Building a Wheelchair Access Ramp at Home

Access ramps don’t just help those in wheelchairs and power chairs; they also help mothers with strollers and people using rolling walkers too. Before you begin construction, is recommended you check with your local building department on this issue for your state’s accessibility regulations. It is also recommend that you contact the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on the Americans With Disabilities Act (1-800-514-0301) to obtain a copy of the ADA Handbook or ask for Federal Register, Part III (28 CFR, Part 36, Vol. 56, No. 144, Order No. 1513-91) which gives ramp design specifications and dimensions.

Single-family residences have no ramp width dimensional requirements but a minimum of 36″ clear is recommended. Level landings are needed at both the top and the bottom of the ramp. In addition, a 60″ long landing is needed after every 30″ elevation change. Landings need to be at least the same width as the ramp. If the ramp changes direction at a landing, the minimum landing size is 60″ x 60″. Guardrails need to be mounted along both sides of the ramp, and handrails are to be mounted to the inside. The top of the handrail must be between 34″ and 38″ off the ramp surface. Consider installing a second handrail about 20″ off the ramp surface. A handrail needs a clear space of 1 1/2″ from it and the surface to which it is mounted. Use 2″ x 6″ decking boards and install the short way to provide better traction for wheelchair tires, and install a non-slip surface. The maximum slope of a ramp in new construction is 1:12, but a slope of 1:16 or 1:20 may be easier for a wheelchair user to navigate. A slope of 1:12 means that for every 12″ length of ramp, the ramp will rise 1″.

Door hardware should have a shape that is easy to grasp with one hand and does not require tight grasping and pinching or twisting of the wrist to operate. Use a U-shaped, lever-operated, or push-type handle. The operating hardware shall be exposed and usable from both sides on a slider when the door is fully open, and mount the hardware no higher than 48″ above the finished floor. When installing a handrail, there should be a clear space of 1 1/2″ between the wall and the handrail. The diameter or width of the gripping surface should be between 1 1/4″ and 1 1/2″. If you prefer to design the handrail so it is located in a recessed area, the recess should be a maximum of 3″ deep with 1 1/2″ between the handrail and the adjacent wall. The recess should extend 18″ above the handrail.

These are just a few tips that may be useful to you if you plan on building a wheelchair access ramp for your home. The author of this article is no expert and does not claim to be. However, enough research has been done about the handicap and what can be done to allow them easy access to more places and this author would like to reach out and help anyone who wants it.

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