometry, if you can draw a line from point A to point B,
spanning those wicked stairs of squares, you can mix wheelchairs, circles and squares. A ramp, you then
have when in need, indeed. But, how long should the ramp truly be before your chair becomes tipsy, and
how must the ramp fold up, small enough to fit in a teacup? Read the tale and you will see that selecting
a portable ramp is as easy as one, two, three, or as easy as getting a kazoo to play a chimpanzee. |
The most common question when considering a portable wheelchair ramps is, how long of
ramp is needed to achieve a safe, practical angle? The Americans with Disabilities Act standards partially
answers these questions by stating that a ramp's maximum incline should be based on no greater than a
1:12 slope, resulting in approximately a 5-degree angle (12" of ramp for every 1" of rise). This, it
should be noted, is a "public" standard that epitomizes safety and function, but may not be realistic
in private residences and van applications where size and economic restrictions apply. It is, however,
the ideal standard for those whom must propel their own wheelchair up a ramp.
and assisted manual wheelchair users may need a short ramp to cover a given rise, as with a van ramp.
While safety decreases with increases in angle, a user still may be able to negotiate a steeper ramp
than ADA ideals if their abilities and environmental conditions permit. For a 1-foot rise, for example,
the ADA standard of 1:12 dictates a 12-feet long ramp. However, if a user assumes a 2:12 slope, building
a 6-feet long ramp, approximately a 9.5-degree angle occurs. Now, this is a fairly steep angle, but,
again, based on one's abilities, wheelchair performance, and environmental conditions, such an angle
still may be usable.
Ramp angles over 10-degrees should be avoided. Stability, traction, and
directional control become tremendously reduced. Some powerchairs may climb a greater than a 10-degree
angle, but don't confuse capability with safety, as just because a powerchair will climb such extreme
angles, doesn't mean it's safe.
In conjunction with ramp angles, ramp widths are
vital to ramp use and safety. The wider the ramp in comparison to one's wheelchair, the easier and safer
the ramp is to negotiate. Attempting to use a 25.5"-wide powerchair on a 26"-wide ramp won't leave enough
room for safe steering. However, a 30"-wide ramp would offer enough space on each side of the wheels
for a skilled user to negotiate the ramp with a 25.5"-wide wheelchair.
Two-piece "track ramps"
(a pair of narrow ramps, one for each side of a wheelchair's wheels), require additional width considerations.
Because track ramps require that a wheelchair's wheels fit inside a narrow channel on each side, the
combined linear width of the front and rear wheels is vital. If a track ramp's channel width is 8",
but your drive wheels are 4"-wide, with 2"-wide casters, that sit 2" inward of the drive wheels (that
is, the casters are narrower on the wheelchair than the drive wheels), your wheelchair may not function
well on track ramps. The ideal, then, for track ramps is to have a wheelchair where the front and rear
Portable Ramp Folding Styles
The key to portability is whether a ramp can be
easily transported, so ramps come in a variety of storable forms.
Single-fold ramps retain their length, but fold in half, resulting in a 6'x30" ramp folding to 6'x15".
Multi-fold ramp, also called suitcase ramps, fold several directions, allowing a 6'x30" ramp to fold
Telescoping track ramps slide into themselves, often reducing their lengths to one-third for transport.
And, roll-up ramps feature rigid side members that can be removed so that the jointed center surface
can roll up (though, these ramps can be difficult to assemble and disassemble). |
Many users prefer
multi-fold ramps above other forms because they allow a strong, compact system that is quickly usable.
For regular use in a specific environment, most portable ramps feature mounting
points atop the threshold point. Commonly, these points are holes, to which adjoining posts or clips
are mounted on a van door's threshold, thereby securing the ramp during use. Additionally, several portable
ramp manufacturers offer semi-permanent installation brackets for vans so that the ramp is folded into
the doorway, eliminating the need for additional stowage.
Portable ramps as
you may be as easy as one, two, three, maybe easier than a kazoo playing a chimpanzee. As long as you
select the right size and style, you may safely negotiate the straight all the while, trial after trail,
with little despair or care for a stair as you take your wheelchair from here to there.