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Portable Wheelchair Ramp
Note for Mech 425 AT Project:
This page has been developed as part of the Mech 425 course. For the purpose of the AT project, it has been created in conjunction with the "Portable Wheelchair Ramp Design" page. These pages were separated both to reduce loading times and to increase utility following the project, as either serves its own purpose, and may be useful as stand alone references (i.e. one for information and the other for design).
Wheelchair ramps can be roughly divided into two broad categories: permanent and portable, each with their own further sub-designations, standards and design features.
Permanent ramps are designed to be maintained and secured in a static location. These include any permanent ramps made of wood, concrete, metal or other material. Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) access ramps are required for new buildings designated as “public accommodation” or “commercial facilities” (i.e. hotels, restaurants, etc. Refer to the referenced website for complete definitions) . A second type of ramp, modular ramps, effectively function as permanent ramps when in use, however, they are portable in that they may be disassembled, moved and reused.
Included under the ADA legislation is a set of standards for the construction of permanent ramps. The complete texts of both the American Disability Act and the associated accessibility design standards are available online at the the ADA website  . Some important standards to note are the minimum width requirement of 36 inches (91.44 cm) and the maximum slope of 1:12 (rise to run). Standards differ between country however these numbers are fairly representative of typical design requirements.
A wealth of information, guidelines and tips are available on the internet for the design of permanent wheelchair ramps. Examples include:
Specific plans must be modified depending on location and, if applicable, local building codes.
- Modular Ramps: Modular for ease of assembly and disassembly, these ramps generally function as permanent ramps but can be moved should the need arise (i.e. change of location, ramp is no longer necessary).
- Threshold ramps: Threshold ramps are generally small, fixed ramps designed to assist in bypassing small changes in elevation such as curbs, doorways or perhaps single stairs. These may be installed permanently or highly mobile.
- Folding, portable ramps: Also known as suitcase or multi-fold ramps, this design may incorporate single or multiple folds to reduce size and facilitate transport. They are typically made of aluminum and have varying weight capacity.
- Track Ramps: Track ramps consist of two individual tracks which align with the wheels along either side of the chair. These may fold or telescope to achieve the desired length while allowing for easy transport. The separation between the tracks may also allow a second person to assist the rider without adding any load to the ramp.
- Roll-up Ramps: Roll up ramps, such as the Roll-A-Ramp have the same function of a suitcase/folding ramp but roll up for storage as opposed to folding. These ramps are often very lightweight and compact, but also quite expensive.
For more information, see the Accessrampswebsite, which also provides a detailed explanation of this breakdown.
Examples of each of the above types, along with approximate prices can be found at the website of medical provider Bentley Fielden
Though not regulated by the ADA, some design guidelines exist for the construction of portable ramps, specifically pertaining to slope, width and approximate loading conditions. Generally, it is recommended that slope not exceed 1:6 (rise to run) for occupied and 1:4 for unoccupied wheelchairs . Additional information on ramp slope can be found here. Width must be sufficiently wide to safely accommodate a variety of wheelchairs and finally strength should generally be sufficient to support loading of 500 pounds (227 kg).
While in practice it appears as though these guidelines are not always followed, they are recommended for safety purposes.
- "AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 1990, AS AMENDED." 110(325). Viewed: 10 April 2010 [Online].http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm. PDF version at: http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm
- Ibid (same as above)
- United States Department of Justice, 1994, "ADA Standards for Accessible Design," 110(325) pp. 28 CFR Part 36.pp. 29 to 30. [Online] http://www.ada.gov/stdspdf.htm
- Anonymous 2006, "Portable Wheelchair Ramp," 2010(9 April) . [Online] http://www.wheelchairuser.net/ramp/portable_wheelchair_ramp.htm
- Sowders, J., 2010, "Portable Wheelchair Ramps Provide Enhanced Mobility," 2010(9 April). [Online]. http://www.mobility-advisor.com/portable-wheelchair-ramps.html.
-  Stewart, D., 2010, "Determining Ramp Slope" 2010(9 April). [Online] http://www.accessramps.ca/rampslope.php.
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