Elements-of-a-Wheelchair-ramp

Handicap Ramp Slope and Length Calculator

Our ADA ramp length calculator determines the required ramp length for your project. Our calculator also tells you the number of resting platforms that you need to have to be ADA-compliant. As a guide, the ADA ramp requirements are 1 foot of ramp for every inch of rise for a 4.8° incline.

Handicap Ramp Slope and Length Calculator

Ramp Length Calculator

A. Elevation height
The height from the ground up to the bottom of the door or existing walkway. (How to measure elevation)

B. Ramp run length

C. Total ramp system length in feet
Includes the minimum number of 5′ x 5′ resting platforms and the 5′ x 5′ platform at the top of the ramp.

D. Minimum number of resting platforms
A 5′ x 5′ (minimum) resting platform is needed every 30 feet of ramp.

+ 5′ platforms
A 5′ x 5′ (minimum) platform is needed at the top of the ramp if there is not an existing one already.

1:12 Slope: For every inch of height from the ground, you need 1 foot of ramp length to achieve a 4.8° incline.


Ramp length based on the number of stairs

StepsTotal LengthLanding(s)Ramp Run
1 Step12′5′7′
2 Steps20′5′15′
3 Steps27′5′22′
4 Steps35′5′30′
5 Steps47′10′ ( 2 x 5′)37′
*For reference only. Estimations based on a 7 1/2″ stair height (riser).
Building codes specify riser heights of no less than 4″ and a maximum of 7 3/4″.

How long of a wheelchair ramp do I need for 2 steps?

For ADA compliance, the estimated ramp length should be 20′ (5′ landing, 15′ ramp run)*

How long of a wheelchair ramp do I need for 3 steps?

For ADA compliance, the estimated ramp length should be 27′ (5′ landing, 22′ ramp run)*

How long of a wheelchair ramp do I need for 4 steps?

For ADA compliance, the estimated ramp length should be 35′ (5′ landing, 30′ ramp run)*

How long of a wheelchair ramp do I need for 5 steps?

For ADA compliance, the estimated ramp length should be 47′ (2 5′ landings, 37′ ramp run)*

Billy & Eli Upside Innovations Podcast Poster

Upside Podcast – How to Prepare for a Successful Modular Stair & Ramp Installation

If there’s one thing we know for sure, things change fast in the modular construction industry. Last-minute design changes and a long list of variables over which we have very little control can impact the budget and timeline for your modular installation project, and our integrated Apex System was designed to make adapting on the fly easy and affordable.

In this episode of the Upside Podcast, Upside’s Billy Lippert and Eli Boyd discuss how the Apex System makes wheelchair ramp and metal stair installations straightforward and successful. Topics covered include project estimates, proper budgeting, leg anchors, stacked designs, installing surfaces, proper measuring techniques, anticipating common variables, assessing site conditions, ADA ramp heights, last-minute site changes, passing inspection, and making sure the material matches the specifications for your project. Modular industry challenges are common, but our Apex system ensures the product delivered is well matched to the final design.

ADA housing banner image

ADA Ramps and Steps for Modular Housing Facility

A Bridge Home initiative in Los Angeles, California was put into place in 2018 in an effort to help individuals who are living on the streets to find jobs and homes. To accomplish this, the city has deployed dozens of bridge housing sites and has plans to deploy many more. Each site contains several modular housing units and resources for mental health, employment, addiction, and future housing placement.

Design Space Modular Buildings, Inc. supplied the modular buildings and partnered with us to design and manufacture the aluminum walkways, ADA ramps, and ADA stairs. There is a total of 8 modular buildings, 1 sprung structure, 8 modular ADA ramps, 12 sets of ADA stairs, and roughly 3,900 square feet of aluminum walkway platforms.

We specialize in large, modular facility projects because we have a large stock of ADA ramp, step, and platform material, and we offer hands-on project management from quotation to installation. We have in-house engineers and project managers that worked with Design Space Modular Buildings to develop a layout and timeline that fit within the city’s schedule for opening the facility.

“Upside has provided the nicest looking product, we have had compliments from the City of LA accessibility inspectors. [The] product is the nicest I have worked with. Response time on the sales side, engineering and installation have been of great quality. The installation team has been great to work with on even the challenging sites, they always work to accommodate issues that come up due to site conditions, inclement weather, and tight schedules.”

– Jose A.
Design Space Modular Buildings

Graphic of Wood VS Aluminum Ramps

Wood vs. Aluminum Ramps

We all know there are many material options to consider when purchasing a commercial ADA ramp for wheelchair access. Two of the most popular materials people typically consider are wood and aluminum. While project cost is important, it is also important to meet the project specifications and make the best choice for the building tenant and the people who will be using it.

Wood vs. aluminum ramps
Wood vs. aluminum ramps

Here is a technical analysis of the different types of ramp material based on tensile strength and corrosion resistance.

When it comes to wood vs. aluminum ramps for commercial use, here are the 3 main reasons to choose aluminum.


Wood vs. Aluminum: Cost

Wood Cost:

Material cost: A wood ramp costs an average of $100-250 per linear foot, according to Fixr.com, so, although variable, a 30′ ramp can cost around $4,600. If you add a 5’x 5′ platform which is required at the door, it would cost a total of about $5,500 for the material.

Install time: A 30’ wood ramp with a platform takes roughly (2) 8-hour days for two carpenters to cut and install.

Install cost: To build the ramp, you will likely need two carpenters ($60 per hour) for the two days. That means that labor costs will be roughly $1,440. In total, a wood ramp costs about $7,240. Plus, you will have to factor in the price of a building permit which usually costs a couple of hundred dollars.

Aluminum Cost:

Material cost: Aluminum ramp manufacturers charge a wide range of prices because there are different grades of aluminum and the varying size and load requirements for commercial versus residential. You can expect to spend between $6,400 on material for a 30’ commercial, aluminum ADA including a 5’ x 5’ platform.

Install time: You don’t need any prior experience to install an aluminum ramp, and it takes about 3-5 hours to complete the installation of a 30′ ramp.

Install time: A novice can install an aluminum ramp system on his/her own, so the installation cost would be free if you decide to install it yourself. Installation costs for an aluminum ramp are typically less than half the cost of a wood ramp installation.

Aluminum vs wood ramps
Aluminum and wood ramps initially cost about the same amount of money when you consider installation cost.

Wood vs. Aluminum: Maintenance

Wood Maintenance:

Wood requires a lot of attention and maintenance to keep it in decent condition. Maintenance costs include:

  • Yearly paint or stain touch-ups to protect against moisture
  • Termite prevention and/or treatment
  • Replacing warped or rotted pieces
  • Replacing non-slip grip tapes on the walking surfaces because they will wear down and lose the grip

Aluminum Maintenance:

Aluminum requires very little to almost zero maintenance because it never rusts, which is the main reason why other metals lose their structural integrity. The only maintenance aluminum ramps require is to clear off any snow, brush, and mud that builds up on the ramp.


Wood vs. Aluminum: Ease of Assembly

Wood Ease of Assembly

Building out of wood is extremely time-consuming and tedious, and it’s difficult to get all the walkways and platforms level.

One of our installers, who also builds wood ramps and decks, describes building a 30′ wood ramp as such:

“Wood [takes] 2 or 3 days, assuming you can even build one to suit a picky building inspector or fire marshal. If I build one, I’ll buy steel or aluminum handrail components for it, because that’s about the only way to satisfy all the code requirements. We have done a fair amount of building a wood common landing between numerous buildings, but then installing aluminum rails, ramps, and steps on that.”

– John B.

Aluminum Ease of Assembly

Our prefabricated aluminum ramp sections consist of 3 components:

  1. Ramp walking surface
  2. Guardrails with pre-welded balusters and standoffs
  3. Handrail pipes

Prefabricated products are always faster to assemble than products you have to build on-site. Our prefab ramps take a few hours for a novice to assemble.

