Accessibility is life-changing for those who rely on wheelchairs and power scooters. Whether you personally use a mobility device, have a family member who relies on one, or if you own a high-traffic commercial building, it’s important to make sure your property is safe and accessible to all.

While wheelchair ramps are a traditionally economic mobility solution, platform lifts have made serious headway in recent years. But when it comes to deciding between wheelchair ramps vs. vertical platform lifts, one is not necessarily better than the other. Each serves as a viable solution for certain properties and individuals with specific needs.

Mission Health + Home in Rochester, NY, installs a dynamic selection of accessibility solutions for homes and businesses across Western and Central New York. If you’re interested in exploring your options for wheelchair ramps and vertical platform lifts, contact us to schedule an assessment of your home, business, or facility.

Otherwise, let’s explore the pros and cons of wheelchair ramps vs. vertical lifts and help you find the right solution for your needs!

Wheelchair Ramps

Wheelchair ramps are best suited for individuals in power scooters or power chairs. They’re also ideal for properties that have low-rise entrances no higher than four feet above the ground.

Of course, you’ve probably seen longer and windier wheelchair ramps. Most times, larger staircases with five or more steps require longer ramps ‒ and ultimately more space to accommodate them.

The Economic Choice for Low Rises

The ADA requires wheelchair ramps to be at least 36 inches wide with a maximum slope ratio of 1:12. In other words, every inch of rise requires one foot of ramp.

For example, a home with an entrance rise of 12 inches would require a wheelchair ramp at least 12 feet long. Why can’t the ramp be shorter in length? Because a ramp with a steep incline can be difficult and even dangerous for someone in a manual wheelchair or electric mobility device to ascend and descend.

Because wheelchair ramps are better suited for lower elevations, they are generally less expensive to install than platform lifts. So, when it comes to weighing the costs between wheelchair ramps vs. platform lifts, a ramp wins as the more economical when the rise is shorter. However, if you decide to install a longer ramp for a higher rise (which is possible), be prepared to pay more.

Are wheelchair ramps high maintenance? Wheelchair ramp maintenance is the same as maintaining a walkway, requiring snow shoveling and removing leaves, debris, branches, and other obstacles.

The Cons

With their aluminum and industrial appearance, wheelchair ramps are not always an aesthetically pleasing option on properties that have an older or rustic look. Unless your property has a sleek and modern design, it can be difficult to find building materials that match the aluminum appearance of a wheelchair ramp.

Additionally, ramps take up a lot of space. Properties wedged in densely populated or urban areas rarely have room to accommodate the length and space demanded by wheelchair ramps. They typically aren’t installed on multi-story buildings or on residential entrances with rises that exceed 48”.

The higher the rise, the longer the ramp ‒ and the longer the ramp, the more space it will require. A rise that’s greater than 18” can become increasingly difficult for individuals with mobility issues or other health-related issues.

Platform Lifts

When it comes to user ability, vertical platform lifts are the versatile solution, as they are accommodating for a range of people with a variety of mobility needs, including those who use wheelchairs, electric mobility devices, canes, walkers, and crutches. They’re also beneficial for those with arthritis, heart problems, emphysema, or any other health condition that may make it difficult to go up and downstairs.

Typically seen in restaurants, churches, and commercial buildings, VPLs are becoming more common on residential properties. Their platforms function like elevators that ascend and descend. They may be fully or partially closed, depending on the model, and they also come in a variety of sizes and configurations.

The Compact & Aesthetic Choice for High Rises

The compactness of vertical platform lifts makes them an ideal solution for properties with limited space. They typically require only a 5’ x 5’ area. They are less obtrusive than wheelchair ramps and can rise to multi-story levels (as high as 14’ above the ground.) They are ideal for entrances that are 36” or higher.

They’re usually installed on the front or back porch of a house, but their compactness makes them suitable and discreet for any entrance or exit when there’s limited space ‒ even in garages! Because they’re more discreet than wheelchair ramps, VPLs won’t drastically affect a property’s curb appeal, either.

Platform lifts can also withstand the harsh climate of Western and Central New York, providing protective barriers for users during the cold months.

The Cons

Vertical platform lifts may carry a higher price tag than wheelchair ramps. But if your property has a high rise and limited space to work with, the best option is to invest in a VPL.

There may be some additional obstacles to installing VPL’s in existing structures and additional construction could be required. Additionally, always check local and state codes as permits may be necessary prior to installation.

VPLs are not suitable for transporting heavy goods and industrial cargo, nor are they regulated to. So, if you own a commercial property, it is not recommended that you use a platform lift to transport delivered objects to and from your business. They should only be used for improving accessibility for those with mobility issues.

Wheelchair Ramps vs. Platform Lifts: Which Is Right for You?

Both wheelchair ramps and vertical platform lifts are viable, long-term mobility solutions. Determining which is right for you will depend on your budget, property layout, and mobility needs.

Ultimately, wheelchair ramps are most cost-effective when you have a lower rise to deal with, but they can quickly add up in cost the higher the elevation of the entrance/exit. They can be difficult for those in manual wheelchairs or walkers.

Vertical platform lifts, on the other hand, are more cost-effective for higher rises. Their compactness makes them ideal when there’s limited space on a property.

If you need further assistance deciding between wheelchair ramps vs. platform lifts, the experts at Mission Health + Home are here to help. Contact us today to schedule an assessment of your property!