Curb Ramps

In reviewing properties under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, we often see issues with curb ramps. These short ramps link the accessible parking spaces to the sidewalk system, and also serve to provide a safe crossing of the vehicular path by the accessible route. Let’s look at these two conditions, and the issues associated with each. First, let’s discuss the curb ramp linking an accessible parking space to the sidewalk system on the site. The pedestrian route issue we’ll save for my next blog.

When accessible parking is provided, there are a couple of ways to link the parking space and its’ access aisle to the sidewalk system and pedestrian accessible route for the property. One I’ve seen used is to have the asphalt continue beyond the parking area to form the sidewalk, and to place concrete parking wheelstops to define the edge of parking and edge of the “sidewalk”. If you picture this arrangement, the parking wheelstops do just that: they stop the WHEEL of the car. Which means, up to 2’ of the vehicle will overhang into the sidewalk they created. If only a 3’ wide space was left for the sidewalk, there is now no “accessible route”, because the walkway has been reduced from 3’ to 1’ by the overhang of the parked car. The correct solution is to provide a minimum of 5’ of asphalt beyond the wheelstop, so that when the car’s overhang reduces the “sidewalk” width, it remains greater than 3’ wