Site Glossary

Learn More About Ramps

We understand there are a lot of terms that go with ramp selection and purchase. Ramps come in many variations, so you can find the best possible accessibility solution for your household. To make it a bit easier, we have listed some of the most common terms here.

You might want to research the best materials and structure for your specific case before you make a purchase, as these are often key deciding factors. Learn about ramp and wheelchair terminology below.

Common Terms

A natural chemical element, Aluminum (Al is the periodic table symbol) is a silvery, nonmagnetic metal. It is present in nearly all animals, vegetation, soil and rocks. Aluminum’s mechanical properties make it a widely used building material. It is:

  • Lightweight: It can create accessible ramps and wheelchair frames because it is lightweight.
  • Strong: It is a strong, durable material despite its lightness.
  • Malleable: It is easily shaped and molded for commercial manufacturing.
  • Economical: In fact, aluminum is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.
  • Rust-resistant: This nonferrous metal can withstand years of use without rusting.

The ADA is a law that prevents discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA sets guidelines for accessibility that define how buildings should be laid out, ensuring people with disabilities can use all facilities. ADA regulations are relevant to public property and devices intended for private use.

Wheelchair ramps must abide by ADA requirements, whether they are sold for commercial or personal use. The major requirements apply to the slope, width, landings and handrails of a wheelchair ramp. The landings must be of an appropriate size, and handrails must be present and continuous. Primarily, the ADA Guidelines state that for a ramp to be safe it must have 1 foot of length for every 1 inch rise in steps. This will result in a slope of about 5 degrees. All ramps manufactured by National Ramp are ADA-compliant.

This style of aluminum ramp has all the benefits of maintenance-free aluminum but with a mesh design that allows precipitation to pass through. The benefits of aluminum mesh ramps include:

  • Puddle-free: Instead of the rain or snow pooling on your ramp, it will slide over the open mesh surface and seep to the ground.
  • High traction: The mesh is a grated surface designed to prevent slipping, so you can move safely in either direction when you’re in a wheelchair.
  • Low maintenance: Since aluminum is resistant to rust and corrosion, it is highly durable and practically maintenance-free.
  • Durable: Even when a ramp is used daily, the wear and tear is usually minimal.

benefits of aluminum mesh ramps

ramp made from aluminum provides the user with a strong, maintenance-free, modular solution. These ramps are strong like the other metal ramps, but they have unique properties that make them an attractive option. Aluminum ramp systems have many advantages, including:

  • Customizable access solutions: Aluminum is easy to mold, making custom access ramps a possibility.
  • Low maintenance: Aluminum ramps can tolerate harsh conditions for years, requiring very little — if any — maintenance. Unlike steel, they can resist rust without a special outer coating.
  • Lightweight decking: Aluminum is a strong material but also light in weight, making assembly easier.

A potential drawback to getting an aluminum ramp is the cost, especially if the ramp has pre-assembled parts. Although aluminum can be slightly more expensive depending on how the ramp is made, the benefits make it one of the most common types of accessibility ramps.

Bariatric ramps are wider than a standard ramp and have a larger weight capacity. They are designed for users in wide wheelchairs or those who have heavy mobility devices. The brands available for this type of ramp are Liberty Bariatric, Breeze Bariatric and Journey Bariatric. The width of a bariatric ramp is 48 inches, making them wide enough to accommodate the largest wheelchairs.

This type of ramp is preferable for handling a high weight capacity, such as when a caregiver needs to assist a person in a wheelchair. Bariatric wheelchair ramps provide a safe and comfortable solution, with the following benefits:

  • They support up to 1,200 pounds.
  • They can be used for three- or four-wheeled scooters and manual or power wheelchairs.
  • They can be used to access a vehicle, porch, curb or series of steps.
  • They have a full width for extra-wide wheelchairs.

bariatric ramps

A conversion is a modification made to a vehicle for accessibility purposes. A modification may include adding an automatic wheelchair ramp and removing the back seats to make room for a passenger who uses a wheelchair. An alternative to converting your vehicle is getting a portable ramp.

Modification services to make a vehicle accessible are usually performed by a different company than the manufacturer. Vans that have been converted for people with disabilities are sometimes referred to as conversion vans or wheelchair vans.

