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How to Construct an Inexpensive Portable Power Wheelchair Ramp

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If you or a loved one use a power wheelchair, then you may understand the challenges involved with transporting the chair in the back of an SUV or pickup truck. An easy way to load and unload a power wheelchair is by using a ramp. Commercial ramps can be costly, but you can make a ramp for a reasonable cost using lumber and other readily-available materials. Below is how you can do it:

Tools and materials needed

  • 16 feet of 2 x 4 pine lumber
  • Two 4 ft x 8 ft sheets of ½-inch plywood
  • 18 ft of 2-inch wide polyester webbing
  • Four 3-inch steel door hinges and screws
  • 1-inch sheet metal screws
  • Electric drill
  • Power saw or crosscut saw
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Measuring tape
  • Square
  • Pencil
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Lighter

Step-by-step procedure

1. Build the ramp support pieces—Take a 2-by-4 section of pine lumber and mark-off 4 feet with a pencil; at that point, draw a perpendicular line across the board with a square. Next, cut the board at the mark using a power saw or crosscut saw. Remove any rough edges or splinters with a sheet of medium-grit sandpaper. Repeat this process and make three additional pieces for a total of four 4-ft sections.

2. Join the ramp support pieces—After crafting the ramp support pieces, lay two pieces end-to-end on a large, flat surface such as a garage floor. Next, install one hinge between the pair of boards. Be sure there are no spaces between the boards and that they are aligned straight when the boards are folded at the hinge. Join the two remaining boards with another hinge, so you have two complete ramp supports.

3. Build the ramp deck—Once the supports are finished, the next step is to construct the ramp deck using plywood sheets. Measure off and cut four 2 ft x 3 ft sections of ½-inch thick plywood. Lay two plywood sections on the floor so the 3-foot sides are adjacent to each other.

Next, measure and cut a 4-foot length of 2-inch polyester webbing using a pair of heavy scissors or knife. Hold each end of the webbing with one hand and pass the flame of a lighter across the ends to melt them so they don't unravel. Be careful not to light the ends on fire or burn yourself with the hot plastic. Cut three additional sections of webbing to the same length and melt the ends.

Once you have cut the webbing to length, stretch one piece along each 4-foot side of the two adjacent plywood sections. Align the webbing so it is even with the edges of the plywood. After aligning the webbing and plywood, use an electric drill to drive 1-inch metal screws through the webbing into the plywood every 6 inches. Be sure to center the screws in the webbing and don't over-tighten them. Repeat this same process with the other pair of plywood boards, so you have two folding ramp deck sections.

4. Assemble the ramp—After the ramp support and deck pieces are constructed, it is time to assemble them into the finished ramp. Open the back hatch of your SUV or tailgate of your pickup truck, then unfold the two support sections and lay one end of each on the floor of the SUV or tailgate. Be sure the hinges are facing downward so the boards "lock" and won't collapse. Space the support sections about 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart.

Next, unfold the plywood decks and lay them across the ramp support sections. Be sure to align the deck pieces with the edge of the vehicle cargo area to prevent them from slipping when the power wheelchair is moved on to them. In addition, never ride the wheelchair up or down the ramp or permit anyone else to do so; always maneuver the chair while standing to one side of the ramp.

Hopefully these tips will help you in getting around with a wheelchair. Consult stair chair lift suppliers for other ideas on how to keep mobile.