A Simple Guide to ADA Handrails

The guidelines below are for ADA handrails that are located on ramps, stairs, or walking surfaces.

1. Located on both sides

Handrails must be on both sides of the stairs and ramps.

2. Continuous

Handrails must be continuous through the full length of the stair flight or ramp run. They cannot end or break at any point within the bounds of the steps or ramp. This guideline applies to all handrails including the inside handrails on switchback or L-shaped stairs and ramps; they must continue through the platforms.3. Positioned between 34″ – 38″ above surface

The top of the gripping surfaces must be between 34″ and 38″ above the walking surface. For a set of steps, the height of the handrail is measured from the edge of each nosing to the top of the handrail. For ramps and platforms, the handrail height can be measured at any point along the path. Handrails should be at a consistent height for the length of the stair flight or ramp run including any platforms.4. Minimal obstruction

Handrail gripping surfaces should have minimal obstruction. They cannot be obstructed along their tops or sides, and the bottoms should not be obstructed for more than 20% of their length. This guideline ensures that persons using the steps or ramp can easily grip the handrails.

5. Be “graspable”

ADA handrails with a circular cross section should have an outside diameter between 1.25″ and 2″. ADA 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″.6. Extend past the length of the ramp and/or stairs

Ramp handrails should extend straight and horizontally above the landing for at least 12″ beyond both the top and bottom of ramp runs. If the ramp does not continue after the landing, the extensions should return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface. If it does continue, the handrail should be continuous.Stair handrails should extend horizontally for at least 12″ beginning directly above the first riser nosing. Extensions should return to a wall, guard, or the landing surface if there is no adjacent flight of steps. If there is an adjacent flight, the handrail should be continuous. At the bottom of a stair flight, the 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.7. No sharp elements

Handrail gripping surfaces and any surfaces adjacent to them should be free of sharp or abrasive elements and should have rounded edges.

8. Should not rotate within their fittings

Handrails that are connected with fittings should be secure and not rotate. 

Official ADA Standards for 2010
IBC Stair Code

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