There are many organizations available to help you pay for your ramp. Some of the most popular include:

  • Medicare: This is the federal health insurance program for adults over the age of 65. Medicare is strict when it comes to allowances for home modifications and accessibility ramp equipment. The Durable Medical Equipment policy includes wheelchair ramps, but the ramp has to be used for necessary medical purposes rather than convenience.
  • Medicaid: This is the federal health program for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Your policy will differ depending on the state you reside in. Regular Medicaid typically covers a ramp only when it is medically necessary.
  • Veteran’s assistance: Qualifying for the Cash and Counseling benefit allows you to have access to a care budget, which you can use to pay for your accessibility ramp.
  • Elder Care loan: A loan from a financial institution can cover the cost of a wheelchair or accessibility ramp while you wait for your other benefits to be fulfilled. The loan can then be paid back in a lump sum.
  • State assistance: Your state has a non-Medicaid program that may assist with the purchase of a ramp if it is intended to make your home accessible for someone in a wheelchair.
  • Habitat for Humanity: This international nonprofit is volunteer-operated and can assist with a home construction project, especially for a family experiencing financial need.
  • Rebuilding Together: This nonprofit organization can help with home modifications for veterans, low-income individuals and others who are in need of accessibility services.
  • AccessABILITY Experience: This Phi Beta Kappa philanthropy program provides wheelchair ramps to low-income families with grants for $1,000.
  • National Directory of Home Modification Repair Resources: This program operates out of the University of Southern California. It includes a directory of senior assistance programs.
  • Senior Corps: This volunteer service program can assist you with a home renovation if you are 55 years old or older.
  • Centers for Independent Living: They can provide resources and help you locate a local organization to assist with the cost of your wheelchair ramp installation.

This type of ramp is constructed from metal — usually iron or steel — that has been treated through a process called galvanization. When metal is galvanized, the manufacturer adds a protective zinc coating. This outer layer prevents rust, giving metal ramps a longer lifespan with less maintenance.

The added protection galvanization provides for steel and iron ramps makes them an attractive option. The finished ramp products have the same properties as the metal they were crafted from with the additional advantage of being resistant to corrosion like aluminum. Since iron and steel are both less malleable, they withstand rough treatment and harsh weather conditions well.

The grade is a measure of how much the elevation changes on a property. Ground elevation is measured using the starting point of a ramp compared to the ending point. If there is grade variation, the ramping might need to be adjusted to meet the elevation.

Estimating for grade variation is important when installing a ramp because it determines how stable the underlying structure will be. The starting elevation is where the ramp meets a doorway, porch or other entry point. To calculate the grade variation, an installer would add or subtract the change in distance and find the rise of the ramp using the slope. The installer can also calculate the grade variation based on the length of the ramp needed for an angle of 4.8 degrees.


This type of ramp can be a wheelchair ramp, but more generally, it is intended to help someone move from one level to another without using stairs. A ramp offers easier mobility up and down an inclined plane. A handicap ramp can allow wheelchair users to move more easily, but it will also accommodate strollers, carts and people who walk using other mobility devices.

A handicap ramp primarily serves to make a building more accessible, especially when certain areas have differences in height. Handicap ramps are sometimes required to make facilities, sidewalks, highway crossings or curbs accessible. For example, if a sidewalk is present on either side of an intersection, a shallow ramp can help connect the street to the sidewalk.

In order for the ramp’s construction to meet federal regulations, the maximum slope of the ramp should be 1 on 12, meaning it can only rise 1 inch per foot in the run. When the ending point must rise 24 inches above the ramp’s grade, the ramp should be at least 24 feet long. Many handicap ramps have a return or double back, which is an extra piece to reinforce the main ramp structure.

handicap ramp

An inclined plane is a flat, tilted surface. A ramp is constructed to be an inclined plane. One end of the plane is lower than the other, and the surface itself is effective when used to raise or lower a load.

The inclined plane was created to move objects over vertical obstacles and is also a helpful accessibility device. Inclined planes are used for loading or unloading products, as pedestrian ramps or as ramps for automobiles or trains as they climb grades.

This type of ramp can slide into and out of the floor of a van or residence. The ramp is stowed beneath the floor to save space and remain concealed until it is needed. An in-floor ramp usually comes with controls, so you can use it without having to manually pull it out of the floor.

Vans intended for loading a wheelchair or cargo are the most common use of in-floor ramps. They are raised and lowered using pneumatic suspension as an automatic control system, and they may slide under the floor of the vehicle when they are not in use. An in-floor ramp makes it easier for someone who uses a wheelchair or other accessibility device to use transportation.

Mesh is an interlaced structure. When applied to a ramp, its purpose is to increase traction and prevent slips and accidents. National Ramp’s open mesh aluminum and steel ramps allow rain and snow to pass through without causing buildup.

Mesh patterns provide anchor points for solid objects that pass over them. Water and other liquids run down the grooves in the mesh instead of pooling on top of the ramp. Having a ramp with a mesh tread is preferable if the ramp will be stationed outdoors, but even a portable ramp benefits with additional traction.

This is a type of ramp constructed by the assembly of smaller parts. Modular parts are typically shipped pre-made. You can install one yourself, or you can hire professional installers. Modular aluminum ramps work well as a permanent or temporary solution.

Modular ramps offer:

  • Flexibility: A modular ramp has platforms of different sizes, allowing for flexibility in the ramp’s layout. This type of ramp can fit the demands of a landscape, with each piece able to provide custom support. Whether the layout needs to go around trees, appliances or uneven terrain, a modular lamp can fit.
  • Simple installation: A modular ramp connects with a tongue and groove system, making installation quick and easy.
  • Sturdiness: When professionally assembled, the platform is securely connected and has a high weight capacity.
  • Easy repairs: A permanent ramp placed outdoors is at risk of damage from weather or other environmental factors. If your ramp has damaged handrails or panels, you can have them replaced and reconnected. Instead of replacing the entire ramp, you can focus on the damaged areas.

modular ramp

A ramp with a pie platform can be adjusted at a 45-degree angle. This allows its lower elevation to face a different direction than the higher elevation. A pie section is useful for navigating a sharp turn.

Depending on your household, the type of ramp you get might be required to have an adjustable pie section if the amount of space is too small for a different option. The pie section makes it easier for someone to travel around a turn in a wheelchair or other accessibility device.

It is a specialized platform that can save someone with a disability more time than another type of ramp when navigating from one space into another.

The angle of the ramp incline is called the pitch. A technician can use a digital level to confirm the angle upon installation. The pitch has to follow specific guidelines that meet ADA regulations. For a stable ramp for your home, the angle of that pitch should be about 5 degrees. 

A pitch of about 10 degrees is acceptable for some motorized devices but it is not recommended because the slope would be about two times the ideal recommended by the ADA and therefore could be extremely unsafe. A pitch that is 5 degrees results in a ratio of 1:12, or 1 inch of rise for every 1 foot of length.

A platform for a ramp is a flat, level surface that serves various functions. It can be used as a resting platform or to make turns. It might also help provide stability at a doorway. Platforms can be for use with portable ramps, or they can be built with a permanent accessibility system.

National Ramp designs platforms in the sizes of 4’x5’, 5’x4’, 5’x5’ and 5’x6’. These products come with an open-mesh surface that maximizes traction and promotes drainage. They may be assembled together to create switchback platforms or extend the ramp around an obstacle.

Aluminum ramps are a strong, lightweight accessibility solution, and a portable aluminum ramp is a popular choice if you need a ramp on the go. Simply place the ramp on a curb or anchor it to your porch.

A suitcase ramp is one option for a lightweight aluminum platform. It is made from lightweight materials and connected to a hinge that allows it to fold up like a suitcase. Most suitcase ramps come with a handle for easy carrying.

A portable aluminum ramp can have a single-fold or trifold design and is best when used for recovery or rehabilitation periods or for a visitor who has a disability. With this type of ramp, you have to be careful during the setup if you use it for more than one purpose.

The ideal length will vary depending on the elevation. You can also get a solid surface ramp with one section of aluminum to bridge the missing space between a suitcase ramp and a modular wheelchair ramp.

portable aluminum ramp

Pressure treatment is a process that forces chemical preservatives into wood to help protect it. Pressure-treated wood is more durable than untreated wood and has the following advantages:

  • It is resistant to decay, mold and pest infestation.
  • It is less prone to water damage.
  • It can be fire retardant, depending on the treatment.

What is pressure-treated wood used for? Since the product varies in its properties depending on the specific treatment, the lumber’s tags will indicate for which projects it is the best suited. Pressure-treated wood is also graded based on its appearance. Wood with fewer imperfections has a higher grade and a higher price tag.

pressure treated wood

What is a ramp? A ramp is a simple machine used to assist moving materials or people up or down a distance. Functioning as a type of inclined plane, a ramp creates a platform to allow a vehicle on wheels and people or animals with limited mobility to safely enter or exit. Ramps are generally more affordable than lifts, and they are popular as commercial and personal accessibility devices. You can mount a portable ramp on your vehicle without making alterations.

The rise of a ramp is its total height. Calculating the required rise for your ramp is important for determining how long the ramp must be to reach the required slope.

You can find the slope of a ramp by multiplying the rise by the run. The slope must conform to the ADA’s standard for accessibility, with a 1:12 ratio in inches. That means for every 1 inch of rise, there will be 1 foot of run (or length) of the ramp.

ramp rise

The run is the total length of ramping between the top and bottom of the ramp. Users often wonder what a ramp run is and why it is important for professional installation. Measuring the run of a specific ramp can help you determine if it meets ADA requirements for the slope.

Depending on how long the ramp’s run is, ascending and descending could be more difficult unless the ADA’s requirements are strictly followed. The standard slope for an accessibility option at a public facility must have a 1:12 ratio. This means that for every 1 inch of rise there must be 1 foot of run (or length) of ramp. This will result in an incline of about 5 degrees, which is the maximum recommended by the ADA.

You can calculate a ramp’s slope if you multiply the rise of the ramp by its run. The possible dimensions of a ramp depend on the space available. Calculating the run is valuable before you plan to get a custom ramp installed.

Individual ramp pieces connect to make a ramp run. National Ramp manufactures ramp sections in 2-, 3-, 5- and 6-foot lengths.

The decking that makes up the run of a ramp should be connected to the proper railing system. The places where the ramp sections connect are transitions.

rubber threshold for a ramp allows users to traverse small bumps without jarring side effects. They are made for low rises. A rubber threshold ramp sits against a door sill on either the inside or outside of a room and allows for a smooth transition to the ground.

This type of portable ramp can be used outdoors and is easily transferred to a different location. A rubber riser combined with another ramp can create a slightly taller maximum height. They are also compatible with bariatric ramps.

You can trim down the rubber threshold to customize its fit for the width or height of your ramp. A rubber threshold ramp is quick and easy to install, with a freestanding design and a slip-free surface. It is also resistant to corrosion, unlike ferrous metals.

rubber threshold ramp

The ADA determines the required safety features that a ramp must have for acceptable usage. A safe ramp is made from a strong material, installed by a knowledgeable professional, at an angle that allows for safe access which is about 5 degrees. Other important aspects of a ramp is that the ramp has safety measures such as toe guards, handrails and vertical picket rails as needed.

A safe ramp will start and end with a flat, level, hard surface and contain rest platforms, so there are no more than 30 feet of continuous ramping between top to bottom or between platforms. Generally, a ramp intended for outdoor use must also be weather-resistant and have a mesh pattern so that water can drain, giving wheels enough traction to get over the ramp’s surface.

A ramp’s slope is the total angle of the ramp in degrees. The higher that angle, the more difficult it may be to travel up a ramp. Ramps with a lower incline are safer to use in climates with high precipitation. A ramp with a low incline tends to take up more space because of its longer length, as well.

The slope of a wheelchair ramp should comply with the ADA’s guidelines, which require that the slope should be about 5 degrees. This will result in a slope ratio of 1:12. For example, using the 1:12 ratio, steps that rise 30 inches will require a ramp that will be 30 feet long.

steel mesh ramp allows precipitation to pass through, providing better traction than a ramp without mesh. This type of ramp is usually constructed from stainless steel. Some of the benefits of getting a steel mesh ramp include:

  • Superior drainage: Mesh quickly drains rain, snow or sticky spills and is still usable when wet.
  • Durability: If the steel is powder-coated or treated, it will be resistant to chipping or flaking, unlike a painted wood ramp.
  • High weight capacity: Steel mesh ramps are generally lightweight but also have the highest weight capacity in comparison to other ramp materials.

