#adarequirementsforramps #adacompliance
5-7 minutes

ADA Requirements for Ramps: Standards and Compliance

Ramps are an integral part of ADA compliance as they ensure that people with mobility issues can still access public and private facilities with ease.

A ramp, in its most basic form, is an inclined plane that serves as an alternative to stairs or steps. Its primary purpose is to facilitate easy access for wheelchairs, carts, and for people facing challenges with stairs due to disabilities or age.

The ADA defines a ramp as a walking surface that has a slope greater than 1:20. This specific definition is what sets ramps apart from normal inclines.

Installing ADA-compliant ramps serves people who use wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids. They also assist parents with strollers, workers transporting goods, and more, making them an integral part of inclusive community and work environments.

It’s also important to distinguish between general ramps and curb ramps. While both are designed to provide access, curb ramps specifically connect sidewalks to streets. They are typically found at crosswalks and are required to have slopes no greater than 1:12, just like regular ramps. However, curb ramps often include additional features such as flared sides and detectable warning surfaces to assist people with visual impairments.

To make it easier to comply with ADA ramp requirements, we’ve included a handy PDF checklist at the end of this guide.

Let’s get into the specifics now.

What Are the ADA Requirements for Ramps?

The Americans with Disabilities Act has very specific requirements when it comes to the installation of ramps. Here are the guidelines that places of public accommodations need to adhere to.

Infographic: ADA requirements for ramps

Width

The ADA specifies that ramps must have a minimum width of 36 inches (91.44 cm) of clear space across the ramp. This is to ensure that there is ample space for a wheelchair to pass without any obstruction.

This width standard applies to all ramps that are part of an accessible route in both public and private facilities that fall under ADA compliance standards. Complying with these standards ensures that anyone using a mobility device, such as a wheelchair, can use the ramp safely.

There are also several factors that could impact ramp width, including:

  • Traffic Volume: Ramps that need to accommodate two-way traffic, especially in high-traffic public areas like shopping centers, hospitals, and schools, might need to be wider than the minimum 36 inches.
  • Space and Structural Constraints: In some existing structures, space limitations may impact the feasibility of installing a ramp that exceeds the minimum width requirements.
  • Handrails: If a ramp has handrails, they must not encroach upon the minimum clear width.
  • Local Regulations: Local building codes and regulations may have requirements that either align with or exceed ADA standards. It’s important to check these to ensure compliance, as some areas might require wider ramps based on local accessibility needs or safety codes.
  • Turns and Switchbacks: For ramps that include turns or switchbacks, additional width might be required to facilitate easier maneuvering for wheelchair users. The width of the ramp and the design of landings at turns must be adequate to handle the turning radius of mobility aids.

Running Slope

The ADA also outlines guidelines for ramp slopes. Here are the requirements you need to be aware of:

  • Maximum Slope: The maximum allowable slope for ramps is 1:12. This means that for every inch of vertical rise, the ramp must be at least 12 inches (30.48 cm) long. For example, a ramp rising 30 inches (76.2 cm) in height must be at least 360 inches (914.4 cm) long.
  • Exception for Existing Sites: In cases where space limitations exist due to pre-existing structures or terrain, the ADA allows for a steeper slope in certain circumstances:
    • A slope of up to 1:10 is permitted for a rise of 6 inches (15.24 cm) or less.
    • A slope of up to 1:8 is permitted for a rise of 3 inches (7.62 cm) or less.

These exceptions are particularly relevant when modifying older buildings or constructing ramps in areas with severe space restrictions.

  • Cross Slope: The ADA also specifies that the cross slope of ramp surfaces (the slope that runs perpendicular to the direction of travel) must not exceed 1:48. This ensures that the ramp surface is flat enough to prevent mobility devices from tipping sideways.

Rise

Next, let’s look at the ADA requirements that need to be met for ramp rise, which is the vertical gain measured from the start to the end of the ramp.

  • Maximum Rise for Any Run of Ramp: The maximum rise for any given run of a ramp is 30 inches (76 cm). After every 30 inches (76.2 cm) of vertical rise, a resting platform (or landing) is required before the ramp continues, if more elevation is needed.
  • Overall Vertical Distance: There is no specific maximum for the overall vertical distance a ramp can cover as long as each segment of the ramp does not exceed a 30-inch (76.2 cm) rise without a landing.

