Every location is different with uniquely configured entrances, but all have one thing in common: the entrance needs to be easily accessed.
Having structures such as aluminum ramps in place improves the lives of those around us who may have mobility difficulties and rely on wheelchairs or walkers. Even commercial workspaces benefit from ramps to safely and effectively move equipment and deliveries.
In some cases, a ramp needs to be installed to overcome a series of steps that lead up to an entrance. In other cases, a ramp needs to be installed up to a loading dock to offer ease of loading and unloading in and out of the building.
Building a ramp for your business so customers can easily visit will require you to follow ADA ramp size guidelines. Ramps for residential or industrial use may have more flexibility in sizing depending on the intent. It’s always best to check on any requirements as they vary at local and federal levels.
No matter the application or specifications for your location, there are a few simple steps that you’ll want to follow to determine the proper size of ramp that you’ll need:
- Total vertical rise you need to overcome, often the straight height from the ground level to the top step.
Example: If you are trying to bypass a set of stairs, measure from the top step straight down to the ground
- Available distance for the ramp to run without obstruction measuring straight out from the highest point. The highest point is usually a porch, platform, or stoop.
- Usable width of the surrounding area
Example: The width of the entrance or doorway where the ramp will start
In a couple of sentences below, we will talk about ADA recommendations, but it’s important to research your local building and accessibility codes. Local codes differ by state, region, and even city. These may even vary based on the age and type of building or business, as certain things are grandfathered and have a different standard. Always do your research to determine which requirements apply to your situation.
Now, on to ADA guidelines.
For commercial occupied use, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommends a 1:12 slope. This means that every 1” of the vertical rise you need to overcome, there needs to be at least 1 foot (12”) of ramp length. This equates to 5 degrees of incline. The reason for this is that a steeper incline becomes more difficult for someone with a disability to navigate, making the ramp as much of a burden as stairs. Handicap ramp size will vary for widths but should be sufficient for even a broader wheelchair or motor scooter to easily fit.
For more ADA guidelines, as well as the detailed definition of what’s considered commercial occupied use, you can read more here.
Calculating ramp size for wheelchair use sounds tricky, but it’s actually the easy part!
Enter the dimension you recorded in step one for vertical rise, and select the desired slope ratio (again, ADA recommends 1:12) into our incline calculator, and it will give you the minimum ramp length required for the location. By plugging in the vertical measurement, the calculator gives you a quick answer for exactly how much ramp you’ll need based on the selected incline ratio.
Make sure you have enough space for the ramp length required. Compare the available distance you measured in step one with the run length value provided in the incline calculator results. Don’t forget, a ramp does not have to be completely straight—the modular nature allows for you to set up a U-turn when needed. This lets you have sufficient length in a more compact area.
You will also want to ensure there’s enough space for the width of the ramp and any platforms that will be incorporated into the system. Determine the ramp width you will need, along with the platform size based on the available space you measured for in step one. For commercial ramps, be sure any equipment that will be going up and down is accounted for in your calculations.