For your church to be a place where people of all ages feel welcome, it is important to make it accessible. One step toward improved accessibility involves building ramps at entrances with stairs. These ramps are important not only for wheelchair users, but also for people who have arthritis or who use walkers, crutches, or canes.
Many times, church leaders don’t realize that a building’s stairs are an obstacle until a member of the congregation requires a wheelchair.
Then, the need for one is so urgent that volunteers may hastily build a ramp without consulting local building codes first. Some ramps may lack proper handrails, be too steep, or have slick surfaces.
An improperly built ramp can injure wheelchair users and cause back strain for caretakers. Follow local building codes, state accessibility requirements, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines to make sure your ramp meets or exceeds minimum safety standards.
The following instructions will help you build a sturdy ramp that follows general accessibility recommendations. Consult with local building officials before starting a ramp construction project to be sure that your project will meet all local, state, and federal requirements for accessibility. Also inquire whether you’ll need a local building permit or additional insurance coverage for your project.
One of the first steps in building a ramp is deciding what type of ramp you want to build. Some options include berming, post-and-beam construction, and solid construction.
Next, you must calculate the slope, or how steep your ramp will be. This is a crucial step, because a ramp that’s too steep can be difficult or unsafe for people to use.
A slope is typically presented as a ratio. The first number represents the rise in elevation, or vertical height. The second number denotes the run, or the horizontal length of the sloped surface. A slope of 1 to 24 would have 1 inch of rise and 24 inches of run. That’s two feet of run for every inch of height, a very gradual slope.
When building a ramp, the slope should be no greater than 1 to 12, or one foot of run for every inch of height. Any slope steeper than 1 to 12 is difficult for most wheelchair users to navigate. Electric wheelchairs ascending steep slopes can actually tip backwards because of the weight imbalance caused by a battery pack in the back.
Let’s say that your ramp must reach a platform 30 inches from the ground. If you use a 1 to 12 slope ratio, the ramp should be at least 30 feet long. It could be longer if you desire a more gradual slope or include a landing. A contractor with expertise in ADA construction can help you figure out the rise, run, and slope of your ramp, as well as the amount of space needed for a wheelchair to be able to safely turn on a landing.
Landings are areas on the ramp that are level with the ground. Landings allow a person in a wheelchair to perform tasks like transferring out of a vehicle at the ramp’s bottom, opening a door at the top, navigating corners in ramps that make turns, or resting in the middle of longer ramps.
To allow wheelchairs to move more easily, the ramp’s endings should be flush with the ground at the bottom and with the platform at the top.
When building a landing at the top of a ramp, allow room for a wheelchair user to open a door from the landing. An out-swinging door necessitates a platform of at least 60 inches by 60 inches. If there is no out-swinging door, the landing should be a minimum of 48 inches.
On long ramps, intermediate landings should be added at least every 30 feet to allow people to rest.
When adding turns in the ramp, the following guidelines should be followed:
When building a ramp, it is important to imagine yourself in a wheelchair. Consider how easily a wheelchair would fit on to the ramp and how slippery it could become when wet. To ensure that wheelchairs can fit up the ramp, no ramp should be less than three feet wide. A width of 42 to 48 inches is recommended.
The ramp’s top platform should be nearly level with the doorway. A bump any higher than half an inch can stop a wheelchair or trip a person walking along the ramp, especially if he or she has an irregular gait or uses a walker or cane.
Ramps that may become wet, either from weather conditions or from foot traffic, should have an anti-slip surface. Some ways to increase traction on wooden ramps include adding sand-grit tape, putting down strips of rolled roofing material, or sprinkling sand into freshly applied coats of polyurethane. Non-slip surfaces should be inspected annually and replaced when they lose traction.
To add rough texture to the surface of a concrete ramp, the surface can be brushed with a broom before the concrete sets.
No ramp is truly complete without safety features. These features include handrails, guardrails, and edge protection.
Having a safe wheelchair ramp allows people who can’t climb stairs to participate in activities at church. Use these general guidelines to get started, but be sure to follow any additional rules detailed in your local building codes. By building a strong, sturdy ramp for people with limited mobility, you have taken an important step toward making your ministry a place where everyone who enters can feel safe and welcome.
Thank you for your interest in Brotherhood Mutual. We appreciate the opportunity to provide your church or other ministry with an insurance quote and will reply to your request as soon as possible.
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