This is how simple our prefabricated ramps are to put together:

ramp section guardrail handrail connection
ramp section guardrail handrail connection

Wood vs. Aluminum: Slip-Resistance

Wood Slip-Resistance

Wood can acquire a slimy, slippery film from moisture accumulation, and you must apply grip strips to the surface. You will need to replace these strips multiple times throughout the life of the ramp to maintain the ADA-required coefficient of friction.

Aluminum Slip-Resistance

Aluminum ramps have slip-resistant decking that provides better traction than wood ramps and is much safer for those who use them. Upside Innovations uses a solid, extruded decking with small, raised ridges for traction.

Old, rotting wood ramp that has become very slippery
Aluminum ramp with non-slip decking that remains intact

Conclusion

WoodAluminum
Material$5,500$6,400
Labor$1,440$400
Permit$300
Total Costs$7,240$6,800
AssemblyTime-consuming and custom.
About 2-3 days
Ships with 3 primary components that bolt together.
Assembled in a few hours, not days.
MaintenanceOngoing
• Annual paint or stain
• Termite prevention/treatment
• replace warped or rotted pieces
• Onting replacement of non-stick tape.
Minimal
Requires almost zero maintenance.
Slip-ResistanceWood ramps tend to become slippery over timeAluminum ramp with non-slip extruded decking keeps traction over time
means of egress parts

Means of Egress

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The means of egress requirements are part of the International Building Code (IBC) which refer to the ability to exit the building and the path to get outside. Every new building must have means of egress, but the number of means of egress paths and sizes differ from building to building.


What is means of egress?

A means of egress is a continuous, clear path from any occupied portion of a building, structure or space to a public way, such as an outdoor sidewalk. A means of egress consists of three parts: exit access, exit, and exit discharge.


Means of egress

A means of egress consists of three parts:

  1. The exit access – path within the building that leads to an exit
  2. The exit – doors to the outside, enclosed exit stairways, and horizontal exits
  3. The exit discharge – the route from the exit to the public way

Are you looking for an IBC-compliant stairway?

Part 1: Exit Access

Exit access is defined as a corridor, hallway, or path in a room to an exit. When the IBC talks about “accessible,” it means that somebody in a wheelchair can use whatever thing they are referring to. Therefore, an “accessible space” means that a person in a wheelchair can enter and exit that space via an “accessible means of egress” (i.e. walkway, ramp, or elevator).

Accessible spaces must have two accessible means of egress, and they are typically required to be no less than 36″ wide.

For Non-accessible spaces, which are floors above or below the ground floor, the accessible pathway must lead to an exit stairway, elevator, or horizontal exit. These areas serve as an Area of Refuge where emergency responders will come to help people in wheelchairs.

The required number of means of egress is determined by occupant load:

Occupant LoadRequired Means of Egress
<5002
500-9993
>1,0004
*Exception: Buildings that have a low occupant load, such as mercantile spaces, only require one exit.

Part 2: Exit

The exit consists of an exit stairway or elevator with standby power. The exit is separated from other interior spaces by fire-resistant construction. Refer to the IBC stair and handrail specifications sheet and the refuge areas to ensure your means of egress are compliant.

Part 3: Exit Discharge

The exit discharge consists of either an accessible route, such as an ADA ramp or walkway, or a stair and platform with a refuge area. Can be inside the building such as the main lobby or outside to an egress court, courtyard, alley, or public way. A public way is defined as an area outside the building between the exit discharge and a public street with a minimum clearance height and width of at least 10 feet.


Related Links

Hurricane header

Secure Aluminum Ramps and Steps for Hurricane

A hurricane anchor and strap are the most reliable way to keep any outdoor aluminum ramps, steps, or canopies secure.

If the product is made and installed by Upside Innovations on concrete, the product should withstand winds from a category 5 hurricane. On concrete, we always install ramps and steps using 3/8” wedge anchors, and canopies are secured with 5/8” wedge anchors. The brand we use is Red Head. If the product is installed on asphalt, we may use asphalt anchors. Below are some of the common anchor types used for securing exterior ramps, stairs, and canopies.

Anchor Options for securing Stairs and Ramps

Anchor Options for securing Stairs and Ramps

Wedge Anchor

Concrete wedge anchors are the perfect choice for heavy-duty applications that require a secure hold. These anchors are extremely popular and offer one of the strongest possible bonds, making them ideal for securing materials and equipment to solid concrete or masonry surfaces. Wedge anchors look and function like a sleeve anchor, but feature a smaller sleeve near the bottom of the anchor. This design provides added holding power and makes them ideal for use in challenging applications.

  • Drill a hole with a diameter equal to the nominal anchor hole at least 1/4” deeper than nominal anchor embedment; align the holes with the holes in the ramp, step, or canopy footplates.
  • Clean out the hole with pressurized air or a vacuum.
  • Hammer the hurricane anchor into the hole, but do not hammer the nut as it will ruin the threads.
  • Upside typically uses Red Head wedge anchors


Asphalt Anchor

Asphalt is relatively weak when it comes to anchoring structures to it. As the name implies, asphalt anchors are ideal for attaching items to an asphalt surface and are installed by drilling an oversized hole, adding expanding cement or low shrink epoxy, and then pushing in the anchor. After curing, the bolt can be removed.

  • Drill a hole in the asphalt that is equal to the diameter of the anchor; make sure the holes in the asphalt align with the holes in the footplates.
  • Fill the hole with grout.
  • Push in the hurricane anchor.
  • More detailed installation instructions at BoltHold Anchor Installation Guide

Hard Rock Anchor

Hard rock anchors are designed for applications that are solid rock with rods that are driven into the rock.

  • Drill a 5/8” hole 5.5” deep and on a 90° angle on the center of the anchor location for the pilot stud.
  • Drill (2) 3/4” holes at 45° angles using the anchor head as a location guide.
  • Place the rod through the top of (1) square tube and into the hole.
  • To achieve minimum allowable pullout resistance, drive the rod at least 24” into the surface.
  • Place the second rod through the other tube.
  • The distance from the square tubing to the ground surface should not exceed 1”.
  • Use the strap to wrap around the cross-bracing of the ramp or step; secure the strap with the bolts and nuts at the top of the anchor.

If the product is resting on soil: you can secure it by using an earth auger anchor.

Auger Anchor

Auger anchors are easy to install and screw directly into soil, sand or gravel.

  • Use a metal rod through the eye of the anchor to drive it into the ground.
  • Wrap the strap around the cross-bracing of the ramp or step, and loop through the eye of the anchor.

Still don’t know which product is best? Give us a call.

line level

How to Measure Wheelchair Ramp Ground Slope

ADA Requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires wheelchair ramps to have a slope no steeper than 1:12 so that people in wheelchairs can go up and down without assistance. This means that for every inch of rise in the threshold, the wheelchair ramp must be 12 inches (one foot) long. For example, a door threshold height of 25″ requires a 25′ ramp along with a 5’ x 5’ threshold platform. Any threshold that is more than 30″ off the ground requires at least one resting platform in the middle of the ramp to break it up. Why? Because the ADA requires a resting platform for every additional 30′ of ramp run. Therefore, if the threshold is 32″ high, one resting platform is required; if the threshold is 62″ high, two resting platforms are required.

What you will need

  • Stakes
  • String or twine
  • Hammer
  • Line level
  • Tape measure

Why is it Important To Measure?

In a perfect world, every construction site would be completely flat, but all site workers know that is not the case. Therefore, ground slope measurements are required to make sure that the slope of the handicap ramp is accurate. If the ground is sloping upwards from the door threshold, the ramp will likely require less ramp material than if the ground is flat or sloping downwards. This typically means that the ramp will be less expensive if the ground is sloping upwards and more expensive if it is sloping downwards.

wheelchair ramp measure slope diagram

Diagram 1

The 30″ threshold height correlates to a 30′ ramp because the ground is neither sloping upwards or downwards; it is completely flat.

Diagram 2

On the left side of the building, the ground is sloping upwards, which means that the 30″ threshold will require a ramp that is less than 30′. On the right side of the building, the ground is sloping downwards, which means that the ramp will have to be longer than 30′. It will also require a resting platform in the middle of the ramp that will add an additional cost. A resting platform is required for every additional 30′ of ramp run.

