How to Determine the Proper Length for a Wheelchair Ramp

Taking the following steps will provide you with the proper length for a wheelchair ramp to meet your needs:

1. Take these measurements

  • The total vertical rise that you are trying to overcome
  • The available distance without obstruction measuring straight out from the highest point
  • The total usable width of the area
ramp distance, length, and vertical rise

2. Look in your owner’s manual

Some powerchairs and mobility scooters may specify a maximum degree of incline which the scooter can safely climb. While this is not likely to be lower than what ADA specifications allow, it’s a good idea to check before you buy a wheelchair ramp.

3. Use our Mobility Ramp Calculator

Mobility Ramp Calculator Button

How to use our Mobility Ramp Calculator

ADA Requirements:

Knowing the ADA Requirements will help you understand the figures that the Mobility Ramp Calculator outputs.

Commercial Occupied Use:
For commercial use when somebody is sitting in the wheelchair or scooter while it climbs the ramp, ADA recommends a 1:12 slope, which means that every 1" of vertical rise requires at least 1’ (12") of ramp length (5 degrees of incline).

Example: A 24" rise requires a minimum ramp length of 24’ (288") (24 divided by 1).

Supplementary ADA Resources:

Other Recommendations

The ADA recommendations only apply to commercial buildings. The following general recommendations are often cited for residential construction.

Residential Unoccupied Use:
For residential use when nobody is sitting in the wheelchair or scooter while it climbs the ramp, a 3:12 slope is often recommended, which means that every 3" of vertical rise requires at least 1’ (12") of ramp length (14.5 degrees of incline).

Example: A 24" rise requires a minimum ramp length of 8’ (96") (24 divided by 3).

Residential Occupied Use:
For residential use when somebody is sitting in the wheelchair or scooter while it climbs the ramp, a 2:12 slope is often recommended, which means that every 2" of vertical rise requires at least 1’ (12") of ramp (9.5 degrees of incline).

Example: A 24" rise requires a minimum ramp length of 12’ (144") (24 divided by 2).

4. Find the appropriate wheelchair ramp

Threshold Ramps / Door Ramps

Typically available in lengths up to 2’, threshold ramps are perfect for maneuvering wheelchairs, powerchairs, and mobility scooters over short rises around the home or office, uneven surfaces, or through doorways where the bottom plate creates a challenging barrier.

Applicable Rises for a 2’ Threshold Ramp

Max Rise - Unoccupied (Residential) Max Rise - Occupied (Residential) Max Rise (Commercial)
6" 4" 2"

Portable Wheelchair Ramps

Portable wheelchair ramps are lightweight, compact, and many fold up for storage when not in use. These ramps are available in a wide range of commonly-used sizes, with lengths up to 12’.

Applicable Rises for a 12’ Portable Wheelchair Ramp

Max Rise - Unoccupied (Residential) Max Rise - Occupied (Residential) Max Rise (Commercial)
36" 24" 12"

Modular Handicap Ramps

Modular handicap ramps are freestanding,configurable systems composed of ramp, landing, and sometimes stair sections, that can be customized to accommodate almost any home or business. Unlike other ramps, modular handicap ramps can include turns, that make it easy to assemble an access ramp in a confined space. Additional laws govern these permanent handicap ramps, which you can read about in our ADA Ramp Specifications article. Modular handicap ramps can be configured to accommodate any vertical rise height.

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