Accessing Accessibility: Everything You Need to Know About Ramps & Driving Aids

Ramp for wheelchair entry with metal handrails

If you’ve recently started using a wheelchair, chances are you’re adapting to a new way of doing the tasks of daily life. Maybe you’re having trouble getting over thresholds or you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to be able to drive again. Luckily, there are a plethora of tools that can help you out.

There are lots of options for ramps for wheelchairs. There are even many driving aids that can get you back on the road after you’re in a wheelchair. Read on to learn more about the different ramp and driving aid options and how to decide which one is right for you.

Determining Your Wheelchair Ramp Needs 

One of the first things you need to know is what your needs are. In large part, this will depend on the permanence of your disability. If you’re in a wheelchair for a few weeks while you recover from an operation or an injury, your solutions can be more temporary, like utilizing rental wheelchair accessible vehicle services, but if you have a permanent disability, you’ll need a more long-term option.

You should also consider accessibility issues within your home. Will you need small ramps to get up and down steps within your home? Will you need a portable ramp to get into and out of friends’ homes, and will you need a longer ramp to get up into your home, to begin with?

Types of Accessible Ramps

There are a few different types of ramp you’ll need to choose from. The three basic types are a pathway ramp, a modular ramp, and a threshold ramp.

A pathway ramp is a simple model that's usually short and made in one piece. It’s meant to be laid over a few steps for a short incline and is easy to install.

A modular ramp is a little more complex and is made of multiple different pieces. It is used for areas where there are more than just a couple of steps that need to be covered with a longer slope.

A threshold ramp is not meant to get you up steps, but over a bump that stops your progress. This type of ramp looks like a rubber mat and lays over the bump of a door threshold to make it easier to cross. 

Wheelchair Ramp Materials

Wheelchair ramps can be made of a number of different materials. The most common type of ramp is made from wood since this is cheap and easy to find. You can build your own wheelchair ramps as needed using just materials found at your local hardware store. 

You may also find aluminum ramps that fit together with ease and work in almost any home. Galvanized steel ramps are popular for businesses but are not as popular with most homeowners. And if you need a really permanent solution, you can install a concrete ramp, but these are more expensive and require more manual labor to install.

Portable Ramps

You may also want to consider having a portable ramp to help you get around in public. These ramps are lightweight and can be broken down and folded up. Most models will fit into a standard vehicle and come with handles for easier transport.

A portable ramp can be a great option if you need a temporary solution or an inexpensive but reliable option. They tend to be made from aluminum thanks to its lightweight nature and its durability. You can find portable ramps in a variety of widths and lengths and can use them for almost any application.

Basic Driving Aids

There are several different driving aids you can get if you need to get back behind the steering wheel.

Foot controls can give you greater flexibility in pedal controls. This can include bringing them closer to your feet or giving you left-foot control of the accelerator. Steering aids or hand controls can make it easier for people with low wrist stability or limited handgrip strength to turn the wheel.

If you can’t use your feet at all, don’t worry – there are hand controls that allow you to operate a car feet-free. Not only can you control the main functions of your vehicle, but you can also perform the secondary functions with your hands. These can be configured in a variety of ways to make driving as comfortable as possible for you. 

How Hand Controls Work 

There are a few different types of hand controls you can choose from when you’re modifying your vehicle. The four main types are push-pull, push right angle, push-rock, and push-twist.

A push-pull hand control pulls towards the driver's chest or pushes away from it. A mechanical linkage connects the pedals on the floor to this handgrip, which is controlled by the left hand.

A push right angle control pulls downward towards one’s right thigh. A push-rock control rocks downward towards your body, not unlike the starship controls we see in Star Trek. And a push-twist control has a handle grip, similar to that of a motorcycle, which you can twist.

Other Car Accessories for People With Disabilities 

Aside from acceleration and braking control, there are some other car accessories that may be helpful to those living with a disability. An assist bar can help you get in and out of the vehicle more easily. An assist strap serves the same purpose, and which you choose depends on your specific needs.

A swivel cushion sits on your car seat and makes it easier for you to turn to get out of the car. You can also get a BraunAbility Turny Evo seat that fully rotates out of the car

Learn More About Ramps for Wheelchairs

When you’re learning to live in a wheelchair, knowing all the different assistive devices available to you can make a huge difference. There are lots of options for ramps for wheelchairs, and there are driving aids to meet any need. If you’re having trouble with navigating your home or your community, rest assured that there’s a tool out there to help you. 

If you’d like to get the best help living with your disability, check out the rest of our site at BraunAbility. We can help you find everything from wheelchair vans in your area to a community of people living with your same challenges. Check out our new wheelchair accessible vans and start getting back on the road today.

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