Where to Measure

Slope measurements need to be taken where the wheelchair ramp will sit, so you will first need to figure out the best layout. To determine the best layout:

  • Measure the height of the door threshold
  • Determine the required ramp length
    • For every inch of rise, a foot of ramp run is needed (i.e. door threshold height = 20”, so ramp run = 20’)
    • Make sure to account for the required 5’ x 5’ platform at the door threshold
    • Remember, for every additional 30′ of ramp run, an additional 5’ x 5’ resting platform is required
  • Note any obstacles or space limitations
  • If there are no obstacles or space limitations, the ramp layout does not matter; choose the preferred layout
  • If there are obstacles or space limitations, a switch back ramp or L-ramp would be best
  • If there are two buildings side-by-side, a common platform ramp could be used to maximize space utilization

Once the layout is determined, measure the ground slope every 10′ in the direction(s) that the ramp will travel. To measure an L-ramp, measure from where the threshold platform would sit to where the first platform would sit in increments of 10′. Then measure from the platform down to where the ramp would end.

standard wheelchair ramp layouts

How to Measure

  1. Take a measurement from grade to the finished floor at the entrance (FFE (finished floor elevation) = _____ inches)
  1. Hammer a stake in the ground at the entrance door and tie a string to it.
  1. Hammer a second stake in the ground straight out from the building at approximately the location where the threshold platform will end (typically 5’4” away from the building), and tie the string to it from the first stake making sure it is taut.
  1. Place a line level in the center of the string and move the string up or down until the line is level.
  1. Measure the distance from the ground to the string at the first stake (S1 = ______ inches) and measure the distance from the ground to the string on the second stake (S2 = ______ inches)
  1. Calculate the ground level relative to the finished floor elevation (FFE) by using the following formula:  FFE_2 = FFE + (S2 – S1)
  1. Hammer a third stake in the ground approximately 10’ from stake 2 in the direction of the ramp travel.  Tie a string from stake 2 to stake 3 and make sure that the string is taut.
  1. Place a line level in the center of the string and move the string up or down until the line is level.
  1. Measure the distance from the ground to the string at stake 2 (S2 = ______ inches) and measure the distance from the ground to the string at the third stake (S3 = _____ inches)
  1. Calculate the ground level relative to the FFE @ stake 2 by using the following formula: FFE_3 = FFE_2 + (S3 – S2)
  1. Repeat this process every 10’ to the approximate location of where the ramp will end
Where to Place Stakes
Calculating Slope
Calculating Slope

Pros & Cons of the 5 Most Common Ramp Materials

[Infographic] How to Measure for a Wheelchair Ramp

Must-Know ADA & IBC Guidelines

Test Your Knowledge of Wheelchair Ramps

Complete 2010 ADA Guide

Table of Ramp Length with Platforms Calculations

Ramps for Modular Buildings – Planning Your Ramp Configuration

There are many factors that you must consider if you are planning on installing a modular building ramp because every site is different. Follow this guide so that you take the necessary site measurements.

step-1
step-1

Why does my ramp have to be a specific length?

The ramp must comply with ADA regulations if it is going to be used by the public. ADA regulations require a 1:12 slope which guarantees that the ramp will not be too steep for someone in a wheelchair to use. It also requires a landing area at both the top and bottom of the ramp which must be at least 60” x 60”. If there is no existing landing platform at the threshold, then you will need a platform that connects the door threshold to the top of the ramp.

How wide does my ramp need to be?

Most standard ADA products have 48″ clearance between the handrails.  This specification covers ADA and IBC 2009 compliance across the United States.  The outer edge to outer edge of the ramp is close to 60″, but there ends up being only 48″ between the handrails after taking the handrail material, the standoff between the handrail and the guardrail, and the guardrail thickness into consideration.

step-2
step-2

Why do the width and length of the building matter?

If you need to have a switchback ramp, but there is no room for it to switch back in front of the building, you may have to wrap it around the side of the building. Knowing the length and width will help you determine the best layout for the ramp. 

Why is the door swing important?

If the door’s hinge is on the right, then the ramp has to move to the left (from birds-eye  or front view) so that the door does not block the ramp when it is opened. The same concept applies to a door with a hinge on the left.

If you need the ramp to go in the opposite direction than the door allows, additional platforms are needed.

Double doors and recessed doors also require additional platforms to have an adequate turning radius for a wheelchair.

step-3
step-3
step-4
step-4

Why is the slope of the ground important?

If the ground is sloping down, additional ramp sections might be required in order to maintain a 1:12 ratio. If the ground is sloping up, fewer ramp sections may be required. View the in-depth guide on how to measure sloping ground.

step-5
step-5

Why do I need multiple platforms?

To be compliant with ADA regulations, you need a 60″ x 60″ resting platform for every additional 30 feet of ramp. This means that if your door is more than 30″ above the ground, you will need at least a 30-foot ramp and a resting platform that will add an additional 60 inches to the ramp length.

step-6
step-6

Is one configuration better than the others?

No. Choose the configuration that best suits your site given any barriers that might be there and the allotted space you have. If you have limited space on the sides of the building, a switchback ramp would probably be best, but if there is a tree that would prevent the ramp from switching back, an “L” ramp or straight ramp would be better.

What if there are obstacles in the way, but I can’t avoid them?

Sometimes it is easier to relocate or remove an obstacle instead of trying to configure a wheelchair ramp around it. If relocating or removing it is not possible, then you may need to use a larger platform to push the ramp past the obstacle, adjust the layout, or use a custom access system to avoid it. 

After preparing the site, contact a ramp manufacturer for a quote.

Upside Innovations manufactures modular-style aluminum ramps and installs nationwide. Aluminum is the most durable commercial-style ramp that requires minimal maintenance and can typically be assembled in a matter of hours. 

More resources:

aluminum-density

How to Clean Aluminum Ramps

Cleaning Untreated Aluminum Ramps

Aluminum is a light, but strong material that is common for outdoor, commercial applications because of its weather-resistant properties; aluminum doesn’t rust because it forms a natural layer of oxide. Oxidation is a confusing process because it is a form of corrosion, but, unlike oxidation that occurs on other metals, it does not jeopardize the structural integrity of the aluminum – it actually strengthens the material. Oxidation creates a protective barrier against water and rust, but it can make the aluminum less attractive overtime. Cleaning the ramp will decrease the chances of severe oxidation.

Step 1: The first step is to make sure that all debris including mud, dust, and leaves are all cleared off the ramp. To do this, you must start at the top of the ramp with a stiff-bristled push-broom, and sweep all the debris down the ramp; the edge guards that run along both edges of the ramp prevent the debris from being pushed over the sides. The stiff-bristled push-broom is recommended to clean out the grooves of the ramp, but don’t try to scrub the ramp with the broom as it might scratch the aluminum.

Step 2: After brushing off the aluminum ramp, rinse it with water and mild detergent such as dish soap. Use a generous amount of dish soap over the length of the ramp, and put a concentrated amount on tough spots. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Next, hose off or lightly pressure wash the ramp to remove the soap and dirt. It is suggested to use filtered water if possible because unfiltered water may contain sulfur, chlorine, fluoride, and other minerals that could be damage the aluminum over time. Make sure that all dish soap is washed off before the wheelchair ramp is used.

Step 3: If there is dirt on the ramp still, use a towel and dish soap to scrub the area. Do not use steel wool or scour pads because these materials can scratch the aluminum and give it a dull appearance. Do not use harsh cleaners like baking soda or alkali-based cleaners as these can cause discoloration. If you want to try a new type of cleaner, test an area on the underside of the ramp to see if it discolors the aluminum.

Step 4: If the wheelchair ramp has already oxidized, try spot-treating the oxidized areas with an aluminum cleaner like Aluma Kleen or Aluma Bright.

Cleaning Powder-Coated Aluminum Ramps

If the aluminum wheelchair ramp is powder-coated, there is less chance of oxidation because the powder-coating provides an extra layer of defense. However, it is possible for the layer to be breached and form oxidation spots. Most of the cleaning steps are same as non-powder-coated aluminum, but the powder-coating is a little more delicate than the aluminum.

