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Wheelchair Ramp Buying Guide

You have many options when choosing wheelchair ramps for your home. Our buying guide helps you explore your choices, helping you make a confident decision for the mobility and safety of your loved ones.

wheelchair ramp buying guide

Questions to Consider when Buying a Wheelchair Ramp

Where and when will you need a wheelchair ramp?

Before you shop for a wheelchair ramp, think about all the spaces in your home that have steps, raised thresholds or other barriers that you’ll need a ramp to cross. Common areas where ramps are needed include:

  1. Steps leading to front or back entry doors
  2. Steps from your garage into your home
  3. Doors with raised thresholds or lips, such as exterior doors
  4. The threshold between the floor and the shower in your bathroom
  5. Vehicle thresholds, like vans or SUVs

How long does your ramp need to be?

The length of the stairs and the vertical height the ramp needs to ascend will determine the type of ramp you need. Also consult the guidelines in wheelchair or scooter manuals. The ramp length that you’ll need can be easily calculated with a few simple measurements.

  1. 1-Inch Rise: 12-Inch Run (4.8 degrees): The number of inches in total vertical height = the number of feet in length you need. For example, two 5-inch-high steps would account for 10 inches in total vertical height and would therefore require a 10-foot-long ramp. 1:12 is recommended for easy and safe maneuverability.
  2. 2-Inch Rise: 12-Inch Run (9.5 degrees): Calculate by dividing the total vertical height in inches by 2. A 2-inch:12-inch run is the maximum recommended for any ramp installation, including portable ramps used by occupied wheelchairs and scooters.
  3. 3-Inch Rise: 12-Inch Run (14.5 degrees): Calculate by dividing the total vertical height in inches by 3. This is the steepest incline a ramp should have and should never be used by occupied wheelchairs and scooters.

How wide does your ramp need to be?

 To determine the ramp width you need, consider the following:

  1. How wide is the wheelbase on your wheelchair or scooter? It's important to make sure your chair can safely cross the ramp surface with some margin for safety on either side.
  2. If using a ramp to get in and out of a vehicle, consider the width of the door opening on your vehicle. Depending on the ramp you purchase, you'll need 30 inches or more for a door opening.

Wheelchair ramps should be stable, firm, slip-resistant and designed so water doesn't accumulate on surfaces.

Choosing Your Wheelchair Ramp

portable wheelchair ramp

Now that you know how to figure out the ramp length and width you need, there are several types of ramps you can consider to meet your needs.

Shower Ramps
Shower ramps are small, short surfaces that blend in with the flooring in your bathroom. They're meant to eliminate the small barrier that exists at the front of walk-in showers. 

Doorway and Threshold Ramps
Doorway ramps cross a couple of steps. Solid ramps and panel ramps are the two most common types of doorway ramps. Before purchasing a doorway ramp, calculate the length you need. If your required length is longer than standard doorway ramps, consider an exterior access ramp.

Threshold ramps are the most common type of ramp needed inside and outside the home, as raised thresholds, usually ½ inch or 1 inch high, are common at many doors. These ramps are very short, designed to facilitate a very small rise, portable and light. Consider locating threshold ramps permanently at any doors with raised thresholds.

Portable and Automotive Ramps
Portable ramps assist in entering and exiting a vehicle or to use in the home occasionally. These ramps usually fold up like suitcases for easy carrying, although there are some shorter ramps that are solid surfaces. When purchasing a portable ramp, consider the total weight of the ramp to ensure safety in transport. 

Exterior Access Ramps
You may need a ramp length beyond what's offered for getting through front and back doors. When this is the case, consider a home access ramp with customizable length. There are two main types of exterior access ramps:

  • Custom wood ramps are built from quality lumber and building materials. These ramps match your home style or coordinate with an existing deck or porch. Custom wood ramps are advanced projects, best suited for someone with advanced building skills or a professional.
  • Aluminum modular ramps are made from durable aluminum and bought in sections to create the length and path you need. You can buy straight sections in various lengths as well as platforms on which to make left, right or U-turns. While not as complex as building and installing a custom wood ramp, this is still a job for someone with proven building skills who can ensure the safety and stability of the ramp.
  • Custom access ramps include mixed materials of custom wood and aluminum modular ramps. These systems feature an aluminum modular support structure that's outfitted with your choice of off-the-shelf decking and railing products to create a one-of-a-kind look. This type of ramp requires the same level of skill needed to install an aluminum modular ramp, but matches any home style, like a custom wood ramp.

When choosing an exterior access ramp, refer to local building codes. Also consult the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessibility or visit ADA.gov.