steel mesh ramps

A steel ramp is an inclined slope produced from steel. Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. Steel accessibility ramps have slip-proof textures and are designed to be ADA compliant. The drawback is that a ramp made from this metal will rust and require maintenance if scratched. Still, steel ramps have many advantages, including:

  • Higher weight capacity: Stainless steel can bear more weight than other materials, making them desirable for commercial applications. This also makes them ideal for supporting multiple people up or down a ramp, especially when a caregiver must assist a person in a wheelchair.
  • Durability: Stainless steel is a resilient material that is able to withstand heavy items being dropped on it more easily than wood or aluminum. For example, if a storm blows tree limbs or other debris onto a ramp, steel will have the best chance of surviving without damages that make it unusable.
  • Resistance to the elements: Stainless steel can withstand rain, snow and other harsh weather conditions without getting worn down or damaged. Although steel can rust, if the material has been treated for outdoor use, it will also be resistant to corrosion.
  • Long-lasting: Stainless steel ramps tend to last for a long time. When they are properly maintained and cared for, they can withstand years of use.

A switchback is a platform configuration that allows the ramp to turn around to fit more ramping in the allotted space. A straight layout will sometimes be unsuitable for a specific space. If you need a smaller ramp that will fit into a space with an unusual shape, a switchback is a good option.

This type of ramp is:

  • Versatile: A switchback has many potential options. It is appropriate for an apartment or a private home and is customizable by its material and length.
  • Space-saving: A ramp with a switchback conserves space. This is great for a compact living area or a place with a higher slope where you need to make sure the ramp makes the best possible use of the ramping.
  • Universal: A switchback must be installed to abide by local and federal building policies. The layout is ADA-compliant while still being customizable.

switchback ramp

Also called butt ramps, these small ramps lack handrails and are designed to assist with traveling over small elevations, normally at doorways and occasionally at sidewalks.

You can use a threshold ramp wherever different surfaces at a residence sit on varying levels. Your front door, garage and deck are a few examples of places that might have slightly higher thresholds than the below surfaces.

A ramp designed specifically for entryways can reduce your risk of accidents in some of the most difficult to navigate areas in your home. It makes mobility devices easy to use when you’re passing through a doorway, especially when moving between the outdoors and indoors.

threshold ramps

A wheelchair ramp has a gradual incline that is intended to help a person in a wheelchair up a step or higher. Remember, it is always best to only go up one inch for every foot long the ramp is. Wheelchair users might need a ramp to access a building more easily, but this device is also used for carts, bikes, strollers, trucks and several other wheeled devices. This type of inclined plane can be installed for the following reasons:

  • As an addition to a staircase or alongside a set of stairs
  • As a crossing ground for thresholds
  • To enter and exit a vehicle
  • To make areas of uneven height accessible

A wheelchair ramp comes in the following types:

  • Permanent: This type of ramp is bolted or anchored to the below surface. It is designed to remain stationary unless it needs to be removed.
  • Semi-permanent: This type of ramp rests on a concrete pad and typically serves a short-term purpose.
  • Portable: This type of ramp is designed to be light in weight, so it is usually made from aluminum. Portable ramps are commonly used to load vehicles or as personal mobility tools.

Wood is a beautiful natural material that can be painted or stained to match the exterior of your home. The wood decking that is used to make ramps is positioned just wide enough apart to allow precipitation to run off the ramp. Ramps made from wood materials have several advantages, including:

  • Easy to customize: A permanent wood structure constructed on-site can be shaped around angles and curves to fit easily into the ramp’s environment.
  • Easy to stylize: You can paint or seal your ramp so it matches the exterior of your residence.
  • Affordable: Wood is an inexpensive material and can help you save money on a larger ramp project.

A wood ramp also has the drawback of requiring a survey and building permit like other permanent ramp structures. Concrete piers may also be required to support it. Wood ramps will eventually require replacement after years of contact with the elements, as wood warps over time.

wood ramps

Official National Ramp Icon

Order A Mobility Ramp With National Ramp

Are you planning to install a ramp in your household? We are a full-service ramp supplier with a wide variety. Our team can install your selected mobility ramp on your property.

We carry ramps for wheelchairs and other mobility devices for making your accessibility a priority in your home. Contact us to learn more about our products.

Contact Us Call us now for your
free evaluation 877-748-5588

Welcome to National Ramp Home Access! How can we help?

National Ramp Support

just now