Accessible Ramp and Handrail Design and the CSE

ADA – Accessible Ramps

Ramps are commonly used to transition between levels in the landscape. Regulations associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act dictate minimum standards for ramp design and construction. Ramp design factors are an area that may be assessed on the the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architect. Below are some factors that landscape architects must take into account when designing ramps in the landscape.

Ramp Site Plan Requirements

Indicate location, layout, and slope of all ramps on site plan. All ramps must be made accessible (i.e. those that are to be newly constructed or altered, or are part of the required path of travel). In the construction details, include a 1/4” = 1’-0” scale enlargement of the ramp that represents the actual layout.

Ramp Design Requirements

Ramps must be able to move people with disabilities up and down between levels safely. Indicate the slope of the ramp which cannot exceed 8.3%. The cross slope of the ramp cannot exceed 2%. Provide spot elevations and ramp run dimensions at this location to show how slope requirements are met. Provide and indicate width of ramp at all locations. All ramps serving a building with an occupancy load less than 300 people must be at least 48” wide. If the occupancy load is greater than or equal to 300, the minimum ramp width is 60”.

Ramps need intermediate landings at intervals if the maximum rise equals or exceeds 30” of vertical rise. If ramps change direction at landings, the intermediate and bottom landings shall be a minimum of 60” wide. Provide enlarged detail, showing smooth transition between ramp runs, landings, and existing surfaces.

The ramp surface must be slip resistant.

Ramps must be bounded by one of the following methods:

  • Ramp is bounded by a wall
  • Ramp has a 2” high guide curb
  • Ramp has handrails with a wheel guide rail centered at 3 inches above the finished surface

Guide curbs and wheel guide rails must form a continuous uninterrupted barrier along the entire length of the ramp.

The top landing must be at least 60” x 60” and not exceed 2% slope in any direction.

The bottom landing needs to be at least 72” long and the same width as the ramp. If their is a direction change at the bottom of the ramp, the landing must be 72 inches long and 60 inches wide (minimum). Landing gradients should not exceed 2%.

ADA Compliant Handrails for Ramps

Handrails must be provided for both sides of the ramp. Handrails must be continuous the full length of the ramp run, plus extensions. Inside handrails at switchback or dogleg ramps must be continuous. Top of gripping surface must be between 34” and 38” above the ramp finished grade. Extend handrail 12” beyond the top and bottom of the ramp run. Handrail extensions must be parallel to landing surface. Handrail extension cannot extend into the required width of an adjacent route of travel. Return ends of handrail extension to wall, floor or post.

The handrail surface must be smooth, continuous, and uninterrupted by newel posts or other obstructions. Indicate gripping portion of handrail to be 1-1/4” to 1-1/2” in cross-sectional nominal dimension or provide shape with equivalent gripping surface (i.e. 4” to 6-1/4” perimeter, and 2- 1/4” max in any direction). Handrails must have 1 1/2” clearance from the wall. Handrails may project into the required clear width a distance of 3-1/2” maximum from each side of a ramp at the handrail height.

Provide guards, 42” high, as a vertical barrier along the open edges of ramps, platform, or landings to prevent persons from falling off the open edge if drop exceeds 30”. Indicate that a sphere 4” in diameter cannot pass through any opening at guards (intermediate rails or an ornamental pattern).

Ramps are useful tools for moving people from place to place. If you follow these guidelines for ramp design, your project should make it through plan check without any problems.

For more information on complying with federal and California laws and regulations, visit the California state architect’s office website.


John is a landscape architect who is currently preparing to take the California Supplemental Exam to become licensed in California. He is currently a licensed professional landscape architect in Georgia and Florida. John graduated from California State University, Pomona with a BSLA degree in landscape architecture in 1997 and has extensive practice experience in residential and commercial landscape design.

Posted in ADA & Accessibility Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Do You Want to Pass the CSE?

You are in the right place. Learn what you need to pass the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects the first time. This site is dedicated to aspiring landscape architects who want to get a California landscape architect license. I'll share my research for the CSE as I prepare for the exam.

Feel free to submit a question and I'll do my best to answer it here.

Good luck,

Ask Me A Question

Your message was successfully sent.
Thank You!