These guidelines ensure that ramps are not too steep, making them safer and easier for people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices. The requirement for landings after every 30-inch rise also provides necessary rest points, enhancing safety and comfort.

Surfaces

When it comes to complying with ADA standards, ramp surfaces also need to be considered.

  • Surface Texture: Ramp surfaces must be firm, stable, and slip-resistant under all conditions. This requirement helps to prevent accidents, especially in wet or icy conditions.
  • Surface Regularity: The surface of the ramp must be free of any objects or features that could cause tripping or be an obstacle to wheelchair users. Any vertical changes in level must be minimized to prevent wheels from catching.

These surface requirements are designed to make sure that ramps are safe and accessible to everyone, preventing slips, trips, and ensuring ease of mobility.

Edge Protection

The ADA has specific requirements for edge protection on ramps to enhance safety, preventing wheelchairs and other mobility aids from slipping off the sides. Here are the key requirements regarding ramp edge protection:

  • Edge Protection Types: Ramps must have edge protection to prevent the wheels of a wheelchair from slipping off the edge. There are typically two types of edge protection:
    • Curb or Curb Rail: A curb or raised barrier at least 2 inches (5 cm) high along both sides of the ramp.
    • Extended Floor Surface: The floor surface of the ramp should extend at least 12 inches (30 cm) beyond the inside face of the ramp handrail.
  • Vertical Drop-off: Edge protection is required when there is a vertical drop-off of more than half an inch (1.27 cm) at the sides of the ramp.
  • Integration with Handrails: When ramps are equipped with handrails, they often integrate edge protection into the design. The handrail itself can prevent wheelchairs from slipping off the side, especially if the handrail has a bottom rail that meets the requirement for edge protection.

Level Landings

ADA-compliant ramps should have level landings at both the top and bottom to make them safer for all users and to provide resting points and maneuverability.

  • Landing Size: Each landing must be at least as wide as the ramp itself and a minimum of 60 inches (152.4 cm) long (in the direction of travel). This size ensures there is adequate space for a wheelchair or other mobility device to stop safely and turn if the ramp changes direction.
  • Level Surface: Landings must be level, with the slope not exceeding 1:48 in any direction.
  • Positioning of Landings: Landings are required at the top and bottom of each ramp run, and at each ramp turn. This provides people with necessary rest points and space to adjust their direction of travel comfortably.
  • If a door swings onto the landing: The landing area must be large enough to accommodate the door swing without reducing the landing area below the required dimensions. This typically means that when a door opens outward onto a landing, the landing size must be increased to ensure the door does not make it impossible for a wheelchair user to turn and move.

These landing requirements are designed to enhance accessibility and safety for all users, providing stable, ample space for transitions on and off the ramp.

Alterations

When existing buildings or facilities undergo alterations, including the installation or modification of ramps, the ADA sets specific guidelines to ensure these changes meet accessibility standards. Here’s an overview of the requirements for ramp alterations:

  • Compliance with New Construction Standards: Whenever possible, alterations involving ramps should meet the same standards as new construction. This includes:
    • Slope: A maximum slope of 1:12 (one inch of rise for every 12 inches/30.48 cm of length).
    • Width: At least 36 inches (91.44 cm) between handrails.
    • Landings: At both the top and bottom of each ramp section, with each landing being at least 60 inches (152.4 cm) long and at least as wide as the ramp itself.

In cases where existing structural conditions make it impractical to meet new construction standards during an alteration, the alterations should comply to the maximum extent possible.

For instance:

  • If the existing space cannot accommodate a standard slope of 1:12 due to limitations like immovable walls or existing floors, a steeper ramp might be allowed:
  • A slope of up to 1:10 is permissible for ramps that do not exceed 6 inches (15.24 cm) in rise.
  • A slope of up to 1:8 is permissible for ramps that do not exceed 3 inches (7.62 cm) in rise.
  • Any alterations to existing ramps must ensure that changes in level along the ramp and at landings are minimized to prevent tripping hazards and to accommodate wheelchairs. Vertical changes should not exceed 1/4 inch (0.64 cm); if they are between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch, they must be beveled with a slope not steeper than 1:2.

Wet Conditions

Since ADA ramp requirements have been put in place to ensure the safety of disabled users, there are certain aspects that need to be considered during wet weather conditions.

