ADA Compliance and Accessibility: Wheelchair Ramps

by NateB11

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act, public places must be accessible to persons with disabilities; this includes having ramps for wheelchairs. Find out more.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The purpose of the law is to provide opportunities for people with disabilities, both in employment and leisure, by removing barriers and prohibiting discrimination. Places of employment and business, offices and other public places, must provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities.

This involves many things and the law can be intricate. It applies to buildings constructed after the law took effect, but even owners of buildings built before the act must make modifications that are practical and financially feasible. Also, any accommodation that is possible must be met. This could be as simple as an employee of a store getting an item off a shelf for a person in a wheelchair.

Featured image: Australian Paralympic Committee [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Part of the requirements outlined in the ADA deals with wheelchair ramps. Wheelchair ramps installed at places of public accommodation must meet certain guidelines to ensure they are safe and usable.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has helped people with disabilities to have access to more public places.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has helped people with disabilities to have access to more public places.
viriyincy, Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Wheelchair Ramp Requirements

Wheelchair ramps at businesses, theaters, offices, stores, restaurants and other public places must be safe for, and accessible to, people with a disabilities. Therefore, the ADA has a list of guidelines on how these ramps are to be constructed, to ensure usability and to avoid hazards.

These requirements spell out that the ramp must not be too steep, must be wide enough for access and travel, must have handrails and must have decent starting and landing points and lead to access to a building.

Here are the specifics:

  • For every inch of height (rise) to the ramp, there must be one foot of surface to travel along. This is known as the slope ratio and is meant to ensure that the ramp is not too steep, that the wheelchair will not tip over and that the ramp is not too difficult to climb.
  • There must be a five foot by five foot landing area at the top and bottom of the ramp. This is for maneuverability and to make sure the wheelchair doesn't bottom out.
  • The ramp must be thirty-six inches wide; specifically, there must be thirty-six inches of clear space across the ramp. Obviously this makes it easier to use the ramp, if it is too narrow then it will be more difficult if not impossible to travel on the ramp.
  • There must be a maximum of thirty feet of a run before there is a turn in the ramp. This turn will have a rest or platform to allow for safe maneuvering.
  • If the ramp rises higher than six inches, there must be handrails that you can reach from a wheelchair.
  • There must be curbs, railings or walls along the sides of the ramp if there is a drop-off, to prevent falling off the ramp.
  • The ramp must be designed to prevent the accumulation of water, obviously because water on the ramp could lead to accidents or even prevention of use of the ramp, because of slipping and skidding.
Since the ADA more public place are available to people with disabilities.
Since the ADA more public place are a...

Significance of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act has opened up more opportunities for people with disabilities in the areas of employment and access to places open to the public, including government websites, apartment complexes, theaters, doctors' offices, stores, restaurants and ATMs. People with disabilities have avenues to voice their grievances against discriminatory employers; they cannot be denied use of their working dogs on the bus or at work or in a store; there must be reasonable accommodations made at work and in the community to allow for their free access and involvement in the world: The world has had to take notice, to be more inclusive, and this in itself has helped to improve communities across the country. Buildings are constructed to allow wheelchair access, employers must be cognizant of barriers in the workplace that bar people with disabilities and people with disabilities now can voice their needs.

The tools are in place for social justice and involvement of a diversity of people in the community.

And you just can't go wrong with that.

Updated: 08/06/2015, NateB11
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NateB11 on 08/09/2015

Yeah, I've seen places that are not even accessible. Mostly places are in compliance but you do see many that are not.

blackspanielgallery on 08/09/2015

I have seen many violations, especially the slope. And, er have a ramp at work that was altered the point of no longer being in compliance, At the same time many ramps on the stret have vertical sides that pose a tripping hazard to those not in a wheelchair, and could have gradual sloped sides instead.

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