Volume 41 Number 3B, May/June 2004
Pages 443 — 452
Design features of portable wheelchair ramps and their implications
for curb and vehicle accessTim Storr, BSc, MSc; Julie Spicer, BA (Hon); Peggy Frost, DipCOT, MSc; Steve Attfield, BTech, MPhil, CEng, MIMechE; Christopher D. Ward, MD, FRCP; Lorraine L. Pinnington, DipCOT, BA, MSc, PhD, CPsycholDerby Disability Equipment Assessment Centre (DDEAC), Derby City General Hospital, UK; Bioengineering Research Centre, Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, UK; Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing, University of Nottingham, UKAbstract — This study evaluated a range of portable wheelchair ramps to highlight the effect of different product features on ease of use when wheelchair users climb curbs or access vehicles. Twelve portable ramps were evaluated. Although all the ramps were designed to load powered wheelchairs into motor vehicles, they were manufactured in different designs. The ramps were based on a "singlewide" platform or "channel" design. Some ramps had fixed dimensions, whereas others could be reduced in size because they were telescopic or designed to allow folding. Overall, the ramps could be divided into four subgroups on the basis of their key features. These were horizontally and longitudinally folding ramps, telescopic ramps, and ramps with fixed dimensions. The telescopic ramps could be subdivided into "U"-shaped gutter ramps and reverse profile ramps. Product appraisals and trials involving wheelchair users and caregivers of wheelchair users were done to evaluate each of these ramp designs. Although wheelchair ramps are available in a wide range of designs and configurations, we found that no single ramp design successfully met the needs of all wheelchair users or their caregivers. The evalua-tion highlighted a number of specific problems and potential hazards. Some ramps were found to move during a maneuver, showed poor stability when used with some vehicles, or were too narrow to allow wheelchair castors to pass through the channel without jamming. Some features, such as handles and locking mechanisms, influenced the ease with which the caregivers could use the ramps. Wheelchair users preferred the wide platform ramps because they were able to drive up these with ease and little preparation. The caregivers preferred folding or telescopic channel ramps because these were easier to handle and store.Key words: assistive technology, equipment design, portable ramps, wheelchair ramps.