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Ramps are designed to provide safe access to users with wheelchairs, strollers, or walkers. Therefore, it is important that building projects have a provision for handicap ramps that would meet the requirements for a safe and hassle-free movement of the users.
This article describes the primary considerations for designing a wheelchair ramp as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
ADA Ramp Specifications
All the businesses in the USA are recommended to construct wheelchair ramps as per ADA code and guidelines. It provides guidelines on how to construct wheelchair ramp, specifications, codes, and handicap access.
Residential applications need not follow these specifications, but the code should be a good reference for the recommended handicap ramp slope and length.
The ADA code provides details on the ramp slope and length, landing size and position, and the construction details of handrails. Based on the local building code and given jurisdiction, additional or substitute requirements must be imposed on the wheelchair ramp construction.
As per ADA code:
- A wheelchair ramp must have a maximum slope of 1:12. For existing buildings and facilities, ramps shall be permitted to have running slopes that are steeper than 1: 12 due to space constraints. (Table-1)
- The width of ramps must not be less than 36 inches.
- The ramp edges must be protected to keep users from slipping off.
- The landings must be provided at the top and bottom of the ramp with a width as same as the ramp.
- The length of the landings must not be less than 60 inches.
- The landing area must be at least 5 square feet.
- Cross slopes provided must be less than 1:50 with a stable and slip-resistant surface. Cross slopes are slopes provided sideways that are perpendicular to the ramp’s length.
- The landings at the top and bottom must be leveled.
ADA Specifications for Wheelchair Ramp Handrails
The ramps must have handrails on both sides if the rise is greater than 6 inches or their length is greater than 72 inches. Handrails are not necessary for certain walking surfaces, which is explained in ADA guideline Section: 505.
The main specifications for ramp handrails as per ADA guidelines are:
- Handrails must be continuous throughout the length of each ramp run.
- The inside handrails on switchbacks shall be continuous between the runs.
- Discontinuous handrails shall be extended by 12 inches at the top and bottom, and parallel with the floor or ground surface (Figure-2).
- A clear space of 1 ½ inch must be provided between the handrail and the wall to which the handrail is attached.
- The surface of the handrails must be continuous without interruption or obstructions.
- The top gripping surface of the handrail must be at a minimum height of 34 inches vertically above the ramp surfaces. This height must not exceed 38 inches. The handrail height must remain consistent with the above ramp surfaces. For elementary schools or facilities for children, a maximum height of 28 inches measured to the top of the gripping surface from the ramp surface or stair nosing must be provided.
- The cross-section of the handrail can be either circular or non-circular, as shown in Figure-3. A circular cross-sectioned handrail must have minimum and maximum outside diameters of 1 ¼ inch and 2 inches, respectively. For non-circular cross-sections, the perimeter dimension must be a minimum of 4 inches and not exceed 6 ¼ inches. Their cross-section dimension shall not exceed 2 ¼ inches.
A wheelchair ramp as per ADA guidelines must have a maximum slope of 1:12. For existing buildings and facilities, ramps shall be permitted to have running slopes that are steeper than 1: 12 due to space constraints.
The width of a wheelchair ramp must not be less than 36 inches.