Malden Housing Authority - Commercial housing - Upside provided 9 ramps that amounted to 296 feet of ramp and 18 step risers

Types of Wheelchair Ramps

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The US population is aging, and disabled people are living longer due to advances in medical technology. The number of Americans with a disability has increased by more than 20% over the last decade, reaching 10%. Around 3 million full-time wheelchair users can attest that this increase is directly related to our aging society.

Wheelchair ramps are required by law to provide accessibility for those who use them. For personal use, there is more than one type of ramp. We’ve assembled the top accessibility solutions for wheelchairs on the market, ranging from portable to permanent.

1. Threshold Ramps

Rubber threshold ramp
Rubber threshold ramp

Threshold ramps can be either rubber or metal and are made to butt up against the lip of a door threshold or a curb. They are typically between ½ inch to 6 inches in height, very lightweight, and can be used on both the inside and outside of a doorway. These ramps are simple, cost-effective solutions for people using a wheelchair, walker, or scooter to maneuver over a small barrier.

2. Folding Ramps

two folding ramps for vans
Tri-fold (left) & bi-fold (right) ramps

Folding ramps consist of either bi-fold (two panels) or tri-fold (four panels) with hinges between each panel. The bi-fold ramps fold over once while the tri-fold ramps has three folds. The folding ramp does not have handrails and is not ADA-compliant, so it should only be used for personal use. It can be used for access into wheelchair-accessible vans, or it can be placed over a small set of stairs that lead into a home.

3. Suitcase Ramps

folded suitcase ramp
Suitcase ramp

A suitcase ramp is a type of folding ramp that has handles for easy transport. Typically, it is between 2 and 6 feet long and can support about 800 pounds. It can lay directly over a small set of steps, making it perfect for home access. It is not ADA-compliant, so it should not be used for commercial applications.

4. Telescoping Ramps

telescopic ramp resting on top of stairs
Telescoping ramp

A telescoping ramp often consists of two separate, narrow channels – typically narrower than 12 inches each – that can extend and retract to fit the desired height. The channels are placed side-by-side and line up with the wheels of the wheelchair. These types of ramps are typically used for access into a wheelchair-accessible van, but they are not ideal for mobile scooters as the wheels are often not in line with each other.

5. Modular Ramps

Modular ramp
Modular ramp

A modular ramp is typically a larger, more permanent fixture than the previous ramps. Still, it doesn’t require a building permit because it can be taken down and reassembled at another location. They are constructed out of ramp sections that are built off-site and then transported to the site for speedy assembly. Aluminum is typically the best material to use for outdoor, commercial wheelchair ramp applications because it does not rust or warp, and it is the most cost-effective option.

6. Permanent Ramps

Wheelchair ramp made out of wood
Wood ramp

Permanent ramps are often fabricated on-site and commonly made from wood, concrete or metal and cannot be moved or adjusted once they are set in place, so a building permit is required. Unlike modular ramps, they are built completely on-site, so the installation and construction time is much longer. These types of ramps are typically used for residences when aesthetics are more important than longevity and code compliance.

Lim, S. (2021). Wheeled Mobility Use on Accessible Fixed-Route Transit: A Field Study in Environmental Docility. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(6).