For wheelchair users, making sure that all areas of a home are accessible is very important, not just to make getting around easy but also to address safety concerns.
In most cases, ensuring a home is wheelchair-friendly starts with the front entrance.
Depending on how a home is set up, the front or side door usually presents the first and sometimes only hurdle to a wheelchair user.
Finding a way to safely and cost-effectively bridge this gap is very important and largely depends on the type of door in the home.
Most homes have at least one or two steps separating around most entrances, which can present a very big obstacle to those who use wheelchairs.
Small Wheelchair Ramps
If there are only a few steps, installing a small ramp is sometimes the quickest, easiest, and least expensive way of ensuring wheelchair access.
Ramps come in a variety of sizes and designs.
Both are made out of wood and metal. Since the length of a wheelchair ramp is directly proportional to the length of the staircase, the lower the staircase, the shorter the ramp.
If the staircase is only a few feet high, it is usually possible to install a very short ramp, removed or repositioned as necessary.
Often, folding metal ramps are used, which are also popular for use with larger vans.
If the ramp does not fold, it is usually made as a single piece, much like a large plywood board, but much stronger and more rigid.
One of the main advantages of using a short semi-permanent ramp is cost, as these tend to be the least expensive to build or purchase.
They can also be quickly removed as needed and typically don’t take up all that much space.
However, these types of ramps only work on very short stairways.
For larger staircases, a much longer ramp is needed.
Depending on space, this sometimes means creating a zig-zag design rather than a straight ramp.
Usually, as a result of how much longer a ramp you would need for a larger staircase, installing the ramp on the front of the house is necessary.
Large Wheelchair Ramps
Like the smaller ramps, it is possible to go with a metal or wooden design. The wooden design is popular, as the materials to build a wheelchair ramp are not very expensive, so if you know someone handy, building your wheelchair ramp is often the best choice from a monetary standpoint.
Metal wheelchair ramps are also available and come in sections, making it a modular wheelchair ramp.
The number of sections varies by the height of the steps, and installing the ramp connects the individual sections.
Wheelchair ramps are popular as they do not require any electricity to use and usually don’t have any moving parts, so few points could fail.
In most cases, providing the proper type of wood is used, and faulty boards are replaced as needed.
A wooden wheelchair ramp will last as long as needed.
However, wheelchair ramps require that the user moves along the ramp, and depending on the height of the staircase.
They can take up a great deal of yard space.
Wheelchair lifts or, as they are typically referred to in the industry, vertical platform lifts represent one of the easiest and safest ways of increasing staircase accessibility.
A vertical platform lift is simply a self-contained elevator. Unlike the type of elevators you would see inside of a building, wheelchair lifts do not require a large shaft in the home or much modification to the home.
Instead, wheelchair lifts need only be placed next to the staircase, landing on a strong surface made out of wood or concrete.
To use a wheelchair lift, the user drives their wheelchair onto its platform and activates the call buttons.
The platform then lowers or rises the distance of the staircase.
One of the advantages of a wheelchair lift is that it can be used easily and requires very little effort on the wheelchair user or caretaker.
Simply pushing a button is all it takes to make the stairs safer.
Wheelchair lifts also do not take up much front yard space.
However, wheelchair lifts represent the most expensive option, costing significantly more than building your wheelchair ramp.