As any wheelchair user knows, ramps are an indispensable aid for getting about in modern life, for ease of access into buildings, etc. They not only make life much easier for those in wheelchairs, but also for the users of strollers, buggies, etc., to gain access to certain places. They can be permanent, semi-permanent or portable – in fact, these days there are a wide range of portable ramps, which have certainly increased accessibility everywhere for the disabled.
The permanent ones are usually built from wood, metal or concrete and are designed to be bolted or cemented into place. The portable ones are usually made of aluminium and are designed primarily for home and building use, and they generally fold up for ease of transportation. In the UK, all publicly-owned buildings and institutions, such as schools, hospitals and government buildings, are required by law to be accessible to handicapped people, so they must have wheelchair ramps. Additionally all the taxis in the capital, London, have a wheelchair ramp, and most of the buses in the capital also have this facility, in the form of a pull-down one, which makes this city one of the most welcoming and accessible to disabled people in Europe.
It is very important with ramps that the design specifications are precise, and regulations stipulate that they must have maximum slopes and minimum widths. Certain factors need to be taken into consideration in the manufacturing process, e.g. safety in icy conditions, meaning that a less steep ramp would be safer. In the UK the guidelines stipulate that a ramp designated for a public building should be as shallow as possible, with a gradient of a 1:12 slope for business and public use. They must have a non-slip surface. It is also advisable, though not strictly necessary, for ramps to have handrails for safety, in order to prevent the user overbalancing.
There are now many companies that manufacture lightweight, portable ramps, which I am sure are an indispensable travelling aid, just in case there are no purpose-built permanent ramps available! Price-wise, the portable ones start at around £48-50 (British money) so I think this is an investment well worth making – I am fairly certain I would invest in one, if I were wheelchair-bound! Many of these ingenious devices can be found on the website: www.amazon.com
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Picture courtesy of www.portaramp.co.uk