2.1.2 Ramps

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Where steps cannot be avoided or slopes cannot be made less steep, ramps improve access for people using Definition:mobility aids or pushing delivery carts or strollers. Elements such as the steepness of the ramp, space for turning at landings, and handrail design are important features in a ramp’s safety and function.

Handrails are a key element in the usability and safety of ramps. They provide a secure handhold and are especially important for those with stamina issues or poor balance. They also provide an important orientation cue. Horizontal extensions at the tops of ramps give notice of an upcoming change in level and offer stability before using it. Horizontal extensions at the base of ramps provide notice to the user that they have reached the end and may guide users around a landing to the next segment of the ramp.

The shape of the rail, mounting height and continuity are key components for the usability of handrails.

The steepness of ramps is often expressed as a ratio such as 1:15 (6.7%). The first number relates to the rise in elevation and the second number expresses the horizontal distance. For example, designing to a 1:15 (6.7%) slope would mean for every one unit vertically the ramp would need to extend 15 units horizontally. A walkway sloped at 1:20 (5%) used to overcome a 200 mm high step, would need to extend 4,000 mm.


The requirements of this Section apply to newly-constructed and redeveloped ramps in public spaces, except those located in a barrier-free path of travel, which are under the jurisdiction of Ontario’s Building Code. Examples include routes within a site to barrierfree entrances, passenger loading zones and parking lots with barrierfree parking.

Requirements for the Design of Ramps

Firm, stable, and slip resistant. For slip resistance values, refer to Appendix G.
Clear width
Minimum of 900 mm
Running slope
Not steeper than 1:15 (6.7%)
  • Locations: At the top and bottom of the ramp, at abrupt changes in the direction of the ramp, and at horizontal intervals not greater than 9 metres apart.
  • Size: Minimum 1,670 mm x 1,670 mm. Landings on a straight ramp must be a minimum of 1,670 mm in length and at least the same width of the ramp.
  • Cross slope: Maximum 1:50 (2%).
Surface openings, including horizontal openings, in a ramp or its landings
Openings must not allow passage of an object more than 20 mm in diameter and any elongated openings must be oriented perpendicular to the direction of travel.
Provide handrails on both sides of ramps, including at landings, and ensure they:
  • Are continuously graspable along the entire length.
  • Have cross-section with an outside diameter of between 30 mm and 40 mm if they are circular. Non-circular shapes must have a graspable portion with a perimeter between 100 mm and 155 mm and a diameter not more than 57 mm.
  • Are between 865 mm and 965 mm high, measured vertically from the surface the ramp and its landings.
  • Terminate in a way that will not obstruct pedestrian travel or create a hazard.
  • Extend horizontally 300 mm, at minimum, beyond the top and bottom of the ramp.
  • Have a clearance of 50 mm, at minimum, from any wall to which they are attached.
  • Will withstand the loading values obtained from the non-concurrent application of a concentrated load not less than 0.9 kN applied at any point and in any direction and a uniform load not less than 0.7 kN/metre applied in any direction to the handrail.
Handrails that do not meet the requirements may be installed in addition to the required handrails.

Provide intermediate handrails where a ramp is wider than 2,200 mm. these handrails must be continuous between landings, located so that there is no more than 1,650 mm between handrails and meet the requirements for handrails listed above.
Walls or guards
Provide a wall or guard on both sides of a ramp.

Where there is a guard:
  • The top of the guard must not be less than 1,070 mm above the ramp surface (measured vertically). Both a guard and edge protection may be required if there is a gap between the guard and the ramp surface of more than 50 mm.
  • Should be designed so that no element, attachment or opening located between 140 mm and 900 mm above the ramp surface will facilitate climbing.
Edge Protection
Use edge protection where no solid enclosure or solid guard is provided, or where it does not extend within 50 mm of the finished ramp surface. Protection may be:
  • A curb: Minimum 50 mm high, or
  • Railings or other barriers: extending to within 50 mm of the finished ramp surface.

Better Practice Considerations

Clear width
A minimum clear width of 1,100 mm will better accommodate larger wheelchairs and scooters, as well as people who cannot control their mobility aids precisely. Widths of more than 1,200 mm will not allow the use of both handrails at the same time, which would make it difficult for some people with disabilities to use the ramp.
Running slope
Consider using a slope ratio greater than 1:15 (6.7%)to help users more easily navigate and maintain control when descending.
  • Size: Larger landings will better-accommodate larger wheelchairs and scooters. A 1,800 mm x 1,800 mm landing will accommodate most manual wheelchairs and some powered wheelchairs and scooters. A 2,400 mm x 2,400 mm landing will accommodate most wheelchairs and scooters.
  • Providing a high tonal contrast band, minimum 50 mm deep, across the width of the ramp at the top and bottom of each ramp segment will enhance safety by emphasizing the transition from the sloped surface to the level landing. The tonal contrast band should be located on the sloped surface — not on the landing.
  • Consider using a tonal difference with at least 70% light reflectance value (LRV). Refer to Figure for further details on measuring LRV.
  • Height: Providing a second, lower handrail 600 mm - 750 mm above the surface of the ramp will enhance usability and safety for children, and other people of small stature.
  • Shape: Consider providing round handrails as they are easier to grasp.
  • Tonal contrast: Handrails that contrast in tone to the surface they are mounted on will be more visible to all users and particularly helpful for people with low vision.
  • Clearances:
    • Adjacent wall or surface: Consider providing at least 70 mm of clearance to rough or abrasive surfaces, to protect users’ knuckles, particularly people with lager hands.
    • Objects above a handrail: Consider at least 450 mm of clearance to objects that are above a handrail, to provide sufficient space to comfortably accommodate users’ forearms.
Avoid curved ramps if possible, as they are more challenging to negotiate.
Snow and ice removal
Consider the provision of heated ramp surfaces to minimize the risk of snow and ice creating slippery surfaces on an already sloped surface.


Illustrated Technical Guide to the Design of Public Spaces