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Does a wheelchair ramp need a certain slope? 

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2021 | ADA |

The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that businesses need to be accessible to those in wheelchairs well as those with other disabilities. This often means adding a wheelchair ramp, if the business was previously only accessible by stairs. 

But just having a ramp generally is not enough. A ramp with too great of a slope would be impractical and potentially dangerous. This means that the business would not really be accessible to everyone. So what does the government ask for in terms of the slope? 

One inch of rise for every foot of run

First, the degree of slope will depend on a number of factors, including where the ramp is located.  For example, a ramp leading from a parking space to the walkway leading to a building entrance (sometimes called a “curb ramp” may have a greater degree of slope than a ramp located in other areas.  Also, ramps that have proper handrails on both sides may have a greater degree of slope than a ramp without proper handrails.  In addition to the “up and down” slope in the directional path of travel, the side to side slope will generally need to be relatively flat, meaning 2% grade or less.  As mentioned, slope can be measured in a few different ways. But a slope that is not a curb ramp and without proper handrails will generally run approximately at a 5% grade, that’s approximately one inch of rise for every 12 inches — or one foot — of run.

This is certainly much different than what homeowners may use. A 2:12 slope is common and it’s even possible to have a 3:12 slope. But homeowners are not bound by the ADA and only have to create ramps that work in their specific situation. Businesses need to have setups that work for everyone and that provide proper safety, so a much lower slope is required — even though that can take a lot more space to build. 

Even when trying to adhere to the ADA, you could face allegations of violating it when little details don’t fit perfectly. If this happens, you need to know what defense options you and your business have.