Planning For A Handicap Ramp

By: Shabbir Kazmi, AIA | ETC, Inc.

shutterstock_359198234If you are planning to build a wheelchair ramp (also known as handicap accessible ramp) in an existing building, it would be best to have checklist of design considerations before starting the project.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the American Disability Act (ADA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A117.1 that define general design parameters.
  2. Most states and local jurisdictions have adopted the International Building Code (IBC), published by the International Code Council; however, states, counties, and cities can impose different regulations. Always check with your local permit office for relevant code and permit requirements.
  3. Handicap ramps cannot exceed a slope of eight (8) percent. That means your ramp should not be steeper than one-unit in height for every twelve-units of length. For example if you have to accommodate a height difference of twenty-four (24) inches, the ramp will be two-hundred eighty-eight (288) inches (24 feet) long. The maximum allowable height is thirty (30) inches.
  4. Pay close attention to the requirements for ramp width, headroom height and landings. Minimum ramp clear width is thirty-six (36) inches, minimum headroom height is eighty (80) and minimum landing width is sixty (60) inches.
  5. The height of railings must be between thirty-four (34) to thirty-eight (38) inches above the  walking surface. Handrails can be constructed from a variety of materials, such as wood, metal, or synthetics, provided they comply with code-mandated requirements for strength and grasp-ability.
  6. Ramp surfaces should be slip-resistant and able to resist deformation by point loads. A walking person’s weight is distributed over a fairly large area, whereas that weight is concentrated onto the much smaller areas of wheelchair-tire contact patches
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