Article

Wheelchair Ramp Safety Features Worth the Investment

 Posted: Sept 29th, 2020

If you’re preparing to install a wheelchair ramp at your home, it’s important for you to consider the necessary safety features in its installation. A failure to properly abide by safety guidelines for wheelchair ramps could lead to an increased risk of injury. And, for owners of public properties installing wheelchair ramps, there are also potential liability issues if the ramp is not installed safely and in accordance with ADA specifications.

Here are a few examples of some of the most important safety features you must also consider when setting up a wheelchair ramp at your commercial or private property.

The Silver Spring PPSF ramp supports up to 800 pounds
The Silver Spring PPSF ramp supports up to 800 pounds

Weight capacity

It’s important that any wheelchair ramp you install has sufficient weigh capacity for your needs, and there are many different types of wheelchairs to consider. Manual wheelchairs weigh far less than motorized wheelchairs—just 35 lbs., as compared to powerchairs that start at 150 lbs. and go as high as 350 lbs.! Before buying a ramp, check the specifications for weight capacity and compare that to the weight of the wheelchair, plus any accessories, plus an occupant.

Handrails on an entry ramp
Handrails on an entry ramp

Hand rails

On commercial properties, any ramp model that is longer than six feet must have hand rails. This standard doesn’t apply to private residences, but it’s always a good idea to consider railings to assist with mobility. Rails give individuals with mobility issues support—whether they’re in a wheelchair, walker, cane or rollator. It also gives them something to hold onto themselves if they need a break while going up the ramp.

Modular EZ-Access PATHWAY ramp with an incorporated landing for a 90-degree turn
Modular EZ-Access PATHWAY ramp with an incorporated landing for a 90-degree turn

Landings

You will need to use level landings or other flat surfaces at the top and bottom of the ramp, allowing users to open doors at the top of the ramp and to give themselves enough space to turn or stop as needed. Usually, these flat landing surfaces come in five-foot squares, but you can find other sizes or customized landings to meet your needs.

Aluminum ridges divert rainwater for better grip
Aluminum ridges divert rainwater for better grip

Surface traction

Any wheelchair ramp should have a safe walking surface for caregivers and wheelchair users alike. The surface must provide plenty of grip and traction, regardless of weather conditions. Different types of materials provide different levels of traction. Wood, for example, will often include non-slip aluminum treads at certain intervals. Aluminum ramps will incorporate other special surfaces into the decking design, such as a grit-coat or ridges. Diamond grip surfaces are also a common feature, as are checker and punch plate styles, which provide superior traction in winter conditions when snow and ice are prevalent.

Safety curbs prevent wheels or tires from running off
Safety curbs prevent wheels or tires from running off

Safety side curbs

It’s a good idea to have safety side curbs that are at least two inches tall to prevent the wheelchair user or caregiver from falling off the side of the ramp during usage.

Both ends are flush with ground for stable support
Both ends are flush with ground for stable support

Stability

Both ends of the wheelchair ramp must be completely stable and flush with the plane below, to ensure a smooth transition from surface to surface.

Anyone considering a wheelchair ramp installation for commercial use needs to understand the national requirements for wheelchair ramps under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the safety features available. Again, private residences aren’t always subject to ADA standards. Beyond the above advice, it’s worth your while to carefully research important safety features before purchasing and setting up a wheelchair ramp.

How to choose the right ramp

Ramps come in varying sizes and styles to cover many different types of wheelchairs and scooters, as well as various sizes and configurations of steps and ascents. When deciding on right the wheelchair ramp, consider the following factors beyond the safety features described above.

  • Length: What length of ramp do you need? This depends primarily on the height of the rise where the ramp is installed. Use the mobility ramp calculator that will use the height of the rise to give you several recommendations based on ADA guidelines.
  • Type: There are solid ramps, folding ramps, track ramps, modular ramps and threshold ramps. These types of ramps have their own unique benefits, designed for use in specific circumstances. Track ramps are for manual wheelchairs only and feature two separate runners. Threshold ramps are ideal for small rises in entryways. Portable ramps can be folded and stowed when not needed, whereas solid ramps are a more permanent mobility solution.
  • Width: The width of the ramp is also important to consider. It must be wide enough for your wheelchair or scooter with a few inches to spare—36” according to ADA guidelines, which also happens to be the standard width of most doorways.

It’s in your best interest to speak to a professional to help you select a wheelchair ramp that provides the safety features you need to be comfortable, while meeting the needs you have for your wheelchair or scooter.