Ramp3

Step 1: Brush off the ramp, moving from top to bottom, with a stiff-bristled push-broom. Do not try to scrub the wheelchair ramp with the broom as it might scratch the aluminum.

Step 2: The most efficient way to clean outdoor aluminum ramps with a powder-coating finish is with a pressure washer using filtered water on low pressure. Use a mild detergent such as dish soap, and DO NOT use chlorine or harsh cleaning solutions. A high-water pressure and harsh cleaning products can damage the powder-coated finish. The commercial cleaning solutions will clean the surface, but they also remove micro layers of finish. The layer might later become hard and crack while losing its protective barrier.

Step 3: As stated above, use a soft brush or cloth to clean the surface; do not use anything that has hard bristles or a scratchy pad.

Step 4: To keep powder-coated wheelchair ramps looking nice, try a high-grade, non-abrasive car wax that contains U.V. blocker and/or U.V. inhibitors. Be sure to wipe off residual wax because it could bake in the heat and cause permanent staining. It is recommended, as with any other product applied to the ramp, make a test area on the underside of the ramp. 

Related Articles

Handling Snow and Ice on Your Ramp

Material Properties

Test Your Knowledge of Wheelchair Ramps [10-Question Quiz]

Image showing the definition of Dictionary, in a Dictionary

Wheelchair Ramp Definition – Common Terms

The wheelchair ramp definition is a sloped surface that gives people easy access into a building or elevated area. There are several ADA requirements for businesses including providing ADA compliant wheelchair ramps that must follow very specific guidelines. The guidelines talk about various parts of the ramp, and some people may not be familiar with all of the terms. Below are the wheelchair ramp terms defined and their basic ADA guidelines.

Elements of a Wheelchair ramp

Balusters

Vertical posts that are located every 4 inches (or closer) along the sides of a ramp. The balusters are close together to keep small children from slipping through or getting stuck.

  1. Withstand a load of 50 pounds in the horizontal direction applied in an area of one square foot.
  2. Minimum of .75″ x .75″ square tube.

Curb

Also known as kick plate or wall, a curb is located on either side of the ramp to prevent peoples’ feet from slipping over the edge.

Footings

Typically made of concrete with rebar reinforcement and are placed under each ramp leg to provide stability. 

Guardrail

The outermost rail that runs along both sides of the ramp at 42 inches above the ramp section. Its purpose is to keep people from falling over the edge of the ramp.

  1. Withstands a concentrated load of 200 pounds applied in any direction on the top of the rail.
  2. 42 inches high measured vertically from the walking surface to the top of the rail.
  3. Provided on all open sides of each platform.

Handrail

A smooth, continuous tube that runs along the edges of a ramp and extends at least 12 inches beyond the top and bottom platforms. Its purpose is to offer support and stability for people walking on the ramp. (See Figure A)

  1. Withstand a concentrated load of 200 pounds applied in any direction on the top of the rail.
  2. Must be located on both sides of all ramp sections.
  3. Must be continuous along ramp runs even when the ramp makes a 90- or 180-degree turn.
  4. Must be 36 inches high from the walking surface to the top of the rail.
ADA ramp requirements

Platform

The word ‘platform’ is interchangeable with ‘landing’. They may be placed at the top and bottom of a ramp. Depending on the length of the ramp, additional platforms may be required. (See Figure B)

  1. Carry a uniform live load of 100 pounds per square foot and a concentrated vertical load of 300 pounds in an area of one square foot.
  2. Designed to allow at least a 60 inches diameter area of clearance for a wheelchair to be able to turn around.

Ramp Run

A specified length of a ramp or ramp section. For example: after 30 feet of ramp run, a resting platform is needed. 

Ramp Section

Prefabricated ramps come in ramp sections that are put together to form the whole ramp. Typical ramp sections come in 8 or 10-foot sections. (See Figure B)

  1. Carry a uniform live load of 100 pounds per square foot and a concentrated vertical load of 300 pounds in an area of one square foot.
  2. Have a coefficient of friction no less than 0.50 in the normal direction of travel.
  3. Allow a maximum slope of 1:12.
Wheelchair ramp plan drawing showing ramp sections and ramp platform

Slope

The incline of a ramp. Typically, ADA wheelchair ramps have a 1:12 ratio, which means that for every 1 inch of rise in the threshold, 12 inches of ramp is needed.

ada-compliant slope showing 1 inch of rise to 12 inches of ramp run

Threshold

The bottom of a doorway.

ADA Compliant Logo

ADA Requirements for Businesses

ADA Basics

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes that people with disabilities must have equal access to workplaces, transportation, restaurants, and other businesses to be a part of their community and have purchasing power. The Act put ADA requirements for businesses in place to remove barriers and provide access to all people so that nobody faces discrimination. The Act also established guidelines for new business construction.

Who must comply?

  • Businesses with at least 15 employees.
  • Both the landlord and tenant of a commercial property. The responsible party can be determined through a contract or lease.
  • State and local government services, including public education and social services, state legislatures and courts, police and fire departments, employment services, and public transportation.
  • Commercial facilities that are open to the public.

The ADA requirements for businesses are somewhat flexible, and policymakers know that smaller companies may not have the resources to make the property compliant all at once. The ADA allows smaller companies to develop plans to remove any physical barriers over time as resources become available.

What is a “barrier”?

Jonathan Young from the National Council of Disability says that there are two types of barriers, including general access barriers to a commercial space and individual access barriers that require case-by-case accommodation.

The first type of barrier includes objects such as stairs and narrow doorways that do not accommodate someone in a wheelchair. The second type of barrier includes accommodation requests such as an employee who needs a standing desk rather than the traditional desk because of a previous back injury.

The ADA classifies a barrier as anything that limits entry into a business or the ease of maneuvering inside. This includes small or narrow parking spots, entrance steps, fixed tables in eating areas, and narrow aisles. The ADA prioritizes barriers where the high-priority barriers should be addressed and removed first, and the low-priority barriers should be addressed last. The list below shows high-priority to low-priority:

  • Access from the street or sidewalk
  • Adequate parking
  • Access where goods and services are provided
  • Access to bathrooms
  • Access to public amenities such as pay phones and drinking fountains
business with a step barrier preventing entry
business removed barrier to entry

Types of barriers

The barriers mentioned above are physical barriers. Physical barriers can be fixed fairly easily, but there are also “process barriers” and “psychological barriers” that can be quite difficult to overcome.

Process barriers may include requiring someone to present a driver’s license as identification verification. This could discriminate against the legally blind or someone with epilepsy who is unable to drive. Another example is limiting one person per dressing room in a clothing store because a person in a wheelchair may need help trying on different clothes.

The most difficult type of barrier to overcome are psychological barriers because this includes changing the way people think about disability. The ADA requirements for businesses wanted to increase the amount of disabled people in the workforce, but there has not been an increase since the ADA was created 20 years ago. ADA experts say that a huge source of the problem is the health care system because it discourages disabled people from working. Some people, for instance, need a personal assistant to do their daily activities. That is covered by Medicaid for the unemployed but not by workplace insurance providers. This creates an incentive to NOT work because the individual would be losing a benefit by joining the workforce. Creating a welcoming work environment and giving everyone a fair chance at job opportunities is key to reducing barriers. Here are tips to keep in mind when considering job candidates:

  • You cannot require an interviewee to take a medical examination before making a job offer. However, employers can inquire about the physical ability to perform certain functions required by the job.
  • Keep written job descriptions to avoid potential discrimination suits.
  • Make accommodations for disabled employees such as restructuring a job, modifying a work schedule, or providing readers or interpreters. However, if the accommodation would impose an “undue hardship” such as a large expense or an extremely difficult task, the employer is not required to accommodate. The employer can ask the employee to pay a portion of the cost for the accessibility or other accommodation.

ADA Compliance

The ADA requirements for businesses specify a minimum width for each handicap parking space, the location of handicap spaces in relation to the building, and a certain number of handicap spaces given the size of the lot.

