Handicap Wheelchair Ramps & Thresholds
Wheelchair ramps provide access for wheelchairs, scooters, and ambulatory individuals who require Mobility Assistance. These devices serve as a gangway, bridge, catwalk, walkway, or wheeled crossing to bypass obstacles or elevate users to another level. These handicap ramps aid people who may not be able to step high enough to negotiate stairs or who are at risk for tripping. These mobility aids serve at entrances, over barriers, and anywhere else where safe mobility is a concern.
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Wheel chairs and scooters can be dangerous when used incorrectly. "In 2003, more than 100,000 wheelchair related injuries were treated in emergency departments in the US, double the number reported in 1991. Tips and falls accounted for 65–80% of injuries across all age groups of wheel chair users. The majority of children’s injuries occurred at locations outside of homes and institutions/hospitals in environments with stairs, ramps, and curbs (57.3%). In contrast, injuries among adult users were more likely to occur in homes, hospitals, and institutions (45–90%). Wheel chair related injuries may have increased in the US during the past decade. Prevention efforts should address the interacting complex factors that influence risk of injury while using a wheel chair."1
The threshold type provides access for small rises in height. They offer a smooth transition over a doorway threshold, between flooring transitions, over floor molding, over sliding door entrances, and any other small peak on the floor surface, or trip hazard. Some threshold wedges have a gradual slope on both sides to accommodate easy passage. These devices are available in a variety of sizes and materials, including metal, plastic, or composite. Most threshold ramps are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use and may be permanent or temporary. These devices are available in two different options—fixed or adjustable height.
These devices are similar to a wedge. The user places the wedge adjacent to the floor rise or doorway. Wheel chairs roll up or down the wedge as needed.
This mobility aid has an adaptable height to accommodate a variety of situations. The devices can raise or lower to match the height of a doorway or two uneven surfaces. Similar to the fixed threshold ramps, wheel chairs can smoothly roll up or down the resulting incline.
These adjustable ramps accommodate varying heights of stairs, curbs, or vehicles. The length of the ramp extends by pulling out a portion of the ramp enclosed within a channel to extend its span. They are two separate incline surfaces that parallel each other to allow the wheels of each side of the wheelchair to traverse. It comes with raised sides to keep the wheels of the chair on the ramp surface. This type requires the need of another person to steady and propel the wheelchair up or down the incline. These telescoping devices serve wheelchair-accessible vans and other vehicles.
These folding ramps come with a handle for portability. They provide access at both the point of origin and the destination. They are easily transported in a vehicle to take along to the next spot. They are often 2 to 8 feet long, supporting up to 800 pounds. The convenient handle located at the center of the ramp makes it easy to hold and carry. Use this type of ramp at multiple locations where needed.
These portable gangways are convenient for part-time use. The devices layout when in use and fold for storage when not needed. Hinges placed in the ramp accommodate folding. Two types are in everyday use—single-fold and multi-fold.
A single fold splits the ramp equally between two sections. The hinges are built-in to the center of the length of the ramp to facilitate folding and storage. Some inclines have the fold and hinges placed between the horizontal run rather than the rise or vertical run.
These types of inclines have two or more hinged areas to offer a shorter length when completely folded. These devices accommodate loading onto or off of vehicles and small sets of stairs.
Modular designed inclines facilitate longer spans that often have turns and platforms to reach their final destination. These structures are more of a permanent fixture due to the time required to assemble them. The design is in sections that join to form a complete ramp structure. They provide outdoor and commercial applications. Often a section of stairs for the convenience of non-wheelchair users accompanies this type of ramp. If the occasion arises to relocate the modular ramp, it disassembles for transport to another location.
These slopes facilitate scooter transfers to and from a vehicle. The design supports the transferring of both wheel chairs and mobility scooters. These slopes may be temporary or built-in, depending upon the vehicle and the needs of the user. They work best for vans or buses. They require the assistance of a caregiver for safety.
The slope for vehicle transitions is important. Medical studies identified several imporant factors to consider when selecting a wheelchair ramp for sale.
The majority (55.7%) of 384 participants reported using public transportation ≥ 1 per week. Seventy-eight percent of WCUs had ≥ 1 ramp incident over the past 3 years, with an increased likelihood of incidents occurring during ingress (OR = 1.53; CI 1.21–1.86). Of those who had an incident, 22% were injured or had damage to their wheel chair. Over 60% of those who had an incident identified steep ramp slope as being the contributing factor. Steep ramp slope, exterior ramp thresholds and wet surfaces were the most common contributing factors to difficulty using [inclines].2
Inclines shall have the least slope practicable and shall not exceed 1:4 when deployed to ground level. If the height of the vehicle floor from which the ramp is deployed is 3 inches or less above a 6-inch curb, a maximum slope of 1:4 is permitt.ed; if the height of the vehicle floor from which the incline is deployed is 6 inches or less, but greater than 3-inches, above a B-inch curb, a maximum slope of 1:6 is permitted; if the height of the vehicle floor from which the incline is deployed is 9-inches or less, but greater than 6-inches, above a 6-inch curb, a maximum slope of 1:8 is permitted; if the height of the vehicle floor from which the incline is deployed is greater than 9-inches above a 6-inch curb, a slope of 1:12 shall be achieved. Folding or telescoping ramps are permitted provided they meet all structural requirements of this section.
The incline surface shall be continuous and slip resistant, shall not have protrusions from the surface greater than l/4 inch high; shall have a clear width of 30-inches; and shall accommodate both four-wheel and three-wheel mobility aids.3
Each side of the ramp shall have barriers at least 2-inches high to prevent mobility aid wheels from slipping off.
Mobility slopes built to remain permanently in place use wood, aluminum or concrete materials. Portable ones use aluminum, foam, or rubber materials. Aluminum is the most popular material. It is lightweight, durable, and stands up to bad weather and sunny conditions.
Permanent scooter inclines have anchors and bolt securely into place. They are sturdy and not going anywhere. For users that know they will be staying at that location for the long-term, a permanent ramp is the safest and most reliable. For users who will likely relocate after a few years, a portable or modular ramp that disassembles and can relocate makes the best sense. These modular slopes are sturdy, resist the weather, and offer many safety features.
ADA Compliance Standards
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides minimum requirements for safe inclines. These requirements are particularly important and enforced upon new construction. Primarily, the guidelines involve safe length, slope, landings, transitions, and handrails. More detailed information is accessible at ADA Ramp Compliance and ADA Standards. A summary of the standard is below:
- Maximum slope: 1:12
- Minimum width: 36-inches
- Edges installed to protect from slipping off
- Handrails installed on both sides, if the rise is higher than 6-inches or length is greater than 72-inches
- Top and bottom landings must be level and at least 60-inches
- The surface must be slip-resistant
The most crucial variable is the slope. The ADA recommends one foot of ramp length per 1 inch of vertical lift. So, 24-inches of rise would call for a 24-foot ramp. If there is not enough space to accommodate a strait 24-feet, the ramp will need to include turns to meet the safety guidelines.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives all Americans with disabilities a chance to achieve the same quality of life that individuals without disabilities enjoy. The ADA specifies guidelines for safe slopes for patients with disabilities. It is important to ensure that inclines comply with these guidelines.4
A common method to improve accessibility for pedestrians and wheel chair users is the widespread use of mobility inclines. Slopes for handicapped access are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA has specific guidelines for many aspects of slope design. Although these specifications detail ramp requirements, they do not necessarily guarantee that a incline will be trouble-free for users.5
Although the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 were phased in by 1992, monitoring and enforcement continue to be problematic.... Three large shopping centers in the Southwest included one mall that was opened in the mid‐1990s, and two malls that were constructed prior to the law (but have undergone recent renovations). Use of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines Checklist for Buildings and Facilities (Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board [ATBCB], 1992) generated data which were analyzed descriptively to determine the frequency and percent compliance in: parking lots, entrances, inclines, elevators, telephones, restrooms, food courts, and 12 specific store‐types. No mall was fully compliant in any area, other than telephone specifications. In other areas, compliance ranged from 0% (ramp slopes in the newer mall) to many areas of 100% compliance (for example, outdoor curb slopes and food court seating spaces and aisles). The implications are that shoppers who are wheel chair mobile cannot count on complete compliance and cannot predict which physical architectural barriers they will find in shopping centers.6
The use of slopes to improve building accessibility for wheel chair users is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and various building codes, all of which specify requirements for ramp design, including their maximum running slope and cross slope. Design recommendations for either the running slope or the cross slope requirements are based on limited empirical research. This study evaluated the degree to which users of manual and motorized mobility devices could perceive differences in the running slope or in the cross slope of the incline and in the perceived effort (Borg scale) required to negotiate these slopes. Participants traversed two adjoining inclines with different combinations of running slope and cross slope and made comparative judgments of slope differences. Results suggest that for a transit distance up to 6 m (20 ft.), a ramp should not exceed a maximum cross slope of 5% or a maximum running slope of 7%.7
Product Selection Continuum
How to Choose the Best Wheelchair Ramps for Stairs
Obviously, the budget to purchase deck wheelchair ramps is an important criteria. In the slection continuum above, the scooter ramp options display along the top of the price continuum. The options on the left tend to be lower in price, while the options to the right are higher in price.
