Ramping Buying Guide
This guide is intended to help explain the features and factors to consider when buying a mainstream manual wheelchair.
There are many different types of wheelchairs available, some of which are designed for users who have complex requirements and who need to spend significant periods of time in the chair. Advice on more specialist needs is available from your therapist or local wheelchair services who may also be able to recommend funding for this type of wheelchair. This guide is not intended to replace this specialist help.
Things to Consider
Things to Consider
Where is the ramp to be used?This has an important bearing on the type of ramp that will be most appropriate. Typical circumstances where a ramp is used include:
- At an entrance way to overcome a step
- Mounting a kerb
- Loading a wheelchair or scooter in to a vehicle
Where the ramp is to be used at a public entrance or access point it must be able to accommodate other users as well. This may exclude the use of portable ramps unless you are prepared to pack them away after each use. A permanent ramping solution may be more appropriate in these circumstances.
Where the ramp is required for use when you are out and about, it needs to be compact and lightweight so it is easily carried. Loading or unloading a scooter or wheelchair from a vehicle can be done with a variety of different ramps.
What are your putting on the ramp?This has an enormous impact on the maximum gradient that the ramp can be. If the ramp is intended to be used by a self-propelling wheelchair user the gradient must be shallow to enable them to propell up the ramp. Where you are loading an unmanned scooter into a vehicle the gradient is less important.
How frequently will it be used?If the ramp is to be used very frequently, you should consider a permanent ramping solution. Permanent ramps are normally safer and easier to use and avoid the hassle of having to unfold and position the ramp.
Where are you going to store the ramp?This is an important issue particularly where you want to transport the ramps with the wheelchair or scooter in the back of the car. Most ramps fold up to varying degrees and you will need to understand the maximum size that you can accommodate before deciding on which ramp to go for.
Who is going to position the ramp?The longer ramps can be quite unwieldy and heavy. It is unlikely that you are going to be able to handle the ramp if you are the end user. therefore, you will need to think about who can assist you. If you are using a suitcase or trifold ramp longer than 4ft, it is recommended that you use gloves to protect you hands when positioning the ramp.
Types of Portable Ramps
Types of Portable Ramps
Channel RampsChannel ramps are generally the cheapest portable ramps available. They comprise of two separate ramps (hence channels) which are used together to enable access. The ramps need to be placed at the correct distance apart for the wheelchair or scooter to travel on. These ramps cannot be used with a 3 wheel scooter for obvious reasons!
Channel ramps have the advantage of being easier to handle as they are lighter than other types of portable ramps by virtue of you only lifting half the ramp at a time. Also, most channel ramps are of a telescopic design which reduces the size of the channel by a half or a third.
Channel ramps are well suited for self propelled wheelchairs and some 4 wheel scooters. If you push someone in a wheelchair using a channel ramp then you need to make sure that you have adequate space for your feet to make it up the ramp behind them.
However, using channel ramps with scooters can give rise to two problems. Firstly, for many of the larger scooters the wheels and shroud of are too wide for the channel. Although there are wider channel ramps especially designed for to get over this issue. Secondly, scooters with a lower ride height (eg most portables) will ‘ground out’ on the channel uprights at the top of the ramp. To avoid the scooter ‘grounding out’ choose a ramp length which will provide a gradient no steeper than 1:3 (see below)
Suitcase and TrifoldThese are full width ramps that fold in half lengthways and have a carrying handle in the middle, so you can carry them just like a suitcase. The Trifold design will normally fold in half lengthways and then fold widthways so that the space needed to store the ramp is reduced. It is recommended that if you need a suitcase ramp greater than 5ft long, you should choose a Trifold design. Suitcase ramps above 5ft in length are generally very unwieldy and heavy.
The benefits of a using a suitcase ramp are: You don’t have to be as accurate in positioning the ramp or when manoeuvring up it someone can easily walk behind your wheelchair whilst pushing you up the ramp it can be used for a 3 wheeled scooter
The main downsides are: They require more material and need to be of stronger construction than channel ramps and hence are normally more expensive and heavierSuitcase ramps are more difficult to transport and store as they don’t fold down lengthways
Threshold RampsThese are small ramps designed to be used in a doorway to over come door frame thresholds of up to 3”. They normally have their own leading edge and do not require to be rested on the actual threshold itself. There are a variety of different designs some of which give different raises. A typical height range would be 1-3”. Don’t forget that you may also need a threshold ramp on the inside of the door, as well as on the outside. Threshold ramps can often be permanently screwed to the floor, or can be portable so that you can take them with you when visiting family and friends.
Portable Wheelchair RampsThese are small, lightweight ramps of around 18-24” long and wide enough for a wheelchair. They are intended to help you if you need to navigate a kerb whilst out and about. They normally come with a carry bag and can be attached behind the seat.
A steeper rise may be acceptable depending on the your weight and whether an assistant can be available to help push you up the ramp. For example, a gradient of 1:6 could be achieved safely.
For loading an unmanned scooter or wheelchair, the slope is far less important and a higher gradient can be used but this should generally not exceed 1:3.
Ramp Length Ready Reckoner
|Rise||1 in 12||1 in 6||1 in 3|
|1ft 3"||-||-||3ft 9"|
|1ft 6"||-||-||4ft 6"|
|1ft 9"||-||-||5ft 3"|
Once you have decided on the best length, you need to make sure that you have the room to store the ramp in the car once the scooter is loaded. Tri-fold ramps fold lengthways and can take up less room eg an 8ft tri-fold ramp is only 4ft long when folded.