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Guide to the ADA Standards

Handrails [§405.8, §505]

Handrails are required on both sides of ramps with a rise greater than 6”. The Standards do not require lower handrails serving children except at ramps serving play areas, but include a recommended height (28” max.) and separation (9” min.) from the required handrail to minimize entrapment hazards.

Handrail Height and Clearance

Ramp handrail height 34” – 38” consistent height along run (20” – 28” at ramps within play areas.  Recommended where lower handrail for children is provided:  28” max. height recommended; 9” min. separation between high and low handrail recommended

Handrail Continuity and Extensions

Ramp handrail with extensions.  Notes:   Extensions 12” long min. in the same direction of travel are required at the top and bottom of runs (except for inside rail of switchback ramps) to provide support before entering or exiting ramps.  Bottom gripping surface can be obstructed up to 20% of the length.  Handrails must be continuous the full length of run and tops and sides of gripping surface cannot be obstructed.  Extensions must return to guard, wall, or floor.  The 12” min. is measured to the start of the return radius. Extensions with a leading edge 27” high max. can extend any amount from posts.  Those with a leading edge higher than 27” are limited to a 12” protrusion from posts (§307.3).  The sloping portion of handrails are not required to comply with requirements for protruding objects.

Surface requirements and clearances facilitate a power grip along the length of handrails. Handrails can have circular or non-circular cross-sections, but must have rounded edges. The gripping surface and adjacent surfaces must be free of abrasive or sharp elements.

Circular Cross Section and Clearance (§505.5, §505.7)

Handrail circular cross section 1/1/4” to 2” in diameter with a 1 ½” clearance behind and below.  Note:  Specifications for handrails also address the diameter of circular cross sections and required knuckle clearance.

Non-Circular Cross Section and Clearance (§505.5, §505.7)

Handrail non-circular cross section (square with rounded corners) with 2 ¼” max. dimension, rounded edges, 4” to 6 ¼” perimeter dimension, 1 ½” clearance behind, and clearance below that is 1 ½” (less 1/8” for each ½” additional perimeter dimension.  Note:  Non-circular cross sections must have rounded edges and meet perimeter and cross-section dimensions.  Other profiles meeting these criteria are permitted.


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