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The Pros and Cons of Portable Wheelchair Ramps

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While there has been some improvement in the availability of access ramps in public buildings, there will be many occasions when a wheelchair user will find it difficult to access a facility. One increasingly popular solution is the use of portable wheelchair ramps. These can be folded up and transported in a vehicle, providing a convenient way to maintain independence.

Although there are a variety of types of portable wheelchair ramps out there, essentially, they come in two styles: double-track or single platform, although you will also find a range of threshold ramps that can be used in the home. A portable ramp should be able to accommodate use by anyone using a powered wheelchair or a manual chair, as well as scooters and walkers, and both safety and functionality should be priorities when deciding whether to use a portable ramp.

There is a wide variety in types of portable ramps, and the benefits of using a particular model will depend on your circumstances. There are, however, certain things to look out for that will apply to most models. Here are some general pros and cons to help you choose your portable ramp.

Pros

A portable wheelchair ramp can be extremely versatile. They are usually designed to be compact and are suitable for indoors and outdoors use, and can be used with vehicles, curbs and other thresholds.

Many brands of ramp are designed to enable the various sections to ‘telescope’ as they are compacted, ensuring that the ramp takes up much less space, making it viable for cramped spaces.

Some ramps also feature both locking elements and built-in handles, which helps to make it easier to fold them and move the whole ramp, so further enhancing flexibility.

Lightweight modern portable ramps are sometimes available in material called Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) which combine strength with considerable flexibility.

While some ramps will need to be fastened down when using them for thresholds, some ramps, as with many of the rubber threshold models, can rest against the door sill, making them ideal for using with sliding doors. They can also be trimmed down to an appropriate size.

Cons

If you’re using a channel-type ramp, the caregiver will be required to set up and then take down two ramps, and these can be tricky to operate.

Lower quality portable ramps can sometimes put safety at risk as the welding may be substandard, or sharp edges may be left. They may also be supplied without instructions, so it is important not to skimp on quality when you are looking for a portable ramp.

Channel or track ramps may not be suited to power chairs or scooters due to weight concerns.

Although many portable ramps are manufactured from lightweight material and are designed for convenience and ease of use, some may still be too heavy for older people to lift up.

The narrower type of portable models can cause problems as the wheels on the chair can become stuck, which is a significant problem in the case of powered wheelchairs.


Using a Portable Ramp Safely

Although portable ramps have many advantages in terms of ease of use and convenience, safety is still paramount, so it is important to follow these tips when using a ramp.

Don’t skip on reading the manual! It may be tempting to overlook the full details of the ramp’s operation but this can lead to problems or even dangerous situations. No matter how experienced you are in the use of ramps, you should always take the time to read through the manual thoroughly so that you are aware of all the ramp’s features and the correct usage.

When you’re choosing a ramp, make sure that it is strong enough to take the user, the chair and the caregiver and leave yourself plenty of leeway to accommodate different caregivers.

Even when using a temporary portable ramp, water can quickly accumulate on the surface during damp conditions, which can lead to accidents. Every time the ramp is used, it should be checked thoroughly for wetness. Using ramps that have non-slip coverings and drainage holes can help to reduce the risk, and it is also possible to fit non-slip strips to a ramp’s surface.

If this is a problem, look for a model that sits against the door sill, like some of the rubber threshold models. These are great for use with sliding doors and can be trimmed to fit your needs.

By looking after your wheelchair you can minimise repairs, however, there are some things you can’t prevent, such as accidents or theft. We provide insurance for manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs, and mobility scooters.

If you’d like to speak to someone about insuring your equipment, call a member of the Fish Insurance team on 0333 331 3770.

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