  • Slip Resistance: Ramp surfaces must be slip-resistant to prevent accidents. This requirement is especially important in wet conditions.
  • Surface Maintenance: Facilities must maintain ramp surfaces so that they remain slip-resistant. This involves regular cleaning to remove mold, mildew, leaves, and other debris that could make the surface slippery when wet. It also includes the maintenance of surface treatments or coatings that contribute to slip resistance.
  • Drainage: Proper drainage is necessary to prevent water accumulation on ramp surfaces. Standing water can significantly increase the risk of slips and falls. The design of the ramp should include adequate drainage solutions that prevent water from pooling.
  • Landings: Just like the ramp surfaces, landings must also be slip-resistant and well-maintained. They must have proper drainage to ensure that water does not accumulate, particularly where the landing is exposed to the elements.

Handrails

The final aspect that needs to be considered when it comes to ADA-compliant ramps is handrails.

  • Height: Handrails must be installed at a height of 34 to 38 inches (86 to 97 cm) above the ramp surface. This height is measured from the top surface of the handrail to the ramp surface.
  • Continuity: Handrails must be continuous for the full length of the ramp and must not be obstructed along their tops or sides. The handrails should extend horizontally above the landing for 12 inches (30 cm) beyond the top and bottom of the ramp runs, except where such extensions would be hazardous due to traffic patterns.
  • Grip Size: Handrails must have a gripping surface that is easy to hold onto, which typically means an outside diameter of between 1.25 and 2 inches (3.18 to 5.08 cm) if round. If not round, the perimeter should be between 4 inches and 6.25 inches (10.16 to 15.88 cm) with a maximum cross-section dimension of 2.25 inches (5.72 cm).
  • Clearance: There must be a clearance of at least 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) between the handrail and the wall or any other surface beside the ramp. This clearance is necessary to prevent users from pinching their hands or catching their mobility aids or clothes.
  • Surfaces: Handrail gripping surfaces must be smooth and free of sharp or abrasive elements. Edges should also be rounded.
  • Strength and Stability: Handrails must be strong and stable, capable of withstanding a significant amount of force to support users who rely on them for balance and support.

These requirements are designed to ensure that handrails on ramps are accessible, safe, and useful for people with various disabilities.

Final Thoughts

By adhering to these ADA requirements for ramps, you can provide employees and customers with more stability and security when it comes to accessing your building.

Complying with these requirements also goes a long way in helping you avoid costly penalties and lawsuits.

Click here to download our ADA ramp checklist for easier reference as you make the necessary modifications to your building.

FAQs

The ADA requirements for concrete ramps are very similar to those for any other type of ramp.

  • Slope: The maximum slope for newly constructed ramps should be 1:12.
  • Width: The minimum clear width of a ramp should be 36 inches (91.44 cm).
  • Surface: Concrete ramps must have a firm, stable, and slip-resistant surface.
  • Landings: At both the top and bottom of the ramp, and at each turn, there must be a level landing.
  • Handrails: If a ramp has a rise greater than 6 inches (15.24 cm) or a horizontal projection greater than 72 inches (182.88 cm), it must have handrails on both sides.
  • Edge Protection: Concrete ramps should have edge protection to prevent wheelchair wheels and other mobility aids from slipping off the edge.
  • Cross Slope and Running Slope: The cross slope of the ramp should not exceed 1:48.

Yes, small businesses are required to provide ramps and other forms of accessible entry under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if they serve the public. The ADA applies to all businesses, regardless of size, that provide goods or services to the public—often referred to as public accommodations.

While businesses don’t need to indicate their compliance with ADA ramp standards on their websites, it can help highlight a brand’s commitment to inclusivity.

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Michael Nicoletta
Michael Nicoletta
18 days ago

More of a question. Where does it state that on a switch back ramp the running slope for each ramp section needs to be maintained constant. No changes in slope allowed.

Tina Doms
Tina Doms
Admin
Reply to  Michael Nicoletta
15 days ago

Hi Michael,

The ADA Standards for Accessible Design require that the running slope of each section of a switchback ramp be uniform and not change along the length of the ramp run. This means that each segment of the ramp between landings must maintain a constant slope. The maximum allowable slope is 1:12 (8.33%)【(Section 405.2)】I hope this helps.