The handicap spaces for cars should be at least 8 feet wide and 11 feet wide for van spaces. The 11-foot space gives room for an extendable ramp to come out of the van and land safely on the ground for the person in the wheelchair to exit. There should also be an aisle between the spaces that is 5 feet wide.

ADA compliant parking space size for handicap entry

The handicapped spaces should be clearly marked with a universally known handicap sign and should also be the closest to the entrance so that the disabled person can most easily enter the building.

Given that a company has a parking lot, there is a certain number of spaces required within the lot to service the handicapped. Below is a chart showing how many spaces there should be for parking lots of different sizes.

TOTAL SPACES IN LOTREQUIRED HANDICAP SPACES
1-251
26-502
51-753
76-1004
101-1505
151-2006
201-3007
301-4008
401-5009
501-10002% of total spaces
1001 and up20, plus 1 for each 100, or fraction thereof, over 1000

To make sure that entryways are easily accessible, wheelchair ramps should be put in place whenever there are steps leading to the door. At least one entrance needs to be handicap-accessible, and there should be clear signage to indicate the location of the accessible entrance. Here are a few ramp specifications to comply with ADA regulations:

  • Ramps should have a slope that is no steeper than a 1:12 ratio, meaning that for every inch of rise in door height, 12 inches of ramp run are need. For example, if the door is located 26 inches above the ground, a 26-foot ramp is required.
  • Handrails are required for any ramp that is steeper than the 1:20 ratio.
  • A resting platform is required every 30 feet of ramp run. For a 34-foot ramp, at least one resting platform is necessary.
  • If you do not have room for a ramp, a mechanical lift should be installed.
  • If neither a ramp nor lift can be installed, other services such as home delivery or curbside pickup should be provided.

Doorways should be at least 36” wide to make sure that a person in a wheelchair can enter the building. Panel-type handles that require the user to grip tightly, round door knobs, handles with a thumb latch, and turnstile entrances can also make it difficult for people with disabilities to access buildings. Instead of those types of handles, use loop handles, lever handles, or open gates.

In addition to the 36” regulation, if a 180-degree turn is needed to exit an area, a 60” turning space is required. For a T-style turn, a 36” space is required.

Once the person is inside, he/she needs to have an accessible route to goods and services whether it is food in a grocery store or a help desk in a hotel. This route must be at least 3 feet wide to provide enough space for a wheelchair to turn around. It must also be free of items such as vending machines, furniture, display racks, etc.

To make sure that service counters or tables are accessible, they should be lowered. If it is impossible to lower the counter or table, you should provide a clipboard or lapboard. Also, items on the service area should be within reach whether it is a brochure or a condiment dispenser.

ADA compliant aisle for wheelchair
ADA counter height

These are just a few ways that we can start to break down barriers between the able-bodied and others. The goal is to make sure that everybody has equal opportunities within the community whether it is purchasing power at the local store or at a job interview. View the additional resources below for more information on how to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Additional Resources

ADA Ramps for Commercial Applications
ADA Steps for Commercial Applications
EASY ADA Guide for Small Businesses
Guide for Restaurants & Other Food Service Employers
Complete 2010 ADA Guide

Malden Housing Authority - Commercial housing - Upside provided 9 ramps that amounted to 296 feet of ramp and 18 step risers

Types of Wheelchair Ramps

The US population is aging, and disabled people are living longer due to advances in medical technology. The number of Americans with a disability has increased by more than 20% over the last decade, reaching 10%. Around 3 million full-time wheelchair users can attest that this increase is directly related to our aging society.

Wheelchair ramps are required by law to provide accessibility for those who use them. For personal use, there is more than one type of ramp. We’ve assembled the top accessibility solutions for wheelchairs on the market, ranging from portable to permanent.

1. Threshold Ramps

Rubber threshold ramp
Rubber threshold ramp

Threshold ramps can be either rubber or metal and are made to butt up against the lip of a door threshold or a curb. They are typically between ½ inch to 6 inches in height, very lightweight, and can be used on both the inside and outside of a doorway. These ramps are simple, cost-effective solutions for people using a wheelchair, walker, or scooter to maneuver over a small barrier.

2. Folding Ramps

two folding ramps for vans
Tri-fold (left) & bi-fold (right) ramps

Folding ramps consist of either bi-fold (two panels) or tri-fold (four panels) with hinges between each panel. The bi-fold ramps fold over once while the tri-fold ramps has three folds. The folding ramp does not have handrails and is not ADA-compliant, so it should only be used for personal use. It can be used for access into wheelchair-accessible vans, or it can be placed over a small set of stairs that lead into a home.

3. Suitcase Ramps

folded suitcase ramp
Suitcase ramp

A suitcase ramp is a type of folding ramp that has handles for easy transport. Typically, it is between 2 and 6 feet long and can support about 800 pounds. It can lay directly over a small set of steps, making it perfect for home access. It is not ADA-compliant, so it should not be used for commercial applications.

4. Telescoping Ramps

telescopic ramp resting on top of stairs
Telescoping ramp

A telescoping ramp often consists of two separate, narrow channels – typically narrower than 12 inches each – that can extend and retract to fit the desired height. The channels are placed side-by-side and line up with the wheels of the wheelchair. These types of ramps are typically used for access into a wheelchair-accessible van, but they are not ideal for mobile scooters as the wheels are often not in line with each other.

5. Modular Ramps

Modular ramp
Modular ramp

A modular ramp is typically a larger, more permanent fixture than the previous ramps. Still, it doesn’t require a building permit because it can be taken down and reassembled at another location. They are constructed out of ramp sections that are built off-site and then transported to the site for speedy assembly. Aluminum is typically the best material to use for outdoor, commercial wheelchair ramp applications because it does not rust or warp, and it is the most cost-effective option.

6. Permanent Ramps

Wheelchair ramp made out of wood
Wood ramp

Permanent ramps are often fabricated on-site and commonly made from wood, concrete or metal and cannot be moved or adjusted once they are set in place, so a building permit is required. Unlike modular ramps, they are built completely on-site, so the installation and construction time is much longer. These types of ramps are typically used for residences when aesthetics are more important than longevity and code compliance.

Lim, S. (2021). Wheeled Mobility Use on Accessible Fixed-Route Transit: A Field Study in Environmental Docility. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18062840

Ramp Decking Material

California ADA Requirements for Access Ramps

California ADA requirements have its own set of regulations for new construction and alterations to existing structures in regard to accessibility, so ADA ramps will need to meet these unique requirements.

The purpose of the California Building Code is to, “establish the minimum requirements to safeguard the public health, safety, and general welfare” (California Building Code, 1.1.2). Below is a simple guideline for the California ADA ramp requirements that discusses ADA Regulations as well as California Building Code. You can also download the pdf version of the California Ramp Checklist [PDF].

california-ada-requirements-download-icon
Download California ADA requirements

Ramp ADA Requirements

Ramp Width – 48 inches of clear space between handrails.

Ramp Rise – The rise for any single ramp run shall be 30 inches maximum which mean it can be 30 feet long maximum before you are required to have a resting platform.

Ramp Slope – Maximum is 1:12 slope which means 1 inch of rise for every 12 inches of ramp run. Read more about ADA ramp slope requirements.

Cross slope of ramp runs: Maximum 1:48.

Handrail height: 34 inches – 38 inches from the walking surface.

Handrail grip: 1-1/4 inch minimum to 2-inch maximum outside diameter for circular handrails.
*For complete ADA ramp handrail requirements for California, view the California Building Code 11B-505.

Edge protection: A curb, 2 inches high minimum, shall be provided that prevents the passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere, where any portion of the sphere is within 4 inches of the finish floor or ground surface.

California-ADA-Requirements-for-Access-Ramps-illustration
  • Landing width: The landing must be at least as wide as the widest ramp run leading to the landing, and it must have at least 48 inches between the handrails. 
    NOTE 1: Landings at the top of the ramp must be at least 60 inches wide in the direction of travel.
  • Landing length: Each landing must be at least 60 inches of clear length. 
    NOTE 2: Landings at the bottom of a ramp must extend 72 inches in the direction of travel past the edge of the ramp.
  • Landing at a change in direction: 72 inches x 60 inches minimum in the direction of DOWNWARD travel from the upper ramp run.
straight ramp dimensions
california-ada-ramp-turning-platform-dimensions
california-ada-ramp-landing-dimensions-switchback

Landings with doors or gates: All ADA ramp landings with manual, swinging doors or gates in California must comply with maneuvering clearance regulations as well as minimum platform width regulations.

