Accessible Design in Public Housing: NYCHA Staff Training Program

Version 4.0 July 9, 2001

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Edward Steinfeld and Danise Levine, 2001
Additional information Ramps
Section 4.8.2
Techniques for measuring rise 
of a ramp

The easiest way to measure the 
ramp slope is by using a digital 
level. Make sure the level is 
calibrated properly and test the 
slope at at least three places, near 
the bottom, the middle and near 
the top. Use the steepest slope 
as the actual measurement since 
the slope of the ramp can vary 
along its length. 

rampsection1.jpg (10242 bytes)
Use a smart level at 3 different locations
along the ramp to ensure consistency 
and accuracy. Make sure the level is
calibrated properly before measuring. 
Take three readings at each point and 
average the results since readings can 
differ slightly.

Laser sighting tube
Use a laser sighting tube. The rise will 
be the difference between dimensions A 
and B.

Site measurements
Take site measurements. The rise will 
be dimensions B plus A. It is often 
possible to use joints and elements in
adjacent construction, like mortar joints 
in a brick wall or the top of a foundation 
as a datam to which measurements at 
top and bottom can both be taken as in 
the example above.  

Design for construction 

Since ramp slope is difficult to 
control in construction, especially 
with concrete, designers should
specify slopes lower than 1:12 to
insure that construction variances 
will not result in a non-complying


Ramp slope
Figure 1

Is the ramp slope 1:12 or less?


When a ramp has multiple segments, the steepest slope of all segments is the governing slope or the ramp. There is a case where the ramp slope may exceed this requirement. In existing buildings, where there is not enough space to add a ramp with a slope of 1:12, slopes of from 1:10 - 1:12 are allowed for rises of up to 6 in. and slopes of from 1:8- 1:10 are allowed for a rise of up to 3 in.  In a ramp with multiple slopes, a short steep run at the bottom of the ramp that meets theses criteria can be used to gain some extra space. Handrails would not be needed on that segment.

Is the rise 30 inches or less for each run? (see Figure 1)
Unlike slope, this rule applies to each segment (run) of the ramp. A ramp can rise more than 30 in. overall as long as each segment does not exceed this limit. It is also possible to have a segment that has a 40 ft. horizontal projection as long as it doesn't exceed 30 in. of rise. In other words, there can be 40 feet between landings if the slope of the ramp is 1:16 or less. 

Section 4.8.6
Ramp slope
Figure 2

Is the cross slope of the ramp surface no greater than 1:50?

The cross slope of a ramp or walking surface is important because an excessive slope can make using a wheelchair or crutches difficult. There is a tendency for wheelchairs to roll toward the lowest point thus making it necessary to overcompensate on a incline that has a significant cross slope.
Section 4.8.6; 4.5
Example of slippery and 
dangerous ramp surfaces

wood.jpg (25109 bytes)
A typical pressure treated lumber 
surface after just a few years' exposure
to sun, rain and foot traffic.

A simple non-slip surface is 
broom finished concrete brushed
perpendicular to the direction of
surface2.jpg (118868 bytes)
Figure 3

Is the ramp surface non-slip?



Gratings along route of travel

Gratings can catch the wheels of wheelchairs and the tips of 

Long dimension of grating perpendicular 
to route of travel. 

Close up section through grating.

Predominant direction of travel
Figure 4

Is the smaller dimension of grating openings no more than 1/2 inch, and are long dimensions of rectangular gaps placed perpendicular to the usual direction of travel?

Section 4.8.3
In measuring the width of a ramp with curbs, the narrowest dimension, either between curbs or railings is the one that governs.

Various ramp configurations

straightramp.jpg (3432 bytes)
Straight run ramp

levelramp.jpg (3848 bytes)
Ramp with a level in the middle

l-turnramp.jpg (5078 bytes)
Left or right turn ramp

u-turnramp.jpg (7180 bytes)
U-Turn ramp
ramp width
Figure 5

Is the clear width of the ramp 36 inches or more?

Section 4.8.4
Figure 6

Is there a level landing at the top and bottom of each run?


Curved ramps 

circular1.jpg (12761 bytes)
The landing in this example would not 
be within compliance because there is 
not a 60" x 60" area where the ramp 
changes direction. Note also that the handrail extensions should not protrude into the 60" x 60" area.

