Security Concerns for Wheelchair Ramp Users

For the vast majority of people, we take our mobility for granted. We are able to walk around our neighborhoods, in and out of cafes, and do our shopping without any hassle. For some however, the simple act of walking up a flight of stairs is not an option. Wheelchair ramps are a great way of creating more inclusive spaces — yet they still come with their drawbacks. If you’re wondering what sort of safety concerns wheelchair ramp users hold, read on.

· The Incline

The key feature of a wheelchair ramp is the incline. This is what allows users to bypass the steps whilst still traveling up or down an ascent. What many don’t think about however, is the gradient of that slope. The steeper it is, the harder it is for users to push themselves up the ramp — and wheelchair users don’t often have the same level of strength as able-bodied people, whether through disability, age or injury. There is also an increased risk of tipping, as their centre of gravity shifts in relation to the wheels. For that reason, the gradient of the incline can become a significant concern for many people in wheelchairs, and designers must take this into account while building a ramp.

In Australia, regulations dictate that a slope can be no greater than 1:6. This means that for a slope one metre in height, the ramp must be six metres in length — which equates to a 9-degree angle. It also shouldn’t take longer than 17 seconds for the average user to cross, which ensures they don’t get too tired during the process,

· Top and Bottom Landings

The other major factor in ramp safety, which is often forgotten, is the surfaces on either end of the slope. These should be completely level, to ensure the user doesn’t keep rolling when they get to the bottom of the ramp, or roll back down when they reach the top. A flat surface means wheelchair users have an opportunity to stop pushing if they need to before continuing on their journey, giving them a chance to recover and catch their breathe. Handrails can also be incredibly helpful to ensure they have something to use for extra balance — and they are a legal requirement.

· Weather Conditions

How easy or difficult it is for wheelchair ramp users is also dependent on outside factors — and people in wheelchairs are very aware of this. While we don’t often have to battle snow in Australia, rain can have a huge impact on how easy it is to navigate any obstacles. Outdoor ramps should always be weather resistant, with non-slip surfaces to keep users safe during any conditions. Another thing that builders can do when installing ramps is ensure there is no place for extra water to form puddles at the foot of the ramp, as this is a sure way to increase the likelihood of accidents.

Wheelchair users are often already forced to plan ahead when it comes to foul weather, not leaving the house during the rain or having other people with them to help navigate potential hazards. We should take care not to make life any more difficult by building ramps that can be used all year round — not just on sunny summers days.

As you can see, there are a number of safety concerns that wheelchair ramp users face on a day to day basis that able-bodied people don’t have to consider. As a result, we should make it as easy as is feasible for ramps to be used, so that people in wheelchairs can remain as independent as possible.