What is a Mobility Ramp?

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  • Written By: Miranda Reed
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A mobility ramp, or wheelchair ramp, is a gently sloped surface that allows wheelchair access to or from a building, vehicle or other area. It can make the difference between dependence and independence — even life and death — for a person who relies on a wheelchair. There are various types of mobility ramps, each with a specific purpose, and getting the right one for a given situation depends on fully considering the needs and abilities of the person in the wheelchair.

Some mobility ramps, such as those leading into the home of a wheelchair user, are meant to be permanent fixtures and are available in an array of materials; wood and aluminum are among the most common. These typically take up quite a bit of space and are built with the slightest slope possible. This makes it easier on a wheelchair user to propel himself up a mobility ramp without sliding backward or to propel himself down a mobility ramp without picking up unwanted and dangerous speed. Such ramps also usually have handrails to prevent a wheelchair from going off course and falling off the side, and they may have non-slip treads or an awning to help alleviate the risks associated with a weather-dampened ramp surface.


Some mobility ramps, such as those designed for gaining wheelchair access to a van, are portable. They typically are designed for use with a van’s rear door or side door and can be intended for use with either a wheelchair or an electric scooter. Those stored with the vehicle can be attached to the outside of the van or stowed inside.

Mobility ramps are different from mobility lifts, which are the flat-surfaced motorized equipment that allows a person to ride his wheelchair or scooter onto the surface at one level and wait while the machine transports the chair and rider to the desired level. These are often used with buses specially designed for transporting wheelchair-bound riders. They also can be used in areas where a small elevator would be ideal but is cost-prohibitive or where the access issue doesn’t warrant an elevator but also doesn’t allow the horizontal space for a ramp.

Other portable ramps are fairly small and can be carried on a wheelchair for those times when a smooth surface is needed to gain access to a curb or single step. They can be used to cover the threshold to a room to keep a wheelchair’s tires from sticking on the small rise found on many doorways. Still others offer just a sliver of material at the door to provide a wedge of surface between the floor and the highest point of the threshold bump, allowing a smooth transition into the next room.

While a mobility ramp will go a long way to making a building handicap-accessible, there are other guidelines that must be met to fulfill Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Ramps also aren’t the only way to achieve access to a room. Those who anticipate long-term wheelchair use can remodel a home to be accessible with minimal ramps and few, if any, modifications that would tell visitors that the changes were made with wheelchair access in mind.



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