The California Building Code states, “Doors, when fully open, shall not reduce the required ramp landing width by more than 3 inches. Doors, in any position, shall not reduce the minimum dimension of the ramp landing to less than 42 inches.” (11B-405.7.5)

ramp-landing-at-doorway
Types of RowMinimum Maneuvering Clearance
Approach DirectionDoor or Gate SideLength (in direction of travel)Width (in direction of travel)3Parallel to Doorway (beyond latch side unless noted)Exhibit
Front
Pull
78″ (42″ + min. door width1)60″24″4G.1
FrontPush60″60″0”2G.2
Hinge side
Pull
132″ (36″ + min. door width1 + 60″ for space behind the door hinge)60″36″G.3
Hinge sidePush60″60″0″2G.4
Latch sidePull78″ (42″ + min. door width1)60″42″G.5
Latch sidePush60″60″24″G.6
 1 . The ADA states that doors should42″ be at least 36″ wide.
2 . Add 12″ if the door is equipped with both a latch and a closer.
3 . Platform must be at least as wide as the widest ramp run that leads to it.
4 . Only applicable to doors that open onto exterior platforms.
California-Building-Code-ADA-Platform-Size-g1
California-Building-Code-ADA-Platform-Size-g3
California-Building-Code-ADA-Platform-Size-g5
California-Building-Code-ADA-Platform-Size-g2
California-Building-Code-ADA-Platform-Size-g4
California-Building-Code-ADA-Platform-Size-g6

Sources:

2010 ADA Regulations for Maneuvering Clearances (404.2.4)
2016 California Building Code Chapter 11B for Maneuvering Clearances (11B-404.2.4)
2016 California Building Code Chapter 11B for Ramp Landings (11B-405.7)
2016 California Building Code Chapter 11B for Doorways (11B-405.7.5)

Image showing Recommended Platform Sizes

Recommended ADA Ramp Landing Dimensions

ADA Ramp Landing Requirements

  • Landings are required at the top and bottom of each ramp run.
  • Ramp landings cannot have a slope greater than 1:48
  • The ramp landing width should be as wide as the widest ramp run leading to the landing. For example, if you have an 8-foot wide ramp section that leads into a landing and then continues onto a 6-foot wide ramp section, the platform must be at least 8 feet wide.
  • The minimum landing width between handrails is 36 inches.
  • The minimum ramp landing length is 60 inches.
  • If the ramp changes direction at a landing, the landing must have 60 inches clear width and 60 inches clear length. It does not matter if the ramp sections are narrower than 60 inches. If the ramp sections are wider than 60 inches, then the ramp landing must be as wide as the ramp section and at least 60 inches long.
  • When the ramp changes direction at a landing, the handrails cannot intrude on the 60 inches by 60 inches landing area.
  • When the landing is adjacent to a door, it must meet the minimum dimensions as stated above AND the maneuvering clearances depicted below. In summary, the handrails can impede on the minimum landing dimensions, but not the maneuvering clearances.

View our typical ADA ramp layouts that comply with the landing requirements and maneuvering clearances.

Maneuvering Clearances at Doorways

Types of UseMinimum Maneuvering Clearance
Approach DirectionDoor or Gate SidePerpendicular to DoorwayParallel to Doorway (beyond latch side unless noted)
From frontPull60 inches18 inches
From frontPush48 inches0 inches 1
From hinge sidePull60 inches36 inches
From hinge sidePull54 inches42 inches
From hinge sidePush42 inches 222 inches 3
From latch sidePull48 inches 424 inches
From latch sidePush42 inches 424 inches

1 . Add 12 inches if closer and latch are provided.
2 . Add 6 inches if closer and latch are provided.
3 . Beyond hinge side.
4 . Add 6 inches if closer is provided.

Ramp landing approaches

Source: 

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design*

The term ‘approach’ means that the ramp run is angled upwards onto the platform from either the latch, front, or hinge side of the door.

View: entire ramp layouts

Type of UseMinimum Maneuvering Clearance
Approach DirectionDoor or Gate SidePerpendicular to DoorwayParallel to Doorway (beyond latch side unless noted)
From frontPull60 inches18 inches
From frontPush48 inches0 inches 1
From hinge sidePull60 inches36 inches
From hinge sidePull54 inches42 inches
From hinge sidePush42 inches 222 inches 3
From latch sidePull48 inches 424 inches
From latch sidePush42 inches 424 inches

1. Add 12 inches if closer and latch are provided.
2. Add 6 inches if closer and latch are provided.
3. Beyond hinge side.
4. Add 6 inches if closer is provided.

Source: 

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

Our Recommended ADA Ramp Landing Sizes for Doorways

View: entire ramp layouts

L-Ramp Installation in Ann Abor

ADA Ramp Slope Requirements

ADA Ramp Slope

The ADA ramp slope must be no steeper than 1:12 (1 inch of vertical rise to 12 inches of ramp length.) The Americans with Disabilities Act states that these criteria must be met for any wheelchair ramp that is used by the public.

For example, suppose the vertical rise is 10”. To calculate the ADA-required ramp length, multiply the vertical rise (10”) by 12″. Note: once you calculate the ramp length, it is easiest to round up to the nearest whole foot for planning purposes.

ADA Ramp Slope

ADA Ramp Slope Calculator

To calculate the ramp length, you will first need to measure the vertical rise (in inches) to the threshold – the distance from the ground to the bottom of the door that you are trying to reach. Once you know the vertical rise, you can insert that number into the ADA ramp calculator.

Note: Calculations are made assuming that the ground is completely level. If the ground is not level, learn how to maintain a compliant slope on uneven ground


ADA Ramp Landing Requirements

The ADA states that there must be an additional resting platform for every additional 30′ of ramp length. If the ramp changes directions at the platform, the platform is required to be 60″ x 60″. If the ramp is straight, the platform must be at least as wide as the ramp and 60″ long.

Ramp Length
(Inches)
Ramp Length
(Feet)
Platforms
Required
1-360″1-30′0
361-720″31-60′1
721-1,080″61-90′2
1,081-1,440″91-120′3

Once you calculate the required ADA ramp length using the ADA ramp slope equation above, you can refer to the table below to see how many platforms you are required to have. Each additional platform will add 60” to the overall length of the ramp system.

To calculate the total space that the ADA ramp will take up, you must add the required platforms and their corresponding lengths to the required ramp length.

The ADA also states that there must be a 5′ x 5′ clearing at both the top and bottom of the ramp so that people in wheelchairs have a place to sit. Typically, people don’t need to purchase a platform for the bottom of the ramp because the ramp sits on a sidewalk or parking lot where there is already enough space. If you do not have a platform or space at the top of the ramp, you will need to purchase a platform that will add 60″ to the overall length that the ADA ramp system will occupy.


Example: ADA Ramp and Platform Project

Here is a sample project that we will walk through to calculate the total length of the ADA ramp and platforms.

The facts:

  • I have a school that needs an ADA-compliant ramp.
  • The door is off the ground, and no existing staircase or platform system is leading out from the door.
  • The ground is almost flat, but as I move away from the door in the direction that the ramp will go, the ground slopes slightly upwards.

