Finding or Modifying an Accessible Home
Wheelchair Ramp and Walkway Requirements
"What kind of ramps or walkways should we include in our new home, in order for it to be fully wheelchair accessible?"
Some homebuyers ask this question because a family member currently needs wheelchair accessibility. Some are buying a home for their retirement and want to include some "aging in place" features, like an entry or walkway that will be able to accomodate a scooter or wheelchair in the years ahead if needed.
What Types of Requirements are there for Ramps and Walkways?
There are two specific sets of ramp and walkway requirements. One is maintained by the ADA, and the other is specified by the VA for Specially Adapted Housing (SHA) for disabled veterans.
Both have very similar requirements, but the SAH does have a slightly more stringent set.
Should There Be an Additional Exit?
Here's what you should look for:
Number and Location: Two means of entrance and exit.
There should be at least two means of ingress and egress - two ramps or walkways at different locations within the home.
To meet Specially Adapted Housing requirements, one of these entrances must provide a direct exit from the adaptive bedroom area, and of course be clear of any potential fire hazards.
Installation: Accessible Ramp or Walkway in New Homes
The ramp or walkway must:
- Be permanently installed.
- Be a minimum 48" wide (or 42" if the hard surface walkway already exists)
- Have a low curb or guardrail on both sides of the ramp with a maximum height of 5 inches, which is designed to provide drainage at the bottom of the curb.
Height and Width: Accessible Ramp or Walkway in New Homes
- The platform at the doorway of the ramp or walkway must be of equal height to the interior house floor.
- The minimum width of the ramp or walkway is 42" from the inside of one handrail to the inside of the other handrail.
Slope: Accessible Ramp or Walkway in New Homes
The slope requirement can be one of the hardest to fulfill. Homes with high crawlspaces can be especially challenging. The ramp or walkway must have a slope of 8 percent or less. This means that each one inch of height should equal 12.5 inches of length. Thus a doorway which is one foot off the ground (and normally has one to two steps to access it) will require a ramp no less than 12.5 feet in length.
For specially adapted housing, the driveway should comply with the same slope requirements whenever possible.
Surface Treatment: Accessible Ramp or Walkway in New Homes
The ramp or walkway must be treated to prevent slipping when wet, which can include:
- Broom finish for concrete surfaces
- 1/4 spacing between decking boards
Handrail: Accessible Ramp or Walkway in New Homes
Any qualifying ramp must have a handrail, which must fulfill these requirements:
- Have a maximum height of 30"-34" (SAH - maximum height is 30")
- Have a minimum of 1-1/4" and maximum of 1-1/2" diameter (SAH - miniumum of 1-1/2")
- Have a minimum of 1-1/2" to a maximum of 2" clearance from any mounting surface
- Be smooth and continuous
- If necessary, extend a minimum of 1 foot beyond both ends of any stair or ramp
Platforms and Landings: Accessible Ramp or Walkway in New Homes
Platforms and landings must:
- have a minimum clear area of 5' by 5'
- be provided at any wheelchair entrance
- be constructed of non-slip materials
- include a clear area of 1'6" in width beside the door on the side opposite the hinges
- be provided at minimum every 30' along the ramp
- be provided at any 90 degree turn in the ramp
- be reasonably level with provision for drainage and
- be unobstructed
ADA ramp and walkway requirements are quite specific for commercial buildings and establishments, but not as clear for single family homes. But this overview of common ADA requirements for ramps, and Specially Adapted Housing ramp and walkway requirements, should help determine construction guidelines.
What is the most cost effective way to build a home with ramps and walkways?
Each home is different, and the height of the foundation, the slope of the lot, and the location of the entrances and exits will all determine the total length of ramp needed, and the cost of that ramp or walkway. In some cases, choosing a slab on grade foundation rather than a crawlspace foundation can eliminate some need for ramps - but again, the condition and slope of the lot will influence the type of foundation. In the Raleigh area, many lots are rolling to some extent.
Ask your builder if they can make your new home wheelchair accessible, and if so, what type of foundation and walkways or ramps they recommend as the most cost effective combination.
And if you're a veteran, active duty, or retired military, ask about "Stanton Homes for Heroes" - Military Discounts on New Homes.