How to Install Handrails on a Wheelchair Ramp

Handrails must have sections being longer than the flight of stairs or the sloping part on each side of the wheelchair ramps (Figure 1). They have to be at least 305 mm downstairs and 305 mm upstairs. Above mentioned sections must be horizontal.

Handrails of the wheelchair ramp
Fig. 1 - Handrails of the wheelchair ramp.

The most difficult things for the disabled person are to move across the top part of the wheelchair ramp when moving upstairs and the lower part of the ramp when moving downstairs. It happens, because when moving upstairs the disabled person has to hold on to the handrails located on each side of the ramp and push the wheelchair upstairs with help of abrupt movements. When moving downstairs the disabled person slows down the wheelchair holding on to the handrails just in front of him or her.

The surface of the handrails must be strictly parallel the surface of the wheelchair ramp including adjacent horizontal sections. Handrails must have a round shape, smooth edges and bends. The shape and size should provide maximum facilities to take the handrail in arms. Both too large handrails and too small ones are unsuitable. The distance between the handrail and the wall must be no less than 38 mm (Figure 2).

Handrail clearance and horizontal projections below gripping surface
Fig. 2 - Handrail clearance and horizontal projections below gripping surface.

Hand-rails must be effectively and firmly fastened. They must not turn or be displaced in relation to the mounting. Design of handrails must rule out the possibility of traumatizing people. There must not be overhangs able to injure or engage when touching them. Ends of the handrails must be rounded or fast to the floor, the wall or supports. In case of twin handrails installation, they must be joined together. Workers engaged in provision of amenities do not like handrails fasten to the ground. Mud and snow stay long on asphalt because of supports. They also make difficult to clean the territory adjacent to the staircase. Mechanical cleaning of the territory is impossible. In order to avoid these difficulties the end of the handrail can be fixed under the first support of the staircase (in the form of the curve) or close to the top part of the support (in the form of the horizontal loop).

Height of the involved handrail surface must be:

  • For the upper handrail - 900 mm (the handrail used by adults).
  • For the lower handrail - 700 - 750 mm (the handrail used by teenagers and children).
  • Height of the handrails for children of preschool age is 500 mm.

The surface of the railing on the inside of the stairs accessible for disabled people and the handrails surface of the wheelchair ramps must be solid throughout the length.

The grasping surface of the handrail must be interlaped with vertical rods and other structural element or barriers.

Rigid fixation of the hand must be provided for any specific situation in the process of use.

The figure 3 shows an ideal way of handrails installation which meets all requirements of established standards (verify requirements for your country) and can be used both for stair and wheelchair ramps railing. I point out that these handrails must have protruding horizontal sections (305 mm on each side), the ends of separate handrails must be rounded, and the ends of twin handrails must be joined together. A recommendable diameter of handrails is 40 mm.

A sample of handrails fastening
Fig. 3 - A sample of handrails fastening.

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How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp