How do I make ramps more accessible?

Here are a few ways to make sure any ramp you build is properly accessible according to your needs:

Keep accessibility guidelines in mind when deciding if and what kind of ramp is best for you.

Ramps work best for heights up to 30 inches; over that you will most likely need a vertical lift or elevator.

The slope or rise should be no more than 1 inch for every 12 inches in length. This ratio is quite steep, especially for someone in a manual wheelchair or walker. A 1-inch rise for every 20 inches is easier to maneuver, but of course this makes the ramp longer.

Guard against the mobility device slipping off the ramp by adding a 4-inch guard along the bottom edge along the entire length of the ramp.

The ramp should be 48 inches wide with a minimum of 42 inches of clear space between railings on both sides.

Rest and/or turning areas at least 5 feet long need to be provided for every 3 feet of rise in elevation, 30 feet in unbroken length, at every 90-degree turn AND in front of the entry door.

Make sure your ramp has a nonslip surface by adding:
  • 1-pound silica sand/gallon of paint (be sure to stir often); or sprinkle the sand on top of wet paint as you go.
  • Rolled roofing paper tacked down securely to provide traction.
  • Battens, which are thin strips of wood that stop wheels from rolling backward, you will have to power your wheelchair over.
Keep required maintenance in mind. The materials you use to build the ramp must allow easy leaf, ice, and snow removal without deteriorating too quickly. Wooden ramps should be constructed of preservative-treated lumber, and will require regular painting and staining. Be sure to slope all flat areas one-eighth of an inch to one side for drainage.

Note: As always, “Try before you buy.” Your local independent living community (ILC) may have samples of aluminum ramps in their loan closet. Visit senior centers to see what they have installed and ask the people there what they chose and why, or ask builders and contractors for referrals to accessible homes they have worked on and ask the owners what worked for them.
Home Accessibility (300 Tips for Making Life Easier)

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Home Accessibility (300 Tips for Making Life Easier)

Written by the best-selling author of Multiple Sclerosis: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier and Parkinson's Disease: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier, Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.