Wheelchair Ramps & Lifts – What’s Best for You?

Wheelchair Ramps & Lifts – What’s Best for You?

Posted by Susan T. on Dec 29th 2023

Transferring a bulky wheelchair into the back of a car can be a difficult task. Oftentimes, people strain their back when trying to manually transfer mobility devices into the back of their cars. If you have a mobility impairment and want to take your wheelchair with you every time you travel by a car, invest in a wheelchair lift or wheelchair ramp.

Wheelchair lifts for vehicles and wheelchair ramps are designed to simplify the process of loading wheelchairs into car boots. Wheelchair ramps can also help users navigate elevated surfaces.

What is a Wheelchair Lift?

Wheelchair lifts for vehicles, or platform lifts, are mechanical devices designed to lift wheelchairs to and from vehicles. They also enable wheelchair users to move vertically over a short distance, typically between different floor levels. This type of lift is an alternative to traditional staircases and is installed in homes and commercial buildings to ensure access to people with mobility impairments. Here are some different types of wheelchair lifts:

  • Vertical platform lifts: These are elevator-like lifts that move straight up and down. They are commonly installed in homes, schools, and office buildings. VPLs are designed to help wheelchair users navigate between floors and overcome small sets of steps.
  • Inclined platform lifts: These lifts travel along the staircase on a rail. They are ideal for people who need to access different levels of a building without leaving their wheelchair. An inclined platform lift can be installed on most types of staircases, including straight and curved. The platform of inclined platform lifts tilt at an angle.
  • Vehicle lifts: These lifts are designed to help wheelchair users enter and exit vehicles. Some types of vehicle lifts include swing-away lifts, under-vehicle lifts, and inside lifts. Depending on its design and lifting capacity, a vehicle lift can be installed in a van, bus, or any other large vehicle.
  • Crane or hoist wheelchair lifts: These types of lifts are less commonly used than other wheelchair lifts. A crane or hoist wheelchair lift can be used to lift a mobility aid without someone seated in it. The base of a crane lift can be placed inside the back of a car. It has a rotating arm that can be used to hoist the mobility device to the level of the vehicle, which can then be lowered for a safe and hassle-free transfer.
  • Portable wheelchair lifts: These are mobile and can be moved to different locations as needed. They are usually installed in buildings where a permanent lift cannot be installed. These wheelchair lifts are often used in schools and during special events.
  • Hybrid lifts: A hybrid lift is mounted in a car’s cargo area. Hybrid lifts are usually used to transfer wheelchairs into SUVs and vans. The drive-in platform of a hybrid lift allows users to easily wheel themselves onto it. Though hybrid lifts allow for easy and safe transfer of mobility aids, restraints and tie-downs are still required. Hybrid lifts usually have simple controls and can be used with users seated in their mobility devices.

Choosing a Wheelchair Lift

Each type of lift has its own set of benefits. When choosing a type, consider its weight capacity, available space, and installation requirements. Think about the environment in which your wheelchair lift will be used and then choose a lift that suits your needs. Some other factors to consider when selecting a wheelchair lift include:

  • Platform: Look for a wheelchair lift with a slip-resistant platform and make sure it is wide and large enough to accommodate your wheelchair.
  • Safety features: A good wheelchair lift has barriers or guardrails on the sides of the platform to prevent falls. Another safety feature to consider is emergency stop buttons.
  • Control mechanism: Opt for a wheelchair lift that allows the user or an assistant to control the lift’s movement.

Who Can Use a Wheelchair Lift?

A person can use a wheelchair lift if they:

  • Can walk from the front to the rear of their vehicle and back,
  • Aren’t entirely immobile and can stand for 2-3 minutes,
  • Can drive or push their mobility device onto and off of the lift’s platform, and
  • Have enough finger strength to press the up and down buttons for a few minutes while the lift is in operation.

Benefits of Wheelchair Lifts

Wheelchair lifts for vehicles allow wheelchair users to transfer their mobility devices swiftly and effortlessly into the back of their vehicles. They come in various designs to suit different needs. Top-of-the-line wheelchair lifts have a stable, slip-resistant platform designed to reduce the risk of accidents. They are incredibly easy to use. Wheelchair lifts for vehicles take up less space than ramps and are an ideal choice for small, compact vehicles.

What is a Wheelchair Ramp?

For wheelchair or mobility scooter users, accessing an area with a structural elevation can be challenging. A wheelchair ramp is usually installed in an area of a building with stairs or steps. It is a sloping architectural feature designed to provide wheelchair users, as well as people pushing strollers or carts, with an alternative to stairs for accessing the area. Wheelchair ramps are installed in buildings in addition to or instead of stairs.

Types of Wheelchair Ramps

There are several different types of wheelchair ramps. Each type is designed to ensure accessibility in different settings. Here are some popular types of wheelchair ramps.

Portable ramps: Are lightweight and can hence be easily moved or folded. They are the preferred choice of wheelchair users who travel frequently and those with temporary mobility impairments. A portable ramp can help wheelchair users navigate small steps or curbs safely.

Permanent ramps: Is the most common type of wheelchair ramp. As the name suggests, a permanent ramp is built into the site. Permanent ramps use sturdy materials and can withstand harsh weather conditions, and heavy foot traffic

Modular ramps: Are usually made of aluminum. They can be configured to fit various spaces. Modular ramps are used in both homes and businesses. Unlike a permanent ramp, a modular ramp is built to last, but not built into the structure.

Threshold ramps: Are small ramps designed to help wheelchair users safely navigate small lips or thresholds at doorways. Thanks to their simple design, they are the number one choice of property owners who want to make their buildings more accessible.

Vehicle ramps: Are specially designed to help ensure easy access into vehicles. A vehicle ramp can be folded and stored inside a vehicle.

Pathway ramps: These are longer, more permanent structures. They are usually installed in public buildings and businesses. A pathway ramp features a gradual incline and can handle more traffic than many other types of ramps.

Custom ramps: Are built to fit specific locations and needs, these ramps are often made of wood or concrete and are permanent features.

Choosing a Wheelchair Ramp

Here are some important things to consider when choosing a wheelchair ramp.

Gradient: Make sure the slope of the wheelchair ramp you’re considering does not exceed 1:12. That is, one inch of rise per 12 inches of length.

Width: The ramp should be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your wheelchair

Surface: The surface of the ramp should be firm, stable, and slip-resistant.

Handrails: Many ramps include handrails on both sides to provide support. Handrails are particularly important if the ramp is long or steep.

Edge protection: Look for a wheelchair ramp with curbs, walls, or railings along the edges designed to protect wheelchairs from slipping off.

Should you use a Wheelchair Lift or Wheelchair Ramp?

When deciding whether to opt for a wheelchair lift or wheelchair ramp, consider these factors.

Space and location: Wheelchair ramps take up a significant amount of horizontal space. If you have limited space, a wheelchair lift may be a better option.

Height of the elevation: Ramps must have a gentle slope of no more than 1 inch of rise per 12 inches of length. If you need help navigating a steep area, opt for a wheelchair lift

Aesthetics and community regulations: Consider how the ramp or lift you’re considering will look in your environment. Also, find out if your community has regulations or guidelines regarding the installation of ramps or lifts.

Mobility Masters is a trusted supplier of mobility devices by leading manufacturers. Manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities, our products are a cut above the rest. To learn more, call (800) 936-7006.