The ramps located to the left of the continuum tend to be shorter than the ones found to the right. A typical threshold ramp can have a length smaller than a foot while some modular ramps can go up to 30 feet. Suitcase and folding wheelchair ramps are generally 2- to 10- feet in length. Telescoping slopes are adjustable from 2- to 5-feet while each of the other inclines has a fixed length upon purchase.
Most of the inclines displayed on the selection continuum above are lightweight, slide, or fold down to transportable size and are relatively easy to assemble and disassemble. Modular inclines, however, take significant time to assemble and disassemble and are difficult to transport. Modular are more permanent in design but may move from one home to another if required.
A suitable scooter incline will need to support the weight of the scooter, the user’s weight, and the weight of a caregiver that may assist from time-to-time. Telescoping slopes offer support for up to 660 pounds. Suitcase and folding inclines support from 600-to 800 pounds. Modular offer support for up to 1000 pounds.
The only inclines that can meet the ADA standards are modular. Modular or aluminum handicap ramps provide handrails and are suitable for commercial use. The other ramps are more portable and are ideal for residential use.
The selection of handicap ramps for home use at Vitality Medical are broad to meet a range requirements. Threshold inclines such as the EZEdge Scooter Threshold Ramps are available in dozens of sizes, shapes and heights. They are also available in various colors like the SafePath BigHorn models. Threshold ramps bridge minor height gaps between two floor levels smoothly and are incredibly durable.
Aluminum Wheelchair Ramps for homes like the Pathway Modular Scooter Ramp allow for easy assembly and setup. These sturdy decks and handrails are capable of supporting the heaviest power scooters. Whatever the mobility needs are, Vitality Medical can help create a safe pathway.
Will Medicare pay for scooter inclines?
Medicare never covers home modifications, such as inclines or widened doors for improving scooter access. Though your doctor may suggest that home modifications may help due to your medical condition, Medicare does not include coverage for them under its durable medical equipment durable medical equipment (DME) benefits.
Will VA pay for these devices?
The VA has three programs that provide for home accessibility. One is the Specially Adapted Housing (SHA), another is the Special Home Adaptation (SHA), and the last is the Home Improvement and Structural Alterations (HISA). The programs offer grants to adapt housing to meet the needs of disabled veterans.
- SAH - Specially Adapted Housing (VA Benefits Factsheet)
- SHA – Special Housing Adaptations Information. Note: the SAH and SHA grants use the same application - SAH and SHA Grant Application
- HISA - VA's Home Improvements and Structural Alterations – HISA Information, HISA Application
Under these entitlements, a grant may be available to veterans and service members to adapt a home to meet their needs. The grant awards provide up to 50 percent of the veteran's cost of a modified house, land, and allowable expenses, but may not exceed the current maximum grant amount. This amount changes annually. (See Disability Housing Grants) These grants are limited in number on an annual basis. No one can receive more than 3-grants in total during their lifetime.
What is the correct slope?
ADA designates that a 1:12 slope is the maximum allowable for compliance. Numerous studies backup the ADA guidelines. Ones study "concluded with "considering the opinions of both the attendant and the occupant, 1:12 was recommended as the appropriate... slope. Furthermore, when descending a [slope], the occupant should be able to look forward.8"
Another study's "results demonstrated that the majority of attendant-propelled, self-propelling, and powered wheelchair users could negotiate gradients of 1:8 and 1:6 on the shorter ramp with varying degrees of effort."9
The "slope and height are considered as independent variables. To analyze the effects of the slope and height, five levels of slope (1:6, 1:8, 1:10, 1:12 and 1:14) and three levels of height (15 cm, 30 cm and 45 cm) are considered. For the dependent variables, the total time and velocity were considered as performance measures, pulse rate changes and EMG signals of four related muscles (extensor carpi radialis, triceps brachii, anterior deltoid and posterior deltoid) were considered as physiology measures, and perceived discomfort while ascending and descending were considered as perceived discomfort measures. As a result, differences among performance, physiological characteristic and perceived discomfort for the five slopes increased as the height increased. Additionally, slope effects were minor when the height was low (15 cm). In summary, there was no significant difference between 1:10 and 1:12 (as suggested by ADAAG). In addition, slope effects were minor at a low height; thus, a slope of 1:8 can be recommended if the installation space for a gentler ramp is not sufficient."10
How wide should be the incline?
ADA compliant inclines must be at least 36 inches wide.
Are there any requirements for slope landings?
Both the top and bottom landings should be at least 60 inches long and at least as wide as the incline width to meet ADA specifications.
How do you determine the correct slope length?
First, determine how much rise or distance from the ground to the entry level. If there are 4 steps of 8 inches each, the rise is 32 inches. A safe incline that meets ADA standards would have a minimum length of 32-feet.
Next, determine how much space in a straight line is available to the entrance. This measurement is the run length. If you have 32 feet plus 6 feet of landing on both sides of the incline then a straight slope is possible. If there is not enough space in a straight line, then turns in the slope are necessary.
