Adding a Ramp for Accessibility

An increasingly larger share of seniors plan to age in place for as long as their health will allow and there are a number of accommodations that can be made to ensure a home will be more age-friendly for older adults.  For those facing difficulty climbing stairs or using a wheelchair, installing an entranceway ramp may be one solution.  It can also make it easier to move heavy loads by rolling them rather than lifting which may cause injury.

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a ramp is ideal for changes in levels up to about 30 inches,  such as an entrance from ground level.  Higher level changes may be better solved using a lift or residential elevator.  Installing a ramp alongside stairs will accommodate varying needs of homeowners and visitors.

Landscape Approach

By incorporating a gently sloping ramp into the landscape design with cement or paving stones;  the design can nearly make the ramp nearly invisible and with low grades, the use of railings can be avoided.

Structural Approach

Building a ramp, usually using wood-framing, is more noticeable but can be blended into the landscape with strategic use of design, coloured stain and plantings.  Curved ramps are not easy to navigate with a wheelchair or scooter and all ramps must use a straight approach.  Landings are also required at the top and bottom of a ramp or where the run is longer than 9 meters (30 feet).  Ramps are best used for greater changes in level and often require a significant amount of space.

Building codes usually require that the slope of a ramp be no steeper 12 inches in length for every inch in rise (this does not include landings).  Check with local building codes for acceptable slopes before designing or building any ramp.

It is also important to consider the effects of snow or rain on a ramp; a ramp must be able to be cleared of snow easily and provide a good grip when wet.

Portable Ramps

For occasions when a ramp is only needed for a short time, perhaps while recovering from an injury or surgery, portable ramps can be rented from home healthcare and medical supply stores.  Portable ramps are often made of aluminum and while they may not the most aesthetically pleasing, can get the job done in the short term.

For many much more information about designing a ramp to suit individual needs visit the CMHC website at: .