What are the ADA Standards for Sidewalks?

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a broad piece of legislation that supports fair and kind treatment of people whose lives are impacted by a physical disability. One of the most important aspects of rulemaking under the ADA is reasonable public access. For example, owners of stores and restaurants should follow ADA regulations when designing the layout of their businesses; this means, among other things, that there should be at least one door that is wide enough for a wheelchair, restroom signs in Braille, ramps that lead to the front of the store, etc.

When it comes to ADA-compliant sidewalks, the following requirements must be met:

Sidewalks should have ramps that either cut through a gutter or else provide a graded access for wheelchair-bound people to get on or off the pedestrian surface. Sidewalk ramps are ideally placed at pedestrian crossings so that people on wheelchairs can easily negotiate their travel in urban and suburban spaces; other places where sidewalk ramps are needed include schools, parking lots, public parks and buildings, stadiums, etc. The responsibility of building these ramps at pedestrian crossings usually falls on state and local governments; however, many commercial buildings are also subject to ADA compliance.

The two main design aspects of these ramps are the slopes and flares. The running slope of the ramp should be as long as possible, which means that it should be at a grade of 8.33 or less. This is a grade of incline that can be comfortably negotiated by people on wheelchairs as well by the elderly and the visually impaired. Ramps should present a surface width of at least 36 inches, and the sides should flush smoothly with the sidewalk.

When building sidewalk ramps in accordance with the ADA, it is important to install detectable warnings for both pedestrians and motorists to alert them of the presence of these features. The most commonly used warnings are small surface domes that are painted bright yellow. These domes can be sighted by people on wheelchairs, and those who live with visual impairments can feel the domes with their canes. Seeing Eye dogs can also be trained to spot these domes so that they can guide their masters to the accessible point of the sidewalk.

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