Are incline surfaces safe?
Rain, ice, and snow conditions can make handicap ramps unsafe. Aluminum surfaces can be particularly slippery when wet. Most manufacturers of portable aluminum ramps add a pattern to the surface of the metal to help protect against slipping. Others glue a gritty strip to the surface to provide more traction.
A medical study regarding snow and ice conditions and slope incline drew some interesting conclusions. People living in areas that experience snow and ice concerns should slope their inclines less steep to accommodate conditions.
Snow accumulation on ramps at 1:10 grade will render the ramp inaccessible for many wheelchair users who do not have external assistance. For snow conditions, the transition area from the level group to the first 2m of ramp incline were the most difficult to traverse for both ascent and descent. All subjects were able to ascend and descend the ramp for the ice-grit condition. Two-railing propulsion is a preferred strategy for ice-grit ramp navigation because of enhanced trajectory control and reducing the potential for wheel-slip problems. Backwards ramp ascent was a successful strategy for ascent in soft-snow conditions. The 1:16 grade is preferred for winter ramp navigation. Backwards ramp ascent for snow conditions should be considered for people with sufficient shoulder and trunk range of motion. Two handrails are recommended for exterior ramps for both propulsion and wheelchair extraction from ruts and other snow-related obstacles.11
Pathway Modular Assembly Video (33:56 minutes)
EZ-Access Trifold Advantage Video (2:22 minutes)
EZ-Access Gateway 3G Overview Video (3:32 minutes)
Transisitons Entryway Overview Video (0:50 minutes)
- 1 Xiang, Huiyun, A. M. Chany, and Gary A. Smith. "Wheelchair related injuries treated in US emergency departments." Injury prevention 12.1 (2006): 8-11. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 2 Frost, Karen L., Gina Bertocci, and Craig Smalley. "Ramps remain a barrier to safe wheelchair user transit bus ingress/egress." Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology (2020): 1-8. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 3 Francis, Gerald A., and David Norstrom. Guideline Specifications for Passive Lifts, Active Lifts, Wheelchair Ramps, and Securement Devices. No. DOT-T-93-03. 1992. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 4 Edlich, Richard F., et al. "A case report of a severe musculoskeletal injury in a wheelchair user caused by an incorrect wheelchair ramp design." The Journal of emergency medicine 38.2 (2010): 150-154. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 5 Zackowitz, Ilene B., Alison G. Vredenburgh, and Alan Hedge. "A Critical Analysis of the Usability and Design of Aluminum Wheelchair Ramps." Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. Vol. 49. No. 8. Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2005. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 6 McClain, Linda. "Shopping center wheelchair accessibility: ongoing advocacy to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." Public Health Nursing 17.3 (2000): 178-186. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 7 Vredenburgh, Alison G., et al. "EVALUATION OF WHEELCHAIR USERS'PERCEIVED SIDEWALK AND RAMP SLOPE: EFFORT AND ACCESSIBILITY." Journal of architectural and planning research (2009): 145-158. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 8 Kim, Chung Sik, Donghun Lee, and Min K. Chung. "Effects of ramp slope on usability when a wheelchair is propelled by attendant." Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. Vol. 56. No. 1. Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2012. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 9 Sweeney, G. M., R. A. Harrison, and A. K. Clarke. "Portable ramps for wheelchair users–an appraisal." International disability studies 11.2 (1989): 68-70. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 10 Kim, Chung Sik, et al. "Effects of ramp slope and height on usability and physiology during wheelchair driving." Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. Vol. 54. No. 9. Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- 11 Lemaire, Edward D., et al. "Wheelchair ramp navigation in snow and ice-grit conditions." Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 91.10 (2010): 1516-1523. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- Crowley, Trevor. "Wheelchair ramps in cyberspace: Bringing the Americans with Disabilities Act into the 21st century." BYU L. Rev. (2013): 651. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- Hartblay, Cassandra. "Good ramps, bad ramps: Centralized design standards and disability access in urban Russian infrastructure." American Ethnologist 44.1 (2017): 9-22. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- Chow, John W., et al. "Kinematic and electromyographic analysis of wheelchair propulsion on ramps of different slopes for young men with paraplegia." Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 90.2 (2009): 271-278. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- Storr, Tim, et al. "Design features of portable wheelchair ramps and their implications for curb and vehicle access." Journal of rehabilitation research and development 41.3B (2004): 443. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- Sweeney, G. M., et al. "An evaluation of portable ramps." British Journal of Occupational Therapy 52.12 (1989): 473-475. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)
- Cappozzo, Aurelio, et al. "Prediction of ramp traversability for wheelchair dependent individuals." Spinal Cord 29.7 (1991): 470-478. (Last Accessed August-19-2020)