Accessibility is an important part of society, allowing those with a range of disabilities to be active participants in their communities. However, accessibility and disability accommodations have to be done properly to make a difference. When executed without forethought or planning, these accommodations are at best, unhelpful—at worst, incredibly dangerous for users.
Has an unsafe wheelchair ramp caused a personal injury to you or a loved one? We’re here to help. Call Burns, Cunningham & Mackey at 800-574-4332 to set up a time to talk.
Wheelchair users’ needs go beyond the need for a smooth, flat surface. Many also cannot navigate the same grade of ramp as those who can walk. While those in power wheelchairs may be able to cruise up a steep ramp without issue, those with manual wheelchairs need a much more gradual slope to be safe. This is where some builders go wrong.
Rather than creating a longer or winding ramp that leads to a door, they simply build a ramp next to stairs at the same grade as the stairs. This is often unusable for manual wheelchair users. If they attempt to use it anyway, they could roll back off the ramp and into a parking lot or street.
Improper Material Usage
Material selection is crucial when it comes to creating a wheelchair ramp. Some homeowners and business owners opt for wood because it is more aesthetically appealing and matches the exterior of their property. Unfortunately, most wood is also not the ideal material for most ramps. It can sag or wear down with frequent usage.
Wood is also prone to rot when exposed to the elements over time, putting users at risk of falling through or getting stuck. Pressure-treated lumber is one type of wood that is highly recommended for ramps, but it is also much more expensive than most types of wood.
The quality of material also matters. This is one reason that homemade ramps are generally not recommended. Wheelchairs are extremely heavy, and homemade ramps often rely on lower-quality materials that may not stand up to daily wear and tear.
No Handrails or Weak Handrails
This is perhaps one of the greatest dangers that wheelchair users face when using ramps. Ramps should have sturdy, even handrails to prevent falls. Both manual and power wheelchair users can get off course and get too close to the edges of a ramp.
Without guardrails in place, they can fall off and get seriously injured. Furthermore, due to their limited mobility, they may be unable to get help if they do become injured, putting them at risk for even more serious injuries.
This flaw can also hurt those with limited mobility. Remember, wheelchair ramps aren’t only used by people in wheelchairs. They are also used by those who can walk but cannot handle the steepness of stairs, parents with strollers, and others for whom strollers aren’t a viable option. They may need handrails to navigate the ramp safely.
Just like any other part of your property, wheelchair ramps require ongoing maintenance. Too often, property owners install a wheelchair ramp and think that they’ve done everything needed to make their property accessible.
Over the years, the ramp breaks down and becomes gradually more unsafe. People are either less likely to use it because it’s unsafe, or they risk it and put themselves at greater risk of injury. Either way, the liability falls to the property owner.
Wheelchair ramps must follow a regular maintenance schedule. This is another reason that property owners must use a licensed company when installing a wheelchair ramp, rather than attempting to make it a DIY project. A company with specialized experience in wheelchair ramp building can recommend a maintenance schedule that will keep the ramp safe and usable for everyone.
Choose Burns, Cunningham & Mackey for Your Personal Injury Claim
Have you been injured after falling off of or through a wheelchair ramp? If so, the property owner could be liable for your injuries and related expenses. It’s time to find out if you have a valid personal injury claim against them. Get started now by calling Burns, Cunningham & Mackey at 800-574-4332 or reaching out to our team online.