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.

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. (See Figure A)

  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. (See Figure A)

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. (See Figure A)

  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.

Figure A

Wheelchair ramp diagram labeled with guardrails, handrails, and curb

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.

Figure B

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. 

Figure C

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

Threshold

The bottom of a doorway. 

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