Wheelchair ramps 101 – first steps

I get asked a lot about what are the best wheelchair ramps to buy or rent or even sometimes if we are all lucky build. This is a response to that request.

I started my working life as an access consultant; first just in lived experience advice and then more officially, but this is NOT that sort of advice. I want to stress that this post is based on lived experience and common sense with a nod to the legislation not the other way around. If you need technical or specific advise please talk to an access consultant especially for a public or commercial application. Think of this post as a guide to the users experience. I am just someone who has been using ramps including very makeshift ramps for over 30 years, and I have some ideas.

Be proactive.

If you are inviting someone who uses a wheelchair somewhere that they don’t know, but you do (or to your house/workplace), volunteer to talk about the access. Think about the venue and your guest ahead of this conversation but try not to draw too many conclusions for yourself. See yourself as the constable gathering information for the detective (your giuest in most cases). You don’t always need very precise information either, though having a *good* sense of the height/number of steps and the width of the doorways and gates (if not roughly standard is always handy. While flooding your guest with information upfront won’t necessarily help and may overwhelm, having the information handy to aid the “thinking through” is a good plan.

Things like:

  • number and rough height of stairs
  • doorways and landings (“There are two steps, then the verandah then another small one into the house itself”)
  • any slopes or uneven surfaces near where the steps are, (including trees)
  • alternative routes (“We have 2 steps out front, with an uneven footpath but around the back we have 3 straight of good paving. They are wider”)
  • your willingness (or not) to hire ramps, different wheelchairs; or your willingness to collect ramps that are obtained.

Depending how long and how permanently your guest has used their wheelchair, they will ask the questions they need answered. Most likely they will have had to think this stuff through before. More than expecting you to solve the questions by yourself, most likely they will be grateful for the data you can provide. Expertise is not required here. Willingness is appreciated. The guest may not want to talk about it. They may already have a vision of if/how getting up your steps may (not) work. Generally speaking while they might need some reassurance of your willingness to help, my advice is trust them with that decision.

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