The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Signed into law in 1990 by George H.W. Bush, it sets standards for access to public spaces and buildings, among many other protections. Within the ADA are guidelines for safe ramps. These guidelines are required for commercial and public properties. While not mandatory for residential properties, each requirement serves a useful function, and National Ramp encourages adherence to these guidelines as much as feasibly possible.

  • There should be a minimum 4×5 flat surface at the door if the ramp extends straight out, or 5×5 flat surface if the ramp is turning. 
    • The purpose of this guideline is to give users and caretakers a safe, level surface to open/shut their doors and turn around before continuing onto the ramp.
    • This level surface may be a porch/deck, and sometimes just a small threshold ramp will be needed to help navigate through the doorway.
  • Ramps should have a 1:12 pitch; so, for every inch of elevation, there should be 12 inches of ramping. This results in a 4.8* slope.
    • This guideline is to ensure the slope of the ramp is not too steep for safe passage. 
    • National Ramp recommends no greater than a 1:8 pitch, and only for users in a power wheelchair or manual wheelchair being pushed up the ramp.
    • Watch this video to learn more about ramp pitch. 
  • Resting platforms of 4’x5’ or 5’x5’ should be included for every ramp run longer than 30’. 
    • This is to give a resting place in case the user/caretaker becomes weary traveling the ramp.
  • Ramps should end on a hard, level surface with a minimum of 5’x5’.
    • This guideline is so the mobility device does not become stuck in muddy or soft ground. Concrete and pavement are acceptable landing surfaces for ramps. Hard-packed gravel can be an acceptable landing surface depending on the individual’s mobility device and their ability to maneuver in that gravel. Grass and dirt are never acceptable landing surfaces. Landing pads are available to provide a safe landing surface where needed.
      Liberty Ramp with Landing Pad
  • Ramps should be a minimum width of 36” for residential properties, and 48” for commercial or bariatric use.

Download our exclusive guide on the ADA and You!

Just knowing the ADA requirements is not enough to guarantee that your homemade ramp will be safe. 

Read more about the dangers of homemade ramps here.

EXCERPT – ADA Code for Handicap Ramps:  

405 Ramps

405.1 General. Ramps on accessible routes shall comply with 405.

405.2 Slope. Ramp runs shall have a running slope not steeper than 1:12.
Advisory 405.2 Slope. To accommodate the widest range of users, provide ramps with the least possible running slope and, wherever possible, accompany ramps with stairs for use by those individuals for whom distance presents a greater barrier than steps, e.g., people with heart disease or limited stamina.

405.3 Cross Slope. Cross slope of ramp runs shall not be steeper than 1:48.
Advisory 405.3 Cross Slope. Cross slope is the slope of the surface perpendicular to the direction of travel. Cross slope is measured the same way as slope is measured (i.e., the rise over the run).

405.5 Clear Width. The clear width of a ramp run and, where handrails are provided, the clear width between handrails shall be 36 inches (915 mm) minimum.

405.6 Rise. The rise for any ramp run shall be 30 inches (760 mm) maximum.

405.7 Landings. Ramps shall have landings at the top and the bottom of each ramp run. Landings shall comply with 405.7.
Advisory 405.7 Landings. Ramps that do not have level landings at changes in direction can create a compound slope that will not meet the requirements of this document. Circular or curved ramps continually change direction. Curvilinear ramps with small radii also can create compound cross slopes and cannot, by their nature, meet the requirements for accessible routes. A level landing is needed at the accessible door to permit maneuvering and simultaneously door operation.

ADA Code
Figure 405.7 Ramp Landings

     405.7.1 Slope. Landings shall comply with 302. Changes in level are not permitted. EXCEPTION: Slopes not steeper than 1:48 shall be permitted.

     405.7.2 Width. The landing clear width shall be at least as wide as the widest ramp run leading to the landing.

     405.7.3 Length. The landing clear length shall be 60 inches (1525 mm) long minimum.

     405.7.4 Change in Direction. Ramps that change direction between runs at landings shall have a clear landing 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum by 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum.

     405.7.5 Doorways. Where doorways are located adjacent to a ramp landing, maneuvering clearances required by 404.2.4 and 404.3.2 shall be permitted to overlap the required landing area.

405.8 Handrails. Ramp runs with a rise greater than 6 inches (150 mm) shall have handrails complying with 505.

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