Planning For A Handicap Ramp
By: Shabbir Kazmi, AIA | ETC, Inc.
If 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.
- Familiarize yourself with the American Disability Act (ADA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A117.1 that define general design parameters.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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