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ADA Standards for Ramps and Railings

Ensuring Compliance for Ramps and Railings in the ADA Standards (Chapter 4, Part 2)

The Department of Transportation’s ADA Standards for ramps and railings mandate that any new ramp or railing be constructed in compliance with specific guidelines to ensure that people with physical disabilities can use them safely and easily.

If a person with a physical disability cannot access a building via lift or elevator, an accessible ramp must be constructed. However, ramps should be uniform, predictable, and easy to travel on. That way, those who are using equipment like wheelchairs or scooters can anticipate a safe and convenient traveling experience.

This also means that those who are constructing ramps must comply with specific guidelines in the ADA Standards. All ramps and railings must be constructed within the right dimensions to promote safety and prevent any injury to those using them for travel.

When ADA Standards for Ramps and Railings are Needed

According to the United States Access Board, ramps are mandatory along accessible routes that span changes in level that are greater than ½”. Accessible routes with slopes steeper than 5% must also be treated as ramps.

If the ramp has a rise greater than 6” then a handrail must also be installed on the ramp. The Standards do not require an additional lower rail for children except for ramps within play areas. The recommended height for these lower railings is a maximum of 28” and a separation of 9” from the main rail.

ADA Standards for Ramps and Railings Dimensions

To ensure that ramps remain level and safe for wheelchairs to travel over, the ADA Standards mandate that they be constructed within specific dimensions. This ensures predictability and safety for those that use them to travel in and out of buildings.

Dimensions for Ramps

ADA Standards require ramps to comply with these specific guidelines:

•Slope: To be uniform along a single ramp.

•Clear width: Ramp runs must have a minimum width of 36”. This is to be measured between handrails if installed.

•Rise: The height of a run is limited to 30” maximum, but a ramp can have an unlimited number of runs.

Dimensions for Railings

ADA Standards for Railings include:

•Rise: Any ramp with a rise over 6” must have railings.

•Width: Ramps with rails must have a clear width of 36” minimum.

•Height: Rails must be between 34-38” and at a consistent height along a single run.

ADA Standards for Landings Attached to Ramps and Railings

Landings help people with disabilities rest and change direction when using ramps. ADA standards for ramps and railings require level landings at the top and bottom of each run. The Standards also state that landings should be square or rectangular in shape and never curved.

ADA standards  for ramps and railings require that intermediate landings between runs, where ramps often change direction, be 60” wide clear and 60” long clear. No handrail or edge protection extensions can encroach on this clearing to ensure that there is enough spaces for larger assistive devices like wheelchairs to effectively change direction.

If there is a doorway adjacent to a landing, a door’s clearance is permitted to overlap the landing. However, for increased safety, it is best to ensure that the door swings away from the landing if possible.

Additionally, any landing that could be subject to wet conditions must be designed in a way that prevents water from accumulating on its surface. Examples include outdoor landings subject to weather conditions and indoor ones near pipes. Slopes no steeper than 1:48 may be installed for drainage.

Edge Protection

ADA standards for ramps and railings require edge protection be installed on runs under specific conditions. Edge protection installed on ramp runs helps keep wheelchairs and crutch tips on the surface. Examples include curbs, barriers, or extended surfaces.

Edge protection is not required for ramps higher than 6” that already have side flares, ramp landings connected to an adjacent ramp or stairway, or sides of ramp landings with vertical drop-offs not exceeding ½” within 10” of the minimum landing area. Whether using a curb, rail, or other barrier, they must be constructed so that they could prevent a 4” diameter round ball from passing through any spaces.

Aisle Ramps in Assembly Areas

Assembly areas refer to spaces like auditoriums, stadiums, and theatres. Here, the ADA standards for ramps and railings state that aisle ramps are required to be accessible, but may be exempt from certain handrail requirements. If the seating area is adjacent to an aisle ramp that is not part of a required accessible route, then it does not have to comply with handrail requirements.

Help with ADA Standards

Serving clients in New Jersey, New York and Eastern Pennsylvania, the experienced professionals at East Coast Paving and Site Development are prepared to help you achieve the standards for ADA compliance.

For additional questions about ADA compliance, contact the paving experts at East Coast Paving and Site Development at 732-329-3600 or email

Read More on this Series

The Ultimate Guide to ADA Compliance: Using the ADA Standards (Chapter 1)

Scoping Requirements and ADA Standards for New Construction (Chapter 2 Part 1)

Construction Alterations and the ADA Standards that Affect Them (Chapter 2 Part 2)

ADA Standards for Floor and Ground Surface Construction (Chapter 3)

Accessible Routes in the ADA Standards (Chapter 4 Part 1)


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