Wheelchair porch lift or wheelchair ramp?

| Thursday, September 15, 2011
By Angela Sapiorch

A wheel chair porch lift or wheelchair ramp design is all about accessibility. A wheel chair is not required; many people with limited mobility use them to make it easier to enjoy their porch or deck without having to climb stairs. Lifts and ramps make it safer for many to escape fires, floods, and other emergencies. Selecting the perfect system is a matter of understanding the pros and cons of each and finding one that suits your specific needs. The following facts can help you make the right choice.

Although space is usually not a limiting factor for a wheel chair porch lift, height is. Porch lifts usually have a maximum height capability of about 14 feet. All that is needed is an accessible area for the lift itself and electrical receptacles to operate the lift. A wheelchair ramp design on the other hand, does require sufficient space. If you front porch or back deck is three feet high, you will need a ramp that is approximately 36 feet long to comply with most local building codes. An option to minimize a straight run of that length is to create turns of 90 to 180 degrees. Each turn must have a landing that is at least 5 feet square. There is usually no limit to the amount of turns; however, keep in mind the total distance that must be traveled uphill.

Shoveling snow or removing ice off a 36 foot long ramp takes time, energy, and can add to your overall expenses. In addition, it must be cleared quickly after inclement weather. This may not be an issue if you live in a more moderate climate but for those in snow country, it is worth considering. A solution may be to install a roof over the wheel chair ramp. A front porch or deck lift; however, minimizes this issue. It is smaller in size and is easier to protect from the weather.

When deciding which system is best, consider the person's physical abilities. If adequate space if available the person is capable of ascending a ramp but has trouble with climbing stairs, a wheelchair-type ramp may be ideal. Likewise, if a person has sufficient upper body strength to propel a wheelchair without too much difficulty, a ramp may be adequate. If this is not the case, consider using machinery like a wheelchair porch lift to make accessibility far easier and safer. Porch lifts require very little strength and effort to operate.

Treated lumber is not you only option for wheel chair ramps. Opt instead for cellular PVC, recycled plastics, or composites. They look and feel just like wood but come in a variety of colors and textures, all of which can enhance the appearance of your ramp. In addition, integrate your ramp design into your front or back yard landscaping plan. Selecting the right foliage not only adds a new dimension to your ramp but also to your home as well. Porch lifts can be integrated into the overall design of your porch or deck as well. If done correctly, no one will even know it exists until you show them.

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