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Powered ramps

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Powered ramps are ramps installed into vehicles that are operated automatically, semi-automatically, and sometimes with the option of operating manually. Such ramps are commonly wired electrically and often have a remote control. While lifts are typically used in full-sized vans and busses, powered ramps are often used in mini-vans. There are two main variables in powered ramp type: ramp placement and ramp style. These two aspects are very important when a consumer is considering which powered ramp to purchase and should be analyzed carefully based on the consumer's desired use. The differences in ramp types are outlined below.


Powered Ramp Placement

Powered ramp placement is important to consider when deciding what the user would like to do when in the vehicle. There are two typical locations of ramp placements in vehicles: rear-entry and side entry. Each system location has its drawbacks and advantages, which are detailed further below.

Rear-Entry Powered Ramp

Rear-entry powered ramps are placed such that the user enters the vehicle through the trunk and then maneuvers themselves toward the front of the vehicle. Such ramps are especially convenient to users because they do not require as much parking space as side-entry ramps. The floor of the back of the vehicle is simply lowered or "kneels" while a ramp is extended. This type of ramp placement also allows some users that are unable to turn their wheelchairs around in the vehicle to face forward when in the secured driving position. This is especially important because it provides additional safety in case of collision.

While rear-entry ramps have many advantages, their main fault lies in the consumer's desired use. Because of the lowered or kneeling floor features placed in rear-entry ramps and the modified anatomy of the vehicle, the user is unable to drive directly from his or her wheelchair and must either transfer to drive or remain a passenger.

Side-Entry Powered Ramp

Side-entry powered ramps are placed on the side of a vehicle, typically on the left back door in mini-vans. Similar styles of lowered floor and "kneeling" ramps are often installed, as well as folding powered ramps (described below). Sometimes a storage compartment for the ramp is placed in the vehicle and the ramp is extended upon activation. This placement allows the wheelchair user to drive from his or her chair as well as being a passenger.

On the other hand, side-entry ramps do take up more parking space when being used. Thus, it is important for the consumer to consider all trade offs when looking at ramp placement.

Powered Ramp Style

As with ramp placement, there are also two distinct ramp styles: folding and non-folding ramps. These two styles of ramps are described below.

Folding Powered Ramp

A folding powered ramp has the major benefit of not requiring extensive vehicle modification in order for it to be used. The ramp simply folds up and down upon activation, is stored inside the vehicle, and depending on the brand can be used manually, semi-automatically, or by remote control. Some folding ramps also have the ability to swing out as to not block doorway access if place on the side of a vehicle.

Folding powered ramps do, however, require more space to achieve the same grade as non-folding powered ramps. They also may necessitate some user assistance.

Non-Folding Powered Ramp

Non-folding powered ramps, unlike folding powered ramps, are usually stored in a compartment underneath or in the floor of the vehicle. Such powered ramps simply extend from their storage compartments upon remote control (sometimes while the vehicle also "kneels"). These ramps tend to require more vehicle modifications than folding ramps, but do take up less space inside the cabin.


"When Your Plan Is A Van," an article in Quest Magazine: [1]

Roll-a-Ramp, folding ramp manufacturer: [2]

Author: Maria Sotnikova
Affiliation: Georgia Tech, CATEA
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