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Ruby Diversified Industries inc.

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Products . Portable Wheelchair Ramps . Literamp . Choosing a ramp

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Choosing a portable ramp for your wheelchair or scooter is simple, but there are details you need to address.  Below are selection criteria that generally come up with a ramp that works based on our experience.   We first begin with an introduction as to exactly what portable wheelchair ramps are or you can go directly to the selection criteria.

What are portable wheelchair ramps.

Types of Wheelchair Ramps and Scooter Ramps

There are basically two types of ramps for people in wheelchairs or scooters - permanent and portable.

Permanent ramps are made of wood or concrete. They are the handicap accesses for court houses, libraries, schools, and other government buildings.

Most, if not all permanent ramps are built to an 12:1 slope, i.e. 12 inches of ramp length for every inch of vertical rise, or 4.8 degrees.  This is required by a federal law known as the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

Permanent ramps are rare for private or residential use due to the high cost and space constraints. This is where portable wheelchair ramps come into play.

What are Portable Wheelchair and Scooter Ramps

A portable wheelchair ramp is a light-weight, flat piece of wood or metal specifically designed to allow wheelchairs to access elevated heights such as vehicles and stairs. If the ramp can also be used by a 3-wheel scooter, it's also called a portable scooter ramp. Most of these ramps, including all LiteRamp™ products, can be used by both wheelchairs and scooters.

Although they come in different styles, materials and confusing names (threshold ramps, panel ramps, rollup ramps, suitcase ramps, single-fold ramps, tri-fold ramps, multi-fold ramps, track ramps, 1-piece ramps, 2-piece ramps, etc.), all portable wheelchair ramps must have the following characteristics:
  • Light weight.  This is why aluminum is chosen over other materials.
  • Easy to use, store, and transport. Little or no installation needed.
  • Versatile - one ramp for several different places.
  • Economical - much cheaper than permanent ramps.

Are Portable Wheelchair Ramps right for you?

Compared to permanent ramps, portable wheelchair ramps do have limitations:
  • Size and weight - Most portable wheelchair ramps stop at 10-foot lengths. Anything longer would be too heavy or bulky to be practical.
  • Strength - Every portable ramp has to seek a balance between weight and strength.  For this reason, all portable ramps flex to a certain degree under load.
The most typical situations where people would use portable wheelchair ramps are:
  • You want to load (drive) and unload an electrical chair or scooter into a van, truck, or SUV.
  • You want to go visit a friend and have to use a ramp get in and out of his or her house.
  • Your parents have come to visit you and you want to have a ramp for their use while they are there.
  • You want to take your spouse in and out of your house on occasional basis.
  • You have to use a ramp to get in and out of your apartment building but you can't leave the ramp there.
  • Your church has a few handicapped members but you don't have the budget for a permanent ramp.

We would not recommend portable wheelchair ramps for:

  • A very tall vertical rise, say 40 inches or 6 typical stair steps.
  • Everyday use of your front entrance.
  • Someone who's highly immobilized and yet wants to ride on the ramp alone.
  • Your high-traffic store front.

Choosing a portable wheelchair ramp.

Ramp Width

Make sure your wheelchair or scooter fits on the ramp with at least a 10% and ideally a 20% or more safety margin.  If the ramp is to be used on the side door of a van or SUV, make sure the door opening is wide enough for the ramp (30 inches for our ramps).  Most but not all minivans have 30 inch door opening.  If side entry is a problem, consider using our ramps on the back door.  LiteRamp ™ ramps can be used on the back doors of almost all vans, trucks, and SUV's.

Ramp Length and Incline

Ramp length is important because it determines the angle or incline, given the vertical height, or rise you are using the ramp for. The sections below will help you to choose a proper incline. But to get an idea, you can use the calculator immediately below to see how it works: first, type in your vertical rise in inches, then, type in a ramp length in feet, click the calculate button and the incline will be displayed. Or you can leave the ramp length empty, type in an incline, and let the calculator figure out the ramp length for you.

Handicap Ramps.
 Enter vertical rise (inches) 
 Enter ramp length (feet) 
 Ramp Angle (degrees)  
Handicap Symbol.Most permanent handicap ramps in front of a public building have an incline of 4.8 degrees.


Recommended Inclines for Power Chairs and Scooters

Every power wheelchair or scooter has a maximum allowable incline. We recommend you choose a ramp that does not create an incline above that maximum allowable incline.

Some power wheelchair or scooter manufacturers list the maximum allowable incline in their user's manual. It is usually between 6 and 9 degrees for occupied (i.e. someone sitting in it) items. When an item is unoccupied, it can climb up a somewhat steeper incline.  The following tables are very general guidelines for loading unoccupied items into a vehicle:

Ramp Length Vehicle Entrance
6' side doors of minivans; back doors of small SUV's
7' side or back doors of minivans and small SUV's; tail gates of small pickup trucks
8' side or back doors of full size vans and large SUV's; tail gates of medium size pickup trucks
10' tail gates of large pickup trucks; back doors of full size vans

Recommended Inclines for Manual Wheelchairs

Pushing a manual wheelchair up a ramp requires physical strength.  A longer ramp makes it easier since there is less incline. As a starting point, we recommend a 6:1 ratio (6-inch ramp length for each inch of rise), or 9.6 degrees. You can go higher or lower on the incline using your own judgment. The table below is a snapshot of the 6:1 ratio:

Ramp Length (ft) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10
Rise (in) based on 6:1 Incline 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 20

Turning Radius

After you have chosen a ramp length, there are still a few things to check. Sometimes you have to make a turn before getting on the ramp or after having gotten off the ramp.  Do you have enough room to make the turn? For example, the ramp is used indoors, or lands on a deck or a driveway with a wall nearby.


Another thing is to make sure the ramp will properly sit on and clear all the stairs it is used on. This is important if the ramp is used on multiple stairs. If you cannot find a reasonable length ramp that will clear all the stairs, you may have to go with several shorter ramps instead of using one ramp. The calculators below will show you the minimum ramp length required to clear 2 or 3 stairs:

Wheelchair Ramp.
Enter upper stair rise (inches) A=
Enter lower stair length (inches) B=
Enter lower stair rise (inches) C=
Minimum Ramp Length (feet) 
Wheelchair Ramp.
Enter upper stair rise (inches) A=
Enter middle stair length (inches) B=
Enter middle stair rise (inches) C=
Enter lower stair length (inches) D=
Enter lower stair rise (inches) E=
Minimum Ramp Length (feet) 

If you still have questions?

We're here to help. Please give us a call at our toll free number at the top of this page and we'll be happy to answer any further questions you might have.
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