Product Review - Ramp it Up
Ramps for Buildings
- A small threshold ramp over a door sill, step or into a shower
- An access ramp e.g. from gate to the house
Portable or permanent ramps attached to the rear or side entrance door sill. They fold up when not in use. Bike ramps are a sturdy alternative - just remember you need two!
The Department of Transport has identified the need to have “ramps” (dropped kerbs with 1:12 slope and a camber across the pavement) in driveways, pedestrian crossings, taxi ranks, and parking facilities.
Which is the ramp for you: permanent, modular or portable?
- Permanent ramps are usually made of bricks and concrete, pressure treated wood, or steel.
- Modular ramps have “fit together” ramp sections. They are usually made of steel, aluminium or wood and are used for permanent or semi-permanent fitting.
- Portable ramps: can be a fixed length or width, or may fold or telescope (extend) to make easier to move around. These ramps may be made of plastic, aluminium, or fibreglass.
Select a ramp that will work for you “most of the time”. A brick and concrete ramp is ideal for a permanent home as it is sturdy, long lasting and weather resistant. Plan carefully, taking into account any extensions you want to do to the building in the future. A screwed together wooden ramp can be dismantled and moved to a better position or a different building. If you make a mistake it is easy to fix. Wood ramps can act as a trial ramp before deciding where a permanent ramp should go. A long, high ramp made of wood or concrete may be out of the scope of a D-I-Y job so like a steel ramp - bring in an expert.
When buying a portable ramp consider the length you need to get into “most buildings”, too short a length may mean a very steep slope. Also consider your weight and wheelchair weight - an electric chair can weigh from 60kg to 120kg. Remember to check the carry weight and length of the ramp to see if you can carry it on the wheelchair or if you need an assistant. These ramps may have a “kerb” but not a handrail.
National specifications for ramps:
“Universal Access” considers that pregnant women, people with prams/pushchairs or toddlers, the elderly, people with heavy loads or trolleys will also benefit from the same accessibility options that people with disability require.
The South African Bureau of Standards developed the national standards for building regulations:
SANS 10400-S: 2011 Edition 3. Part S: “Facilities for persons with disabilities” gives the requirements for ramps (amongst other things). All new public buildings or buildings regularly used by people with disabilities should comply with the code for the route to the building and the building itself. Old buildings should comply as maintenance and renovations are done. This includes: schools, health services, social security offices, home affairs, courts, labour offices, municipal offices, jails, sports and recreation facilities, transport terminals, and shopping centres. Regulations for sports stadia show there should be permanent access for people with physical disabilities to all areas of the stadia and ramps should be protected from the weather. Churches have also committed to improving both social and physical access. Ramp Up has a good guide for churches and suggests 120cm wide ramps with a 1:14 slope are preferred. An accessibility study in Gauteng published in 2008 showed that 47% of buildings surveyed did not have a ramp and those that did have ramps only 36% complied with gradient and none complied with hand rails and kerbs (edging) and the 2012 Country Report on the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises much needs to be done to make all public buildings accessible.
Gradient = the upward slope of the ramp measured as the change in height within a certain length. So a 1:12 slope means the change in height is 1cm over 12cm of length. For a ramp heights over 60cm a 1:15 slope is recommended with maximum length of 10m, and for ramp height of 74cm a 1:20 slope and maximum length of 15m
Camber = a slope across the width of the ramp to help with water runoff
Designing your own Ramp?
- Access needed: a standard step into a door should be 20cm high so a 1:12 slope to the door sill needs to be 240cm (2.4m) long but you may be able to cope with a greater slope and shorter length if it’s only 1 step.
- Available space - it may not be possible for you to have the 1:12 slope
- Strong upper limbs are needed for greater slopes e.g. 1: 8 to1:12. You may prefer a 1:14 to 1:20 slope
- Available Budget: for a rise up to 50cm you may be able to use a berm. This means building up the “garden” level to the height needed and gently sloping it away from the access point in all directions. Do not use top soil! It then needs tamping down and covering with a non slip material e.g. a concrete layer.
- Easily available materials in your area
- Type of wheelchair: some power wheelchairs can cope with 1.5:12 slopes without tipping
Materials to make your own ramp
Make sure you check with the Local Municipality to see if you need permission to add a permanent ramp to your house.
Does not include a landing to allow a door to open over the access
- 50kg bag cement = R76.00
- Sand m3 = R200.00
- Stone m3 = R320
- Build along a wall so you can add a handrail
- Have a landing so you do not open/close the door and control the wheelchair at the same time
- Non slip materials: rubber, embossed steel or aluminium plate, brushed surface cement, Anti-Slip Tape (available at big hardware shops). Loose pavers, stone or rubble should NOT be used as a finish.
- Steel and aluminium comes in different grades, some may be too thin & flexible for a ramp.
- Ramps should drain water away quickly.
- Decking wood is preferred to plywood.
- Gaps in wood or metal ramps should be less than 13mm
- Weatherproof to stop rust, or peeling off with the sun.
- A trail of mud will make the ramp slippery so ensure there is a “dry” access to the ramp.
- Frost areas may make ramps very slippery.
- A strip of colour that stands out from the ramp surface at each end of the ramp to warn of change in slope/gradient
- Place portable ramps so they are parallel and at the same height so they do not “tip” you off.
Need help building your ramp?
Those with a household income of less than R3500 and never owned property qualify for a RDP housing or subsidy of R160 573 to buy any house. Also the costs of building a ramp for access. Volunteer groups such as scouts, Rotary, Round Table, and church members can offer practical advice and hands on building skills; and may donate materials.
The Rolling Pages A-Z Guide lists 8 suppliers of ramps, although all we contacted they did not all provide information on their products. We also did an internet search.
Jessen Dakile have a large range, are very enthusiastic about their products, offers physical handling teaching for buyers, and have a 50% sale on.