Introduction: Portable Wheelchair Ramps

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Quite frequently it is necessary to transport a set of portable ramps to allow my wheelchair to get into homes and shops.   In the past, I've tried to use store- bought manufactured ramps made of aluminum.  These store-bought ramps were very expensive and did not work well for my electric wheelchair as they were primarily designed for lighter manual wheelchairs.  The store-bought ramps were too narrow for the wheels on a power wheelchair, and the weight of the wheelchair caused them to dangerously bend.   As a result, my father built his own set of ramps that have worked very well for me and my heavy electric wheelchair, and are far cheaper and in my opinion more sturdy than the store-bought version.

Before you begin this Instructable, some precautions.  This ramp is not intended for use as a permanent ramp.  It is for use as a portable ramp for inclining one to a maximum of three steps in a situation where a more permanent ramp is not feasible.  When using this ramp, at least one abled body individual needs to be present to stabilize the ramp and guide the individual in the wheelchair up or down the ramp.  You must make sure the ramp is well secured or else the ramp could slip causing serious injury.  Use extreme precaution when using this ramp and ascend or decend the ramp slowly.  Use at your own risk.

1 - 2 Wood Beam joists depending upon length.  If using a single beam, beam must be at least twice the required length. (Typically available in standard lengths of 24', 28', 32', 36', 40', 44' and 48')
Metal sheet which will be cut into 4  pieces the width of the wood joist and approximately 6" in length.
2 Handles
18 screws
Drill gun
Tape measure
Triangle ruler
Marking pen or pencil

Step 1: Step 1: Calculating the Ramp Length

"ADA recommends a 3:12 slope which means for every 3" of vertical rise you are required to have at least one foot of ramp (14.5 degrees incline) Measure the vertical rise from the ground to where the ramp will sit on the vehicle, stairs or threshold. Take that measurement (inches) and divide it by 3. This will determine the length of ramp needed for an unoccupied power chair."  Source:  This measurement is based on ramp for an unoccupied wheelchair.  For a ramp with the occupant in the wheelchair, a  2/12 slope is recommended. "ADA recommends a 2:12 slope which means every 2" of vertical rise requires one foot of ramp (9.5 degrees of incline)"  Source:

From a personal standpoint, ADA recommendations are usually based upon statistical averages.  The ramp should be long enough that the person in the wheelchair can comfortably ascend and descend the slope keeping in mind the degree of ascent the wheelchair is capable of and the braking ability of the particular wheelchair.  The incline should not be so steep as to make stopping on the slope impossible.

Step 2: Step 2: Cut the Wood Joist

Wood joist are very strong planks of wood designed for use as ceiling support beams in houses and are available at most home improvement and hardware stores.  Use precautions when handling these beams as they do tend to cause severe splinters.  Use gloves whenever handling these beams.

After determining the length required for the ramp, use a tape measure to mark this length on the beam.  These beams are typically very long, and as you should not use this ramp for ascending more than three stairs, in most circumstances a single beam cut in half is adequate for making the ramp.  Make sure the joist is secured before cutting. Use protective eye goggles and follow other safety measures when cutting wood with saw.  Cut the beam to desired length.

Use a Triangle ruler to mark a straight line to cut the board at a 90 degree angle from the length of the board. 

Step 3: Step 3: Cut the Landing

One end of the board is going to rest on the ground while the other end will rest upon the top of the step.  Cut the base of the end that will be resting upon the ground at an angle such that it may rest flatly upon the ground.   Cut out a notch on the end of the board that rest on the step.

Step 4: Step 4: Reducing the Edge of the Board.

On the edge of the board that rest on the top step, there will be a short ledge which the wheelchair will have to ride over.  To reduce this ledge and reduce the chance of the board slipping, screw to this edge of the board with four screws a short piece of metal with a slight bend on each of the ramps as shown.  For the boards shown, a scrap piece of metal was used.  You may also use two rectangular pieces of metal approximately the width of the joist and about 6" in length.  This will allow the wheelchair to drive easily over this ledge and reduce the chance of the board slipping.

Optional: The lip of the ramp in some occasions may be too great for some wheelchairs to get over.  If this is the case, you will want to add a short piece of metal to this end of the ramp as well to make the ledge flatter for the wheels of the chair to get over.  For this, you will need a sheet of thin metal cut the width of the wood joist and approximately 6" in length.  After cutting the metal, drill through the metal and the joist to screw the metal to the end of the ramp.  (Note: be careful when carrying these ramps as the metal end may be sharp)

Step 5: Step 5: Carrying Handles

Wood joist are made of very rough pressed wood, and therefore they can be difficult to handle.  Carrying with your bare hands can cause splinters.  Attach a handle to the outside edge of each of the ramp boards.  For these ramps, two plastic handles were screwed into the side of the ramps.

Step 6: Step 6: Proper Use of the Ramp

These ramps are not meant to be used as permanent ramps as they can slip.  To properly use these ramps, the boards should be carefully placed parallel to one another.  An attendant should stand at the end of the ramp to ensure the boards do not slip as the individual in the wheelchair ascends the ramp.  To go down or descend the ramp, the individual in a wheelchair should always descend the ramp backwards with an attendant to guide the chair from the rear. 

NEVER DRIVE DOWN RAMP FORWARDS.  Ramps should never be used to ascend or descend more than three stairs.

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