The landing in this example is within compliance because it provides a full 60" 
x 60" space.
Is each landing at least as wide as the ramp and 60 inches long? (see Figure 6)

484c.jpg (51527 bytes)
Figure 7

Where the ramp changes direction, is the landing at least 60 by 60 inches?


Section 4.8.5

A warped surface makes the wheelchair 
roll towards the inside. Moreover, one 
wheel of a wheelchair will not be providing enough traction to move it forward properly.
It is impossible to make a curved ramp 
that does not have this problem although 
it may not be apparent or present difficulty
if the ramp slope is shallow (shallower 
than 1:12).
Ramp handrail
Figure 8

If the ramp rises more than 6 inches or is longer than 72 inches, does it have a handrail on each side?


Handrails are required on all ramps except those that are very short (less than 6 inch rise or 72 inch length). Such ramps are used as curb ramps and may also be used in other places to overcome slight changes in level. 


Examples from NYCHA buildings

nycharamp.jpg (23869 bytes)
Ramp with handrail on both sides and a continuous gripping surface.

Switchback ramp
Figure 9

On dogleg or switchback ramps, is the inside handrail continuous?


A continuous railing at a landing is one that connects to the railing for the next ramp section without interruption.


nychaedge.jpg (32534 bytes)
Ramp with a 2 inch curb and ballusters
spaced closely together to provide 
protection from falling off. The width of this ramp should be measured at the curb or 
the hand rail, whichever is narrower. 
Continuous handrail
Figure 10
Is the gripping surface continuous?


A continuous gripping surface is one that is not interrupted by the bracket, a post or other object. 


railfitting.jpg (7027 bytes)
Figure 11

Are handrails fixed so that they do not rotate within their fittings?

Figure 12

Is the top of the handrail between 30 and 34 inches above the ramp surface?


There is not a 12" extension because 
the 12" should be parallel with the 
ground surface or ramp and not include 
the curved return. Note that the dimension above is the actual field dimension, not the correct design which is shown at the right. 

There is a discrepancy in UFAS about how a handrail like the one above is to be measured. In the UFAS illustration, the condition above is shown. However, the text indicates that the 12 in. must be level. Usually, the last interpretation is used because it is the intent of the text.  

Ramp extension
Figure 13

At ends of handrails, is there at least 12 inches of level handrail beyond the top and bottom of the ramp segment?

Are the ends of handrails rounded or returned smoothly to the floor, wall, or post? (see Figure 13)

Different examples of gripping surfaces for handrails
Section 4.8.5; 4.26
Diameter of handrail
Figure 14

Is the diameter of the handrail between 1-1/4 inches and 1-1/2 inches?

Does the shape provide an equivalent gripping surface?(see Figure 14)

At wall mounted handrails, is there exactly 1-1/2 inches between the handrail and the wall?(see Figure 14)

Section 4.8.7
Design strategies for edge protection

Edge protection is needed so that
wheelchairs and crutches will not fall 
off the ramp surface if a person 
loses control.

rampwall.jpg (10692 bytes)
Provide a 2 inch curb and handrail on 
one side and a wall on the other.

dropoff.jpg (11034 bytes)
Extend the width of the ramp surface 
beyond the handrail.

rampguard.jpg (9696 bytes)
A ramp with a 2 inch minimum 

rampwalls.jpg (8216 bytes)
A ramp with walls on either side. The
clearance between the handrails must 
be at least 36" wide.

Ramp drop off
Figure 15

If a ramp or landing has a drop off, does it have a 2 inch curb, a wall, railings or projecting surfaces which prevent people from falling off?
Note: Although UFAS requries only a 2 in. high curb, other accessibility standards require at least 4 in. It is good practice to use a 4-6 in. curb because 2 in. is below the height of some wheelchair footrests. It is better for the footrest to stop the chair than the small front wheel. The curb does not have to continue under the handrail extension since the ramp ends before the extension begins.

Section 4.8.8
Figure 16

Are ramps designed so that water will not accumulate on walking surfaces?


Drains should not be placed on ramps or landings. They can be located away from the bottom landing and the landing can be sloped slightly toward the drain to make sure that water drains off and does not puddle.

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