The photograph above shows a recently completed ramp to a newly renovated tenant space. What’s surprising about this photograph are the handrails on either side of the ramp. The ADA specifically requires that handrails be located on either side of a ramp and that they be continuous to each end of the ramp. Why do they need to be continuous?? The answer is simple………many individuals with disabilities are not very steady on their feet and this is especially true when they are walking on inclined surfaces. As a result, the handrails need to be continuous to allow someone to completely transverse the full length of the ramp while holding onto the handrail. As you can see from the photograph, the handrail on one side is not continuous and therefore this handrail could be the subject of an ADA lawsuit.
It’s also a requirement of the ADA that rails extend 12” beyond the top and the bottom of the ramp. This is so that someone with a disability can steady themselves at the top or bottom of the ramp by holding onto the 12” rail extension before they continue on their way.
It’s also important to note that there is a very specific height range for the top of the handrail and specific dimensions for the diameter of the rail. In addition and in order to provide stability to wheelchair users, a rail or a curb is also required at the bottom of the handrail as shown in the photograph in order to keep the wheels of the wheelchair from going off the edge of the ramp.
There are also some very specific requirements for the slope of the ramp. It can not slope over 8.33% and this is considered the maximum slope. When designing a ramp, it should be designed with the least slope possible as even a ramp that is sloped at 8.33% is difficult for those with disabilities to use. For the layperson, a slope of 8.33% translates into 12” in length for every 1” in height rise. For example, if a ramp needs to go up 12” then it would need to be 12’-0” long. There are also certain issues with regards to landings, etc. that must be addressed when designing a ramp.