The calculations:

  1. I measure the vertical rise from the ground to the bottom of the door, and it equals 49.75″.
  2. To calculate the length of the ramp at the required 1:12 ADA ramp slope, I multiply 49.75″ by 12, which equals 597″ (49.75′).
  3. After measuring the slope of the ground, I calculate that I only need 575″ (47.9′) to maintain the 1:12 slope. I will round up to the nearest whole foot (48′) to simplify the calculations.
  4. Now I’ll look at the required platforms table above. My ramp falls under the requirements of the second row, so I need to incorporate (1) 60″ x 60″ platform that breaks up the length of the ramp.
  5. I also need (1) 60″ x 60″ at the top of the ramp.
  6. Determine the ADA ramp layout that will fit your application; if you choose a switchback ramp, you will need at least (1) additional platform. For this example, we will use an L-ramp so that it avoids an existing tree.
  7. Below is the ADA ramp layout. In total, the ramp system is 696″ (58′) long.
ADA Ramp Slope Example

Source: 

ADA Regulation 405.2

Image of Wheelchair Ramp installed for Courthouse

Walk Ramp for Industrial Applications

Typical Walk Ramp Layout Drawings:

Typical loading docks are approximately 48″ off the ground, so the threshold height for the exit doors are also 48″. A 48″ threshold height means that you need a 48′ industrial walk ramp to comply with ADA regulations. ADA states that the maximum slope for a walk ramp is a 1:12 ratio; for every 1 inch of rise, the walk ramp must be 12″ (1′) long. ADA also mandates that a walk ramp longer than 30′ must have a resting platform in the middle. Below are two typical layout drawings for a 48′ straight walk ramp and a 48′ switchback walk ramp that both include a 64″x64″ resting platform.

Read 10 Checklist Items for an ADA Ramp.

Switchback ramp
Straight ramp

Aluminum VS. Galvanized Steel Walk Ramps:

Aluminum:

Aluminum’s best-known qualities are its light weight and high tensile strength, which means that it has an ideal weight to strength ratio for industrial applications such as warehouses. It is about one third the density of steel and much lighter than steel. Aluminum alloys commonly have a tensile strength between 70 and 700 MPa, and the range for alloys used in extrusion is normally between 150 – 300 MPa. Tensile strength is the maximum amount of tensile (tension) stress a material can endure before failure, such as breaking or permanent deformation. Tensile strength is commonly measured using MPa, which stands for megapascals. As a point of reference, the tensile strength for structural steel is 400MPa.

When aluminum reacts with oxygen, a thin layer of oxide forms which makes the aluminum corrosion resistant. Some people choose to have their aluminum products anodized which simply means that an extra protective layer of oxide is applied through an electrolytic process. Anodizing aluminum will increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer which will further protect the material from corrosion, especially corrosion due to outdoor elements. This layer of oxide is self-repairing when damaged and provides better adhesion for paint primers and glues than other bare metals. Aluminum is extremely durable in neutral and slightly acidic environments, but corrosion occurs quickly in high acidic environments. High acidic environments can consist of sulfuric pools and geysers along with areas polluted by acid mine drainage.

Steel:

Different grades of steel exist, each with varying amounts of carbon in them. Carbon is incorporated into the iron during a smelting process which involves controlled heating and cooling of molten iron. A higher level of carbon in steel means that it will be harder, but it will also be more brittle. Whereas lower amounts of carbon allow steel to be softer but more malleable. In general, alloys are much stronger than pure metals, so steel is stronger than iron and consequently more expensive.

Iron is commonly used in construction applications and is usually covered with a strong protective coating or buried within other building materials. Why? Because iron alone is not weather-resistant. The surface of the material readily combines with the oxygen in the air in the presence of moisture, thus, creating rust. That is the reason why consumers typically opt for a galvanized product. Galvanization is the process of applying a protective zinc coating to iron or steel to prevent rusting; the thicker the zinc coating, the longer it will resist corrosion. This process will increase the initial cost of the product but will increase the life of the product.

The main concern with galvanization is that the zinc coating eventually develops a natural carbonate on its surface by exposure to the atmosphere and rainwater. The carbonate can become brittle and crusty and eventually split, exposing fresh zinc for corrosion. Since the zinc coating is thin, it can corrode up to the base metal exposing the base to the atmosphere and corrosion as well.

ADA Compliant Logo

ADA Ramp Requirements Checklist

Below are ADA ramp requirements that must be followed in commercial applications so that the public can have equal access to all buildings. Make sure your wheelchair ramp is ADA-compliant.

Ramp Slope

The steepest slope that an ADA ramp can have is 1:12 which means for every inch of threshold rise, the ramp must be at least 12 inches (one foot) long.

If you’re unsure about how to do the calculations, use the ramp slope calculator.

ramp slope

Length

The ramp length is directly related to the height between the ground and the bottom of the door, along with the required slope. For example, the door on your building is 40 inches above the ground. To ensure that your ramp is not steeper than the 1:12 ratio, your ramp needs to be 40 feet long.

Platform Landings

Number of Resting Platform Landings

Following the ADA ramp requirements, the maximum rise for a single ramp run is 30 inches. That means that the maximum length is 30 feet, so one additional platform landing is required for every additional 30 feet of ramp. Why? Because the landings serve as resting areas, the Americans with Disabilities Act determined that after 30 feet of continuous run, a resting area is needed.

Ramp Length (ft.)Landings Required
0-30None
31-601
61-902
91-1203
wheelchair ramp Landing requirements illustration

Landing Size

  • Width: the landing must be at least as wide as the widest ramp run that connects to the landing.
  • Length: the landing length must be at least 60 inches without obstruction.
  • Change in direction: if the ramp changes direction, you need a landing with a clear space that is at least 60 inches by 60 inches.
  • Doorways: if there are doorways that lead onto a landing, see the following ADA ramp landing requirements.
ADA ramp landings must be at least 60" long and as wide as the widest ramp section

Guardrails and Handrails

Clearance between handrails

The minimum clearance between the ramp handrails is 36 inches so that a wheelchair can fit between the handrails with ease. View all ADA ramp handrail requirements, including length, perimeter, location above the walking surface, and more.

Baluster spacing

Balusters are required on ADA ramps to protect against falling. The balusters must not be spaced farther than 4″ apart from one another so that a child cannot slip through the space.

Guardrail

The guardrail, which is different than the handrail, must be at least 42 inches from the walking surface to prevent people from falling over the side of the ramp.

Edge protection

Edge protection is required along the edges of an ADA ramp run and landing. There are two types of edge protection to choose from:

  • Extended ground surface: the ramp and landing walking surface must extend at least 12 inches past the inside edge of the handrail
  • Barrier/kickplate: you cannot have a gap larger than 4 inches between the ramp or kickplate and the bottom of the guardrail.

We get all of our information from the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Image of Wheelchair Ramp installed for Courthouse

Alternative to Precast Concrete Wheelchair Ramps

  1. Precast concrete wheelchair ramps are commonly used because they are quicker to install than cast-in-place concrete ramps. While precast concrete can be a good choice for certain applications, it has drawbacks that could be avoided by using aluminum. A few of the drawbacks of precast concrete ramps are as follows:
  2. Site measurements must EXACT. Precast concrete wheelchair ramps are poured into the mold off-site and then transported to the construction site, so the site measurements need to be exact. Taking perfect measurements doesn’t sound difficult, but construction sites often experience obstacles and door threshold heights can change unexpectedly. That means that if the measurements for the ramp were taken before the door threshold height changed, the measurements will be wrong, and the ramp will no longer fit the application.
  3. Installation requires rental equipment. Precast concrete wheelchair ramps have a shorter installation time than cast-in-place ramps, but precast concrete structures weigh about 150 lbs. per cubic foot which means that special equipment is required to move the sections.
  4. Concrete is prone to cracks. Concrete’s tensile strength is relatively low compared to other materials which means that it is susceptible to cracks. Common types of cracks are settlement cracks and shrinkage cracks. Settlement cracks occur when the building and the wheelchair ramp drop below their original placement height. Shrinkage cracks develop when the concrete is restrained as it dries and shrinks. If the precast for the ramp constrains it while it’s drying, then it is more likely to crack.

The best alternative material to precast concrete is aluminum. Why?

  1. Installation flexibility. Aluminum wheelchair ramps are built offsite which means that height measurements are needed to begin production. However, there is a range of installation flexibility with aluminum; the aluminum platform legs typically have about 4 inches of adjustability in case the threshold height ends up being a little different than the original measurements.
  2. No special equipment for installation. Because aluminum is lightweight, a wheelchair ramp can usually be installed by hand within a day; no heavy installation equipment is required to install the product.
  3. High corrosion resistance. Aluminum has a high tensile strength which means that it won’t crack. It also will never rust or warp. Concrete, along with every other ramp material, experiences at least one of these types of corrosion.

