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Exterior rampThis post is a follow–up to our recent post on ramp slope requirements. This post will guide you through additional obligations for width, handrails, length and landings under the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board’s (MAAB) rules and regulations and the Americans with Disabilities Act Design Standards (ADA Design Standards).

The maximum rise of a ramp is not to exceed 30 inches. Therefore the run, or length, of the ramp cannot exceed 30 feet without the provision of a landing. Both the MAAB and ADA Design Standards are the same in this respect.

In Massachusetts, ramps must provide a clear width measuring 48 inches measured between the handrails. The MAAB has a more stringent requirement than the ADA Design Standards, which only require a ramp to provide a clear width of 36 inches.

In Massachusetts, handrails must be provided on both sides of a ramp with both an upper (at a height of 34” – 38”) and a lower (at a height of 18” – 20”) handrail. Again, the MAAB has a more stringent requirement than the ADA Design Standards which only require one handrail on each side located at a height of 34” – 38”.

Handrails must also be:

  1. “Continuous,” meaning that the person should not have to lift his or her hand from the handrail along the ramp run;
  1. “Round or oval in cross section,” to allow someone to grasp the handrails;
  1. Provide “extensions” at the top and bottom of each ramp run, so someone can get to level ground before losing the use of a handrail (there is an exception to not provide the extension if it is a safety hazard); and
  1. If wall hung, shall provide a clearance of 1 ½ inches between the wall and handrail to prevent someone’s arm from slipping between the wall and handrail.

The MAAB and ADA Design Standards have the same requirements with respect to these obligations.

Landings are required at the top and bottom of each ramp run, where it begins and ends, as well as any place the ramp changes direction. For example, if there is a switchback ramp with an initial length of 25 feet before it changes direction, there would have to be a landing at the top of the ramp, the bottom of the ramp, and a landing where the ramp changes direction.

Landings are also required every 30 feet if the ramp is a straight run ramp. Let’s say you have a 32 inch rise to overcome and you have decided to install a straight run ramp. To overcome a 32 inch rise, by the math, will require, at a minimum, a 32 foot ramp (maximum running slope of 1:12 or 8.33%). Landings would be needed at the top and bottom of the ramp as well as somewhere in-between the 32 feet that you were planning. Due to the requirement that landings be the width of the ramp and provide 5 feet of level area, the 32 foot ramp you had planned now becomes a 47 foot ramp in total length: a 5 foot landing at the top, a 5 foot landing at the bottom and a 5 foot landing at the 30 foot mark, ultimately adding 15 feet of additional space.

As mentioned above, landings must be the width of the ramp and level for 5 feet. Where a ramp changes direction, the landing must provide a 5 foot by 5 foot level landing to allow appropriate maneuvering space for the turn. The MAAB and ADA Design Standards have the same requirements when it comes to the provision of landings.

The biggest differences between the MAAB and the ADA Design Standards have to do with the width of a ramp and the number of handrails provided. Most of the other obligations are very similar.

If there are any questions related to this topic, please let me know. You can reach me by email at jeff.dougan@state.ma.us or by phone at 617-727-7440 extension 27316.


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Assistant Director, Community Services Program

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