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Exterior ramp Safe and effective ramps are essential to ensuring the independence of individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. This post will discuss ramp running slope and ramp cross slope requirements that make ramps usable and accessible.  We will also clarify the specific differences in the slope requirements and obligations between the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board’s (MAAB) rules and regulations and the Americans with Disabilities Design Standards (ADA Design Standards).

Cross slope refers to the side-to-side (perpendicular to the direction of travel) slope someone encounters while traversing the length of the ramp.  A running slope is the slope someone is required to travel up or down the distance of the ramp (parallel to the direction of travel).  Running slope involves two dimensions:

  1. The run, or length, of the ramp; and
  2. The rise, or height, that needs to be overcome.

Thus, running slope/pitch is determined by how long the ramp is and the rise that it needs to overcome.

Running Slopes:

Now for some specifics.  Both the ADA Design Standards and the MAAB require that a ramp provide a running slope no steeper than 1:12 (one inch of rise for every 12 inches of run) or 8.33%.  The MAAB specifically states that there are no constructional tolerances on this slope; however, both regulations do have some nuances when it comes to the rise/height to overcome.

The ADA Design Standards allow for a steeper running slope to overcome small rises/heights.  For a maximum rise of 3 inches, the running slope is allowed to be between 1:10 (10%) to 1:8 (12.5%).  For a maximum rise of 6 inches, the running slope is allowed to be between 1:12 (8.33%) to 1:10 (10%).  However, the Design Standards go on to encourage, under the corresponding advisory, that ramps be provided with the least possible running slope possible.   Even a compliant slope of 1:12 (8.33%) can be a difficult slope for someone to traverse and providing a ramp for a 6 inch rise (which would equal about 5-6 feet in length) at a steeper slope only exacerbates the difficulty.

The MAAB allows, for a maximum rise of 3 inches, the running slope to measure between 1:10(10%) to 1:12 (8.33%).   The MAAB does not allow a steeper running slope for anything over 3 inches in height.  As you can see, this is a major difference from the ADA Design Standards, not only in the running slope (MAAB has a gentler slope), but also the height differential to overcome.  The MAAB also requires that the least possible slope be provided on ramps that the space and budget will allow.

Cross Slopes:

The ADA Design Standards (1991 revision) and the MAAB require a cross slope not exceed 1:50 (2%). This grade allows for water to drain while still maintaining a usable surface.  There are no constructional tolerances for this slope.  The 2010 ADA Design Standards now allow, for ramps constructed after March of 2012, a slightly steeper cross slope than it had in the past.  The new Design Standards allow for a cross slope of 1:48 (2.08%).  As you can see, it is not much of a difference, but it is worth noting.  It is also appropriate to point out that the MAAB still requires a gentler cross slope of 1:50 (2%).

In summation, because the MAAB has the more stringent requirements when it comes to the slopes associated with ramps, this standard must be used for compliance purposes.

MOD may provide technical assistance and evaluation regarding ramp slopes. Please contact Jeff Dougan by email at jeff.dougan@state.ma.us or by phone at 617-727-7440.

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Written By:


Assistant Director, Community Services Program

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