Specifications for ADA & IBC Compliance

 In ADA, ADA Ramp, IBC, Ramps, Steps

What does it mean to be ADA-compliant and IBC-compliant? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and access to the same products and services as people without disabilities, i.e. a handicap wheelchair ramp is required to help someone enter a grocery store from the parking lot. The International Building Code (IBC) makes sure that buildings are up-to-date with public safety standards such as fire prevention. Both sets of guidelines are put in place for good reason, but there are so many specifications that it can be difficult to understand. Here are a few starting points that are crucial for any ramp or step system to be compliant with ADA and IBC guidelines. 

Ramps

  • One foot of wheelchair ramp for each inch of rise which is consistent with the required 1:12 ramp slope ratio.
  • For every 30′ of ramp run, a resting or turning platform is needed.
  • Minimum clearance between ramp handrails is 36″.
  • Straight ramps should have unobstructed areas at the top and bottom that are at least as wide as the ramp and at least 5′ long.
ramp run and required resting area drawing
  • Switchback-style ramps must have a minimum landing platform size of 60″ x 60″.
    • A switchback ramp is defined as a ramp that moves in one direction but then makes a 180-degree change of direction and moves in the opposite direction, hence the term “switchback”. 
Wheelchair ramp landing area
  • Ramp runs with a rise greater than 6″ should have handrails on both sides that are between 34″ x 38″ in height.
  • Edge protection and vertical guard rails should be on each side of the ramp run. They should prevent the passage of a 4″ diameter sphere between the ramp surface and the edge barrier.
Edge protection for wheelchair ramps

Steps

  • All steps should have uniform riser heights and tread depths.
    • Risers should be between 4″ and 7″ high
    • Open risers are not permitted
    • Treads should be at least 11″ deep
  • Stairs should have handrails on both sides that are the full length of each stair flight.
  • The radius of the curvature at the leading edge of the tread should be .5″ maximum. Nosings that project beyond risers should have the underside of the leading edge curved or beveled. Risers should be permitted to slope under the tread at an angle of 30 degrees maximum from vertical. The permitted projection of the nosing should extend 1.5″ maximum over the tread below. 
Different types of step risers
  • The top of the gripping surfaces of handrails should be between 34″ and 38″ vertically above stair nosings.
Handrail heights for ADA steps
  • Landings subject to wet conditions should be designed to prevent water accumulation.

Handrails

  • Must be on both sides of stairs and ramps.
  • Should be continuous within the full length of each stair flight or ramp run. Inside handrails on switchback or L-shaped stairs and ramps should be continuous between flights or runs.
  • Top of gripping surfaces of handrails should be between 34″ and 38″ vertically above stair nosings and ramp surfaces. Handrails should be at a consistent height for the length of the stair flight or ramp run.
  • Handrail gripping surfaces should be continuous along their length and should not be obstructed along their tops or sides. The bottoms should not be obstructed for more than 20% of their length.
  • Handrails with a circular cross section should have an outside diameter between 1.25″ and 2″. 
  • Handrails with a non-circular cross section should have a perimeter dimension between 4″ and 6.25″ with a maximum cross section dimension of 2.25″.
Step and ramp handrails
  • Handrail gripping surfaces should extend beyond and in the same direction of stair flights and ramp runs.
  • Ramp handrails should extend horizontally above the landing for at least 12″ beyond the top and bottom of ramp runs. Extensions should return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or they should be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent ramp run. 
Handrail extensions for ramps
  • At the top of a stair flight, handrails should extend horizontally above the landing for at least 12″ beginning directly above the first riser nosing. Extensions should return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or they should be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent stair flight. 
Handrail extension for steps
  • At the bottom of a stair flight, handrails should extend at the slope of the stair flight for a horizontal distance at least equal to one tread depth beyond the last riser nosing. Extension should return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface, or should be continuous to the handrail of an adjacent stair flight. 
ADA step tread width
  • Handrail gripping surfaces and any surfaces adjacent to them should be free of sharp or abrasive elements and should have rounded edges. 
  • Handrails should not rotate within their fittings.
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