It’s odd isn’t it, how I can add the word ‘fabulous’ next to ‘wheelchair’ in the title, as when you think of a wheelchair ramp you think of something pretty dull.
Mr Wheel Chic Home has recently spent a little more time in the wheelchair than usual due to a number of falls needing stitches to his head, and a change in medication that he’s just started. This has meant him climbing the two steps into the house by holding onto our customised grab rail and dragging the wheelchair through the door. This isn’t always successful and if I’m not around it can take him several minutes to get into the house.
So we’ve been thinking about ramps, and that has got me trying to find the fabulous ones because of course, that’s what this blog is all about. I want the best looking ramp that’s safe and preferably not too expensive. Yeah right!
I’ve been rummaging through Pinterest of course and other online searches to try and find inspiration. There’s a lot of options out there – so where do you start?! Once you have your budget then you can guide your search.
Firstly: How long does my ramp need to be?
Well this the tricky part and each country has their own regulations, so I would advise contact your local authority and review your local guidelines. In the UK and the USA for example, as a guide the minimum gradient for public spaces is 1:12 (that means for every 1ft/30cm of height you need, you need 12ft/3.6m of ramp.)
HOWEVER! The guidelines differ for public spaces and private homes so again, do your research. Regulations for private homes are less stringent generally than those for public spaces. When it comes to your home many companies in the UK would recommend a 1:6 or 1:8 ratio.
If you get it wrong you could end up with something like this which looks positively suicidal!
Photo Credit: Roll a Ramp
Remember each individual might have their own needs, if upper body strength is an issue you can go for a longer ramp with a higher gradient, however the longer the ramp, you may need to have a platform in the middle and have a turn in the ramp depending on the overall height of the steps. (usually at 5m or 10m intervals).
Also you need to consider the regulation size for the platform at the top of the ramp. That varies in different countries and even across US states, so check to see what the rules are.
Still with me? Complicated isn’t it!
In our case, the front door is 11 inches / 26.5cm high. Therefore we would want somewhere between 7ft/2.1m and 11ft/3.2m – plus a landing platform so Mr WCH can open and close the door in safety.
Secondly: How will the ramp be used?
Will the wheelchair user be using this ramp on their own, or will someone be pushing them? The simple cheap ramps are great for visitors or if someone is helping to push, but aren’t really very useful for day to day use. I’ll elaborate a little more on this later on.
Thirdly: Do I need Planning Permission or Building Regulation approval?
For a permanent concrete or brick structure the quick answer is possibly. Again check with your local authority particularly if you are in a listed building or conservation area.
If you are using a semi permanent modular or wooden ramp then you probably don’t need approval because whilst the platform can be fixed to your front door step, it’s not a permanent fixture and can be removed.
What type of ramp should I get?
Simple and Economical Ramps
A simple metal or rubber ramp is great from a cost perspective (we bought a second hand 8ft folding ramp on ebay for £120) – but we’ve found this doesn’t work for our house. If Mr WCH goes out of the house in the chair on his own, he has to go all the way down the ramp, turn around and come back up and park on the ramp so he can close and lock the door, then come all the way back down again – backwards! (that’s an accident waiting to happen!) Also these types of ramps don’t have a platform or landing so to get back into the house he has to brake on the slope, open the door and then try to do a hill start in the manual chair!
However for temporary use and for visitors these are the perfect option and you’ll find lots on eBay or your local secondhand selling site. Some of the metal ramps fold down for easy storage when not being used.
These ramps are typically silver or white, sometimes with a silver, black or blue nonslip coating on top. If you wanted, you could spray paint them to match the outside of your house. In public spaces you’ll notice they are more obvious to see – that’s regulation so those with eyesight issues can see them more clearly.
Modular or Semi Permanent Ramps
These types of ramps are great if you want something a little more permanent and if you want a handrail down the side to help when walking. You’ll find these types of ramps will always have a landing platform at the top and a landing edge at the bottom to make sure wheels don’t get stuck and you can at least lock your door in safety!
In the UK at least because they are temporary and not permanent additions they don’t usually require planning permission (although always check with your local authority to make sure).
Photo Credit: www.safetread.co.uk via Pinterest
Instead of the metal versions you could build a wooden or composite decking style ramp, and of course then you can have it in any colour you want by staining or painting the wood or by choosing the composite fake wood in your colour of choice.
The composite looks very real and has excellent non-slip properties. The wooden decking planks can be become slippery so you may need to add a non-slip covering for safety.
These ramps vary in price according to size and number of modules needed. You could pay up to £2000 or more if the rise is high and you need a longer length. On eBay you can find second hand ones that need a little TLC (a scrub and a spray of paint) for a couple of hundred pounds.
Photo Credit: www.parsramps.co.uk
Permanent Concrete Ramps
Now here is where you can go all out custom (within the regulations of course!). I’ve added on my Pinterest page some of my favourites. The best part about these types of ramps is that they merge invisibily into your house and it becomes part of it.
With a permanent ramp you need to be conscious of your damp proofing course and make sure you don’t cover it, or cover any air bricks otherwise you could end up with damp issues inside later on. It could also be a stumbling block if you want to sell the house as a future buyer may not want or need the ramp, but in some cases it could be a selling point to a disabled buyer!
Here are some of my favourites I’ve spotted in my research:
Photo Credit: http://www.disabled-adaptations.co.uk/access.html
This one below is very similar to the size and shape of ramp we will be looking for:
Photo Credit: www.ibuildltd.co.uk
Photo Credit: Reliable Living
With permanent options costs will vary according to complexity, need for planning permission and by contractor. Expect to pay more than the modular versions and any planning permission may cost extra. You may be eligible for a grant to help pay for a ramp, so check with your local authorities.
We will be starting to get quotes for a brick ramp soon, but we are also looking at modular ramps on eBay from a cost perspective.
Do you have a ramp? How did you go about it?