But It’s Only 1/2 Inch!

Measuring TapeNow that the weather is warming up, we all want to get out of the house and enjoy the spring weather!

One often overlooked obstacle for people with disabilities is thresholds.  According to the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (www.access-board.gov) any threshold more than 1/2 inch should be accommodated.

This might sound like overkill – what’s the big deal, it is on 1/2 inch.  For some manual wheelchair users, pushing themselves over even a bump as low as 1/2 inch can be very difficult and for some impossible.  Even for power wheelchair users, I have seen situations where a bump of 1/2 inch was an obstacle.  Some situations require the wheelchair user to go very slow and make a tight turn.  In these cases, any bump can get the wheelchair stuck.

There are power wheelchairs on the market that claim that they can climb curbs as high as 3 inches.  The wheelchair may have the power to do that, but just try being the passenger in the wheelchair when you try that maneuver!  You will get thrown around, and unless you are strapped into the chair, you could easily go flying out of the chair.

The best solution is to remove the threshold or bump and make it level with the surrounding surface whenever possible.

So, what is the best solution when you have a threshold or bump that cannot be removed?  Thresholds less than 6 inches are difficult to accommodate with wooden ramps.  A wooden ramp will tend to crack at the tapered end, which will get a lot of abuse.  There are metal threshold ramps for small bumps:
Metal Threshold Ramp Metal ramps tend to only contact the ground at a couple points.  This makes them very susceptible to sliding around, which can be dangerous for wheelchair users and able-bodied users.

 

 

 

A better solution is a rubber threshold ramp:

Picture of EZ Edge Ramp

One product that I am particularly fond of is the EZ Edge Ramp.  A quick Internet search will result in many resellers for this product.  I like this product for a number of reasons:

 

–       They have models that can accommodate thresholds from 1/2 inch to 2 inches.

–       These ramps are tapered along the sides to allow for a wheelchair user to approach from the side, and not just a perfect straight approach.

–       It can be cut with a jigsaw to be custom fit into any threshold or transition.

–       It is weighty on its own and will stay put without any attachment to the floor.  (You can glue it down if you prefer.)

–       It is made of recycled tires, so it is environmentally friendly.

This is just one example of a rubber threshold ramp, there are other products on the market.  For thresholds less than 2 inches, a rubber threshold ramp is my preferred solution.

For thresholds above 2 inches, but less than 6 inches, my product of choice is the Guldmann Excellent Ramp System (www.guldmann.net – click on Products, then Threshold Ramps and Cover Plates):

Picture of Guldmann Excellent Ramp System for Thresholds
This system is best described as an erector set for ramps.  The system includes a kit of parts that are assembled to create the ramp of your choice.  The company sells kits that can accommodate thresholds of up to 5 1/2 inches.  This product can also be cut and customized to fit almost any situation.

 

 

By addressing these physically small obstacles, large barriers to freedom and independence can be removed!

Final note – be careful when measuring.  If you decide to purchase a threshold ramp, you must be very careful when measuring the height needed.  In order to get an accurate measurement, you need to get eye level with the threshold.  Also, check for any change in floor level on the side of the threshold where the door swings.  If you order a ramp that is too tall, it will interfere with the operation of the door.

If you are not sure what would be the best solution for you, Contact Us today to schedule a private consultation.

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About improveability

I am a rehab engineer trying to make the world a better place through assistive technology.
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5 Responses to But It’s Only 1/2 Inch!

  1. thankz for the information,still in doubt of what would be our best choice for my auncle concern,thankz for the help,

  2. How high is the threshold/bump that you need to accommodate?

  3. jeromymurphy says:

    Threshold ramps are an ok solution in some limited applications, but keep in mind that the ADA and most building codes require a level landing on both side of the door. This would prohibit any slopes greater than 1:48 (1/4″ per foot) even if it is a short ramp.

    • I agree. This article was written with private residences in mind. My main comment here is that people need to understand that even a change in height of 1/2″ can cause an accessibility issue.

      • jeromymurphy says:

        Definitely a good solution for private residences. They can also be used in commercial applications but only as a temporary solution.

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