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How to Assist the Elderly into Pontoon Boats: How a Ramp Can Help

 Posted on: August 29th, 2023

Red docked pontoon boat

Who doesn’t love a relaxing afternoon out on the water on a pontoon boat? Boating means freedom, allowing you to take a break from the stresses of everyday life while connecting with nature and friends and family.

Boating in general may seem challenging for the elderly and people with mobility issues, but it doesn’t have to be. People in wheelchairs or those with disabilities should be able to enjoy a pontoon boat just as much as anyone else. Read on to learn how to get the elderly and those with mobility issues into pontoon boats, and why a ramp is so essential.

Pontoon boats are accessible by design

Why do people love pontoon boats so much? Thanks to their flat deck and open layout, pontoon boats user-friendly for children, older family members, pets and boaters with accessibility concerns. There’s plenty of room to move around, and most boats feature living-room-style seating configurations for a comfortable experience.

While many of today’s pontoon boats are designed with wheelchair accessibility in mind, your craft might need a few modifications to ensure complete accessibility, like a durable ramp. Here are some tips for elderly, disabled and wheelchair pontoon boat passengers:

Install a quality ramp

First and foremost, you need to install a high-quality, durable ramp if you want to make your pontoon boat accessible for everyone, whether you're accessing your boat from the dock or the shore.

If you have shore access, installing a ramp underneath the deck such as the Harbor Mate Aluminum Pontoon Boat Ramp allows you to slide it in and out with minimal effort, providing a safe, easy and stable way to get on and off the boat from the shore. In addition to a high-traction grit surface, the Harbor Mate ramp supports up to 600 lbs. to accommodate all ages, sizes and species (within reason).

A shore ramp also allows you to load coolers and pets with greater ease. For added safety, consider investing in skid pads for both ends of the ramp to protect the ramp if there’s any movement at the dock or shore.

For pontoon that use a dockside slip, the Harbor Mate Pontoon Side Door Ramp bridges the gap between the deck and the pier to reduce the risk of falling or unbalancing during boarding or unboarding.

Add handrails

After you’ve installed a ramp on your pontoon boat, adding handrails is another way to make your craft more accessible. Drilled-in handrails in strategic positions on your boat can be an excellent stability aid not just for the elderly, but also for children and others who may not be fully confident on their own two feet.

Where you install these handrails depends on the floorplan of your craft, but spots near entrances and exits, as well as other places like kitchens or bathrooms, are ideal. In some cases, uniquely-abled people may appreciate handrails near their seat, since it can be challenging to stay upright on a moving boat.

Install wheelchair tie-downs

If you plan on bringing a person who uses a wheelchair onboard your pontoon boat, you should consider investing in high-quality wheelchair tie-downs. Pontoon boats move quite a bit when you’re out on the water, making a wheelchair a potential hazard for everyone on board—not just the person using it.

While you have the option of moving the person to one of your built-in pontoon boat seats, it may not always be practical. There are plenty of affordable wheelchair tie-downs on the market that hold a wheelchair in place. If in doubt, talk to your dealer about the best system for your boat.

Invest in a non-skid coating

This tip isn’t just helpful for the elderly or people with mobility issues, as slipping is a hazard on a pontoon boat no matter your capabilities. Invest in a non-skid coat of paint for your boat deck. They increase friction and not only reduce the likelihood of a fall onboard or—worse yet—overboard. There are several non-skid coating options on the market, but a water-based option is your best bet. It can be applied quickly, giving your boat the desired non-skid effect to keep everyone safe on board.

Looking for a specific accessibility solution?

At Discount Ramps, we believe a relaxing time on the water should be accessible for everyone! We carry a range of accessibility aids, including our aluminum pontoon boat ramps and the Handi-Ramp, that can make boating safer and more enjoyable for the elderly and those with mobility issues.

Want to learn more about how you can make your pontoon boat—or any other watercraft—more accessible? Talk to a team member at Discount Ramps today. We’ll help you find what you need!