If you’re struggling with accessibility to your home, it’s important to make a few changes so that you can come and go more freely, safely, and easily. But before you assume a wheelchair ramp is your only option, it’s important to explore all of the choices available to you for improving mobility on your property. Keep reading to learn more about how the traditional wheelchair ramp compares to a wheelchair lift.

What Is a Wheelchair Lift?

First, it’s important to understand precisely what a wheelchair lift is. To put it simply, a wheelchair lift is like a miniature elevator designed to lift or lower one wheelchair and its user between different levels of a building. Unlike normal elevators, wheelchair lifts are usually only used for elevations of a few feet, rather than a full story in a building, and they’re often used outside rather than indoors.

How Do They Compare?

Now that you understand what a wheelchair lift is, how does it compare to a wheelchair ramp? Here are some important points of comparison between the two:

  • Horizontal Footprint: Both a ramp and a lift are designed to cover the same vertical distance. However, a ramp will require a great deal of horizontal space to cover that distance. While a lift only requires a space roughly the size of a wheelchair, a ramp requires a foot of horizontal distance for every inch of vertical height it’s covering. So, if you need to gain access to a front porch that’s 20 inches high, you’ll need a ramp that’s 20 feet long. If you don’t have the horizontal space for that, a lift is probably better for your home.
  • Elevation Change: Because of the horizontal requirements of ramps, they’re usually better suited to small elevation changes—the equivalent of a few steps, perhaps. If you’re hoping to provide wheelchair access to, perhaps, a back deck that is several feet off the ground, you will probably want a wheelchair lift to avoid taking up your entire backyard with a ramp.
  • Ease of Use: Wheelchair ramps require a certain amount of upper body strength (or someone else pushing you) to get up the slope, and a certain amount of control to get down. If you struggle with this, a wheelchair lift is easier to use and requires less effort.
  • Overall Cost: Of course, you should always compare the cost of all your options to determine which fits best into your budget. However, make sure you’re considering the long-term costs in addition to the upfront costs so you’re getting a true comparison. Oftentimes, ramps require more long-term maintenance, despite their low upfront costs.

If you need wheelchair access to your home, consider wheelchair lift installation as an alternative to a wheelchair ramp.