Using a Wheelchair on Long-Tread Low-Riser Steps

DVD disc DVD Excerpt:
The Design Factors video discusses designing for individual needs and includes video of the long-tread low-riser steps in use.
These videos are excerpted from the new Ramp Project DVD; four excerpts are avalable online. This DVD is available for purchase from MCIL.

Long-tread low-riser steps can be used to assist a person who is using a wheelchair in and out of their home. If the choice is made to use the steps in this manner, please follow the advice given to reduce the chances of injury to both the wheelchair user and the person assisting.

The same technique used to negotiate a curb can be used with the long-tread low-riser steps.

Wheelchair tilted back, front wheels rolled forward


To assist someone up the steps, the wheelchair is tilted back, lifting the front wheels high enough to clear the riser, and then rolled forward.

Roll forward until rear wheel contact step


When the back wheels contact the riser the helper can adjust their footing and then use a rolling/lifting motion to move the chair fully onto the next step.  The helper should keep as much weight as possible on the wheels and use just enough lift to move the chair up.

Wheelchair rests between steps


The chair sits flat on each step, allowing the helper to stop and rest at any time.

Assisting someone down the steps is accomplished by rolling them backwards down the steps, one at a time, being careful to prevent the front wheels of the chair from dropping too suddenly to the lower step.

Both the wheelchair user and the helper should be facing uphill when going up and when going down the steps.

Properly designed ramps should be considered as the first choice for safe wheelchair movement.  When a ramp is impractical, the long-tread low-riser steps provide a safer alternative than carrying an occupied wheelchair on regular steps.  The steps are not appropriate for independent use by a person using a person using a wheelchair, and are not intended to replace properly designed ramps.  Electric wheelchairs and battery powered carts should not be used with this type of step.

Before installing this type of step at a home, be sure the wheelchair user and helper(s) have tried the technique described in the box above and are comfortable with it.

Concerns for the safety of the wheelchair user or helper should be resolved with therapy or medical personnel prior to using this technique.

The construction guide, "How to Build Ramps for Home Accessibility," contains design advice and complete instructions for installation of modular steps and modular wheelchair ramps.  The printed manual is available from:

Metropolitan Center for Independent Living
1600 University Ave W, Suite 16
St. Paul, MN  55104-3825

Voice: 651-646-8342; TDD: 651-603-2001; Fax: 651-603-2006

The manual is also available on-line at