for Cold Climate Housing and much more

Last Updated: , Created: Sunday, January 14th, 2001

Building wheelchair ramps

One of our viewers needs to arrange for wheelchair access to the front door, which is six feet off the ground, and he is looking for some guidelines.

Wheelchair ramps must have rails close to the surface of the ramp to keep the wheels from running off the ramp, rails at the top of the wheel height for the person in the wheelchair to grab and pull, and a rail at the normal height for people walking to hang on to. Add anti-skid sand to the paint and you will decrease slipperiness. But once you work out all the details, you may want to consider alternatives to building a ramp, at least one that has to go up 6 feet high.

1:12 is the gentle recommended slope for most wheelchair users. This would make this viewer's ramp 72 feet long, with a resting pad or switch back every 30 feet or so. That would be quite some structure in the front yard.

You could make it steeper but you might want to consider the following specifications:

1:12 slope for typical wheelchair users.

1:9 slope for wheelchair users with "strong" arms; for those who must be pushed by an able-bodied helper; for motorized chairs. 

1:7 slope only for wheelchair users who are ?unusually strong?; when the disabled person is lightweight and the pusher is strong; for extra-powerful motorized chairs.

1:5 Steepest slopes -- only for suitable motorized vehicles or mechanical assists such as incline lifts and power assists.

Glenn Allan from Alberta has built several ramps and now says that he prefers no slope at all. For the cost and all the bother, if you have to get up 6 feet, buy a vertical lift and the person's autonomy will be even better respected. They can go outdoors even if they are not feeling athletic on a given day. He says that vertical lifts sell for around $5,000. You can also get lifts designed to go up one side of existing stairs if that is a better layout for your house. Concord Elevator makes lifts in Brampton, Ontario.

Glenn recommends several books: The Staircase: Studies of Hazards, Falls, and Safer Design -- John Templer, 1992 MIT Press. Designing for the Disabled -- Selwyn Goldsmith 1976, RIBA Publications. How to Create Interiors for the Disabled: A Guidebook for Family and Friends -- Jane R. Cary, 1978 Panteon Books. Thanks Glenn.

There several publications are available from CMHC about accessibility, notably: Housing for Persons with Disabilities.

Keywords: Ramp, Handicap, Disabled, Adaptation, Wheelchair, Accessibility

Article 1207