When shopping for a side-entry wheelchair accessible minivan, a major decision is which type of ramp is best for you; fold-out or in-floor. To help you with your decision, we’ve listed some key differences in the ramp styles for wheelchair vans below but before we begin, here is a brief description of the two:
Fold-out Ramps perform just as you would imagine, they fold in and out of the accessible minvan’s side door. Below is a great image showing how the movement of the ramp.
In-Floor Ramps tuck “in” the floor by sliding in and out of the van. As you can see by the image below the ramp is invisible when stowed.
Some people have very large powered wheelchairs and need every inch of the interior space a wheelchair van has to offer. If this is your situation an in-floor ramp system may be a better option for you. While the fold-out ramp doesn’t take a lot of room, an inch may be the difference between an easy maneuver vs. something a little more challenging. Another thing to consider is the front passenger’s seat to ensure it functions as you desire with both ramps. Some fold-out ramps impede using the reclining function fully so ensure you try this out prior to purchasing if this is a feature important to you. The majority of powered wheelchairs are not so large where it would make a difference but we always recommend you try both ramp styles and see which fits best with you and your wheelchair.
One degree of difference could mean an easier ascent up the ramp and into a wheelchair accessible van, especially for manual wheelchair users. In addition to the ramp angle, some in-floor ramps have a transition plate that some find more difficult to bridge vs. a fold-out ramp. Ramps vary from 8 degrees to 11 degrees for an angle so we advise you to try them all and find the one you feel most comfortable with. Keep in mind getting up a ramp when you are rested and energized may be very easy but what is the same ascent when you are fatigued? Try the ramps at different times of the day to ensure it is as comfortable the 5th time you go up the ramp as it is the 1st use of the day.
A major difference between in-floor and fold-out ramps are the side rails. Fold out ramps can have over an inch rail to help guide wheelchair users up and down the ramp which can be a great relief for those who are not very comfortable with their wheelchair. In-floor ramps have a very small side rail so the ramp can slide in the floor. Not all wheelchair users need a higher side rail, but it does bring some peace of mind to many. Try them both and see which is more comfortable for you.
Five plus years ago, this was something that was discussed extensively with mobility consultants and clients when deciding between fold out and in floor ramps. But with the advent of manufacturing advancements, quality initiatives and back-up systems, the quality of both ramp styles have come a long way. With anything mechanical, there are things that can malfunction, break, get worn, etc. which is why at Ability Center we have a Guardian Program. Every six months, we will give your accessible van’s ramp system a 43 point inspection to ensure it is clear of debris and functioning properly; this will greatly extend the life of your fold-out and in-floor ramps.
These are just a few differences and things to consider when shopping for a wheelchair van. We always recommend trying various vans to find the one that fits you and your family best. At Ability Center, we carry all major manufacturers; BraunAbility, ElDorado and VMI as well as having many used accessible vans for sale. With 14 locations and hundreds of vans in stock, we’ll be sure to have what you need.