Ramps are inclined planes that are made of sturdy, durable materials such as steel, concrete, aluminum and wood. As a result, many people with disabilities were denied an opportunity to participate in social, business and government functions as well as in many other activities associated with the community.
The construction of ramps varies with the purpose of the ramp and the materials that are selected for the ramp. Ramps can be installed for permanent use, semi-permanent use, or they can be portable.
Ramps are helpful to all people in moving wheeled objects. For people with physical disabilities, ramps can create essential access to buildings that have steps and steep thresholds, and to vans and other vehicles. Ramps are useful for people with disabilities who use :
- power-driven mobility devices such as wheelchairs , gold carts and scooters
- manually powered wheelchairs
- handrails on both sides of the wheelchair ramp for ramps with rise greater than 6 inches
- edge protection at each side of ramp and at ramp landings
- a maximum of 30 feet in a single run of wheelchair ramp prior to a rest or turn platform
- slip-resistant and stable surfaces
- a flat platform for landings that is a minimum of 60 inches at the top and bottom of the ramp, and that is at least as wide as the widest part of the ramp
- a minimum of 36 inches of clear space across the wheelchair ramp and between handrails
- a slope that is not steeper than a 1:12 ratio (One foot of wheelchair ramp for each inch of rise; a 20 inch rise requires a 20 foot wheelchair ramp)
- handrails on the left and right sides of ramp that has a rise of 6 inches or greater or a horizontal projection of 72 inches or greater
*The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) offered the original federal guidelines for the construction of ramps in “Standards for Accessible Design”. The material concerning ramps was included amongst comprehensive information for accessible design in newly constructed and renovated public buildings and in private businesses that serve the public (public accommodations). The goal of “Standards for Accessibility” is consistent with the goal of the ADA: participation for people with disabilities in everyday activities that are associated with employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and government .
Revisions to the 1990 “Standards for Accessible Design” reinforced the ADA’s goal of increasing accessibility for people with disabilities. These revisions, again, included information about ramps amongst other information concerning construction in municipal, state and federal buildings (ADA: Title 11) and in public accommodations (ADA: Title 111). The new regulations, called the “2010 Standards for Accessible Design”, were published by the Justice Department in the 2010 Federal Register and in the 2011 edition of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). They became mandatory on March 15, 2012. The revisions include information about ramps in municipal, state and federal buildings (ADA: Title 11) and in public accommodations (ADA: Title 111).
Compliance with the 1990 and 2010 “Standards for Design” is mandated for publicly-owned, government buildings and in privately-owned commercial buildings that serve the public. Compliance is not required in the construction or renovation of private homes. Nonetheless, the “2010 Standards” is a critical source of information for people interested in the construction of ramps and other aspects of homes for people with disabilities. The “2010 Standards” is also indispensable for people who are interested in the principles of Universal Design that create functional homes for people regardless of their disability status.
*The “2010 Standards” contains specific information about the construction of ramps. Some of this information includes requirements for:
level landings at the accessible door
ramps accompanied by stairs, if possible, to accommodate people for whom distance is the greater obstacle, e.g. people with heart disease
The ADA’s “2010 Standards” represents a commercial code. It was not intended for private homes, and some adjustments may be appropriate. Nonetheless, the rigorous standards of the “2010 Standards”, and its specifications for the materials and mechanisms of the construction process, make the “2010 Standards” an invaluable source of information concerning minimal standards for residential construction, including ramps.
*The information contained in this statement is not intended to be an accurate or comprehensive statement of ADA specifications but, rather, contains our understanding of some of these specifications. An ADA Compliance Consultant and a municipal building inspector can be contacted for complete information as well as a licensed architect.
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