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Official Guidelines on Portable Wheelchair Ramps
You will have to excuse this post as it is a bit of a rant
I have been selling wheelchair ramps for over 15 years now
In all that time I have never seen Official Guidelines on Wheelchair Ramps.
I have seen numerous recommendations for gradients of wheelchair ramps, but nothing official.
I have seen the numerous changes to building regulations regarding ramps over the years, but no official guidance on when they are, or are not, applicable.
The big problem with there being no official guidelines is that it can be used as an excuse to do nothing.
The closest official guidelines regarding temporary disabled access ramps I have seen are in BS8300 and the inclusive mobility pdf on the .gov.uk website at inclusive-mobility.pdf which has this extract;
“Steeper gradients than these can be managed by some wheelchair users, but only over very short distances (1000mm or less), for example on a ramp between a bus entrance and the pavement. Even over these short distances the maximum gradient used should be no more than 10 per cent (1 in 10). As a general rule, however, 8 per cent (1 in 12) should be used as the absolute maximum. Not only is the physical effort of getting up a steeper gradient beyond many wheelchair users, but there is also a risk of the wheelchair toppling over.”
Now what this means is whenever anyone asks for advice on which ramp to use on their low 150mm step, I have to tell them it should be no shorter than 1.10m even though they could probably easily cope with a shorter ramp.
The document also states;
“If portable or temporary ramps have to be used to give access to an existing building where space is limited, they should be positioned and their presence identified so that they do not constitute a hazard to passers-by. These ramps should have a surface width of at least 800mm, a drainable, slip-resistant surface and upstands to prevent wheelchair tyres veering off the edge.”
So there we have it, a portable or temporary ramp must be no steeper than a 1:12 gradient and no narrower than 800mm
The big flaw with this is that standard door opening are traditionally 760mm wide and almost everyone I talk to seems to think that they could cope on a ramp far steeper than 1:12.
This is fine if it is an individual buying the ramp for their own personal use, but when it is an OT, a council worker, public servant, etc. they don’t want to take the responsibility of purchasing a ramp that does not comply 100% to the guidelines which can result in the person requiring the ramp not receiving one.
The main problem is, the guidelines tend to be produced to be used at the design stage of new buildings where obviously it is a good thing to make buildings 100% accessible.
Unfortunately though, as it is very hard to find any official guidelines on portable wheelchair ramps that are provided for assisted use, these same guidelines are used for existing buildings where complying fully to the guidelines is not possible.
For more information see our Guidance on Ramps page
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