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Ramps Make Public Areas Accessible For Wheelchair Users

By Author: Derry Hall
Total Articles: 35
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For many people, walking substantial distances outside of the home can become difficult in later life. Using mobility equipment like walking sticks, crutches, walking frames and rollators can be the answer. But for others, it is simply impossible to get from A to B without using a wheelchair.

This may be because they have a physical condition in their legs, feet or hips which prevents them from walking. Or it could be down to a lung condition which means they quickly run-out of breath. For younger people, using a self-propelled chair might be the answer. These require physical fitness and upper body strength to propel unassisted.

These chairs have large rear wheels which require pushing by the user in order to make them rotate. In order to protect the hands and improve grip, most people using self-propelled models wear special gloves. These wheelchair accessories prevent injury and ensure that the user can turn the wheels without pain.

Most attendant propelled wheelchairs have lightweight frames. The lighter the chair, the easier it is to maneuver.

Ramps for Wheelchairs

Kerbs, steps, steep hills and other obstacles are problematic for self-propelled wheelchair users. While many modern shops have good wheelchair access, a high percentage of public locations remain inaccessible. Solid, fixed ramps remain a rarity.

Attendant propelled chairs are for people who are unable to push the wheels themselves. Usually these models do not have larger rear wheels. Most have handle-brakes which the attendant can use to stop or slow down the chair.

Both types of wheelchair typically fold-down when not in use. This makes it easier to transport and store them. Often wheelchairs pack into the boot of a car, so it is important to choose one which collapses down to the required size for the space available.

Wheelchair accessories like ramps are available in various sizes and lengths. To ensure maximum safety from accidents, many have non-slip tread on the rolling surface. This improves grip both for the wheelchair user themselves and their attendant, if they have one.

As with the wheelchair itself, wheelchair ramps often need to be lightweight and collapsible for easy transportation. If the ramp is a broad single unit, this usually mean it needs to fold down the middle. In transit, it can lay on the floor of the boot of the car, with the wheelchair itself put on top of it.

If the ramps are the ‘channel’ variety, they fold-down in one of two ways. Channel ramps typically come in two narrow sections which either fold in half like broad ramps, or collapse on themselves using a telescopic action.

There are two main advantages of channel ramps. One is that they feature raised edge sections which prevent the wheels of the wheelchair rolling off to the sides. The second is that each ramp is relatively light, making it easier to put in position than a single, broad unit. Because they are in two pieces, they are also more convenient to store. When in use, care is necessary to ensure an even distribution of weight on each unit.

Some ramps are available which fold-down to such an extent that they fit into a bag which hangs on the back of the wheelchair. This means the ramps are available as and when required.

Still, many wheelchair users still prefer a single-piece ramp. If made from rigid material, one-piece ramps provides a solid, reassuring feeling. Steel ramps provide the most rigid surface, but are heavy, making them less popular than they used to be.

Fibreglass is one option as an alternative material because it is relatively lightweight and waterproof. In recent years, aluminium has become the material of choice for wheelchair ramps. This metal is light but rigid enough to support the wheelchair user’s weight without too much flex.

More About the Author

Essential Aids provides disability aids, mobility equipment and rehabilitation products to people in the UK.

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