While aluminum may be a little more expensive initially, it will remain intact for longer.

As you can see in the photo above, there is a set of precast concrete steps next to an aluminum wheelchair ramp. The steps have cracks and rust from the handrails while the aluminum is still in good condition. It might be worth it to consider aluminum for more permanent ramp applications.

Precast concrete steps

Related Articles:

How to Measure for a Wheelchair Ramp

ADA Ramp Material

8 Benefits of Modular Aluminum Wheelchair Ramps

Aluminum may not be the cheapest material to purchase, but other material will require expensive annual maintenance whereas aluminum requires virtually no maintenance. It is also easier and quicker to install a modular ramp than to site-build a ramp out of wood. So if you’re looking for a simple wheelchair ramp solution that will last a long time, aluminum is the best material.

Here’s why:

1. Aluminum wheelchair ramps have a non-slip decking that helps wheelchairs keep traction when it is raining or snowing. The ramp material is typically a type of extruded decking with grooves that run from one side of the ramp to the other. These grooves act like tread on the bottom of a gym shoe and help the wheels on a wheelchair grip the surface of the ramp. Other materials such as wood become slippery when wet, so grip tape is required. The grip tape, however, must be replaced every so often as it becomes worn and loses its grip.

2. Aluminum has an optimal strength-to-weight ratio as it is comparable in strength to other metals, yet it is much lighter than all other wheelchair ramp materials.

3. Aluminum’s light weight makes it ideal for wheelchair ramp construction because it is easy to assemble and relocate if necessary.

4. Aluminum does not rust, so it is the ideal material for outdoor applications. When aluminum oxidizes, the layer of oxide acts as another layer of protection against the elements and makes the aluminum even stronger. All other materials will rust, warp, or rot when exposed to the elements like rain or snow. Therefore, aluminum might have a little higher of an initial cost, but other materials will require annual maintenance fees.

5. Modular aluminum ramps have adjustable platform legs and ramp section legs, so uneven ground has minimal to no impact on the levelness of the ramp. Wood and concrete cannot be adjusted once they are put in place, and steel and iron often rust, so the legs may not adjust as easily.

6. Don’t require building permits: Wood and concrete ramps are considered permanent because they cannot be moved or repurposed, so most cities require a permit to build the ramp; the process to acquire a permit can be long and difficult, and may not fit within the timeline of the project. Modular aluminum ramps can be moved or repurposed, so they are considered non-permanent. Therefore, they don’t require building permits which makes aluminum ramps ideal for projects that have a fast-approaching deadline.

7. Modular ramps come in “modules”, hence the name “modular”. The ramp modules, or sections,  are typically 8 or 10 feet long, and they hook onto each other. Assembling a modular ramp consists of connecting one ramp section on to the next and so on, so it is much simpler than building a ramp out of wood. Therefore, the installation is much quicker and less expensive. If you need to modify the layout of your ramp, and it requires more modules, simply order more modules, and install them.

8. You can change the layout of the ramp and the length of your ramp if the application changes. With other materials, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to reconfigure the ramp. Aluminum has a high resale value because it is weather-resistant and has a long life, so once you are finished with the ramp, you can resell it, rent it, or scrap the parts.

What is a Modular Wheelchair Ramp?
[Infographic] How to Measure for a Wheelchair Ramp

Ramp Decking Material

What is a Modular Wheelchair Ramp?

What do people mean when they ask for a modular wheelchair ramp?  The term “modular ramp” is the same as a “prefabricated ramp” which means that the ramp is built in pieces off-site and then assembled and installed on-site. Typically, modular wheelchair ramps are made from aluminum because it is lightweight and can be easily transported and installed. Modular ramps can also be made from painted or galvanized steel, precast concrete, or a combination of metal and treated lumber. Modular ramps that are not made from aluminum are heavy, difficult to install, and do not have as much longevity.

At Upside, we build our modular wheelchair ramp with the following major building blocks:

  • Ramp bases – the walking surface and base structure of our ramps.
  • Ramp guardrails – the guardrail and handrail that attach to the ramp bases. Ramp guardrails are built on an angle, so when installed on a 1:12 slope ramp, the guardrail posts are vertical. Our guardrails never have more than a 4” gap.
  • Platforms – the flat decks we use at the building threshold as a resting platform or a turning platform. Our platforms can be connected to make larger walking surfaces, and our ramps and steps can attach to the platforms when there is an elevation change.
  • Platform guardrails – the guardrails that are attached to the edges of our platforms. These include compliant edge guards for those platforms when installed.
  • Step risers and guardrails – step assemblies that attach to a platform and include a consistent and compliant rise down to the ground along with guardrails and handrails that are connected in the field to the step riser.
  • Miscellaneous legs, connectors, and keys provide the support for our ramp bases and platforms along with a finishing touch to make sure that the entire system is connected and secured properly.

Modular wheelchair ramps allow us to build all our guardrails, platforms, and ramps in a controlled environment, making sure that our product will meet all the nuanced ADAAG guidelines.  Our product is tested for load requirements, and we know that our product can hold a 300-pound concentrated load and 100 pounds per square foot.  The other great thing about the Upside modular wheelchair ramp system is that when the product is no longer needed, we can move the product, reconfigure it and reuse it at a new location while staying compliant.

snow covered ada aluminum wheelchair ramp

Snow & Ice Melt for Aluminum Ramps

Our aluminum ramps have a knurled decking which provides slip resistance in both dry and wet conditions. However, snow and ice build-up on your ramp is a safety hazard and should be removed properly. As you probably know, removal from any metal surface has always been tricky because metal doesn’t react well with salt.

What is Knurling?

Knurling is a manufacturing process that adds traction or grip by cross-cutting smooth metal surfaces typically resulting in a diamond pattern.
extruded knurled stair decking

There are three main ways that we suggest to minimize any safety issues that can arise from weather-related issues.

1. A stiff-bristled broom.

A very simple way to remove any light snow accumulation from the ramp is to use a stiff bristled broom or push broom. The bristles of these brooms are strong enough to remove the snow from the ramp and from the grooves in the decking surface that gives the ramp the grip in the first place. On the actual ramp surface, you will have to push the snow up or down a ramp to a platform or to the ground since the wheel guard at the edges of the ramp will not allow the snow to be swept off of the side. Once the snow is on a platform, it can be swept across the platform and can be pushed off of the edge or through the rails. The key to using a stiff-bristled broom is to push hard enough to get into the grooves of the ramp surface and remove the snow, but you don’t want to scrub the surface so hard that you scratch the aluminum. If the aluminum is scratched, oxidation will occur more quickly.

2. Ice melt that is safe for aluminum.

If the snow and ice are too much for just a broom to handle, you may want to think about some sort of chemical snow-melt. We do not recommend using common rock salt on the aluminum. Typical rock salt will cause a reaction with the aluminum and will eventually cause some pitting, and weaken the structure. We recommend that our customers use a magnesium chloride ice melt. Magnesium chloride will not harm the aluminum, but can be hard to find. Another good option that we have found to be good for use with our aluminum ramps is Melt Premium Enviro Blend Ice Melter. This product can be spread on the snow and ice and will not damage the metal, concrete around it or be harmful to plants or animals.

3. Canopy over the ramp.

Of course, the best way to get out of the snow shoveling and ice melting business is to add an aluminum walkway canopy over your ramp or step.  Our canopy systems are a great way of keeping precipitation off of the ramp. They greatly cut down on the snow and ice build-up and are a great way of finishing off your project.

No matter what route you travel in making sure you remove the snow and ice from your ramps, be safe and stay warm!

Our Services

Our team designs, manufactures, ships, and installs ADA & IBC-compliant stairs, ramps and canopies to fit YOUR custom project. Our experts will work with you throughout the project to ensure your installation is correct to your specifications and code compliant.

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