Powered wheelchairs and electric scooters enable persons with disabilities to move around the home and the community. However, there may be architectural barriers such as kerbs and steps that may prevent them from going in and out of their homes. SPD’s occupational therapist Alan Ong shares in this article some of the portable and permanent ramps that can be used to overcome them.
Ramps can be bought off the shelves or custom-made. The more common materials for ramps are wood and aluminium. Most local wheelchair vendors stock portable ramps for one-step kerbs with heights of between one and four inches. Ramps which do not fall within these measurements can be custom made but would be more expensive than the standard ones. Here are some examples of standard ramps.
Ready-made aluminium ramp
Ready-made wooden ramp covered with anti-slip mat
Portable ramps can be made permanent by securing them to the floor with screws (shown below). It is advisable to seek permission from the Housing Development Board (HDB) and relevant town councils prior to making the ramp a permanent fixture on the ground.
Ready-made aluminium ramp secured to the ground
For houses with more than one step, standard ramps mentioned above will not work. Depending on the height of the steps and the corridor space available, a customised ramp with appropriate gradient could be fabricated.
Two-steps at entrance of house
Customised wooden ramp for the two-step entrance
Customised aluminium ramp for the three-step stairs at entrance
Other alternative solutions for multiple stairs are the suitcase ramp or the bi-fold ramp. The suitcase ramp looks very similar to the bi-fold ramp. The difference is that the suitcase ramp consists of two separate pieces which are placed together side by side when in use. The bi-fold ramp comes in just one piece and can be folded up when not in use.
An important point to note is that there needs to be sufficient space for placement when using the bi-fold or suitcase ramps. For example, use of these ramps at HDB corridor units with windows facing the common corridor would not be suitable.
These ramps are portable but can also be made permanent when fixed to the edge of the top step. The sides of the ramp can be shaved off by a bit to allow for opening and closing of the gates.
One-fold suitcase ramp partially unfolded
Suitcase ramp unfolded
Bi-fold ramp unfolded
A customised solution is needed for HDB units with narrow corridors and three steps at the entrance. A portable platform can be built over the steps and, paired together with the bi-fold ramp, would wheelchair-users to get in and out of the unit with ease. The platform and ramp can be stored away when not in use or when the corridor is being washed.
Portable platform with wheels and bi-fold ramp
Depending on the needs of users or their caregivers, the ramp can be customised with or without railings at the side. The platform does not need to be accompanied by the bi-fold or suitcase ramp. It can be a standalone piece (see picture below) or used together with the ramp.
Customised ramp with railing on one side
Customised ramp with railing on both sides
Lastly, two options are available to make step-over kerbs accessible for wheelchair-users. The first option would be to put two ramps – one on the inside and the other on the outside – of the entrance. The second would be to use a bridge ramp to go over the step-over kerb. There are many types of bridge ramps and each has a maximum weight limit which will be a consideration for powered wheelchair and electric scooter users. It is advisable to bolt the bridge ramp to the floor to prevent it from moving.
Two ramps, one on the inside and the other on the outside of the entrance
Bridge ramp for step over kerb
What we have shared in this article are just some of the more common ramp solutions for powered mobility equipment. The type of ramp used depends on the users’ and caregivers’ functional needs, preferences, budget and home environment. The gradient of the ramp used is also an important consideration that would help ensure safe usage. Therefore, it is advisable to consult your occupational therapist for more information regarding ramp solutions.
Please note that SPD does not sell any product and you can contact the vendors featured directly for purchase (below under Acknowledgements). However you can still contact the Specialised Assistive Technology Centre via e-mail if you need advice regarding ramp solutions.