How to Build an ADA Ramp


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. It represented a shift in our national posture toward individuals with different abilities, and was designed to discourage discrimination against them. Some of the changes are obvious, even to people who are not immediately impacted by physical disability. Wheelchair lifts on public buses and accessible restroom stalls are now standard. Most common are wheelchair accessibility ramps, now required on every public building. Bringing your building up to code, or just providing equal access to individuals with special needs, requires a bit of planning and construction.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet access
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Building materials; wood, metal, or concrete
  • Railing
  • Read the ADA guidelines and requirements for ramps. The most important requirement regards the slope of the ramp. A slope of 1:12 is the minimum requirement. This means for every inch of height, your ramp needs 12 inches of length. A less severe slope of 1:20 is better for ease and accessibility.

  • Study the legal requirement regarding landings and handrails, two other aspects of ADA ramps mandated by the act. Landings must have space for a person in a wheelchair to turn, and the minimum allowed landing size is 5 foot square.

  • Measure your space. Using your tape measure, be sure that you will have enough room to meet the slope and landing requirements for your ramp. Mark these out with your chalk line.

  • Choose your construction materials. If the ramp is only temporary, plywood reinforced by planks will be sufficient, but this is not a good long-term design as the wood will eventually warp. Pre-made metal options exist, but are more expensive. Concrete is a good permanent and low-budget option.

  • Begin construction. For a permanent ramp, build a wooden frame and pour concrete. Smooth at the appropriate slope, and set in your handrails.

  • Once the concrete has set, remove your frame. Make sure to sand or smooth the bumps that would make wheelchair use difficult.

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  • Photo Credit Raimund Koch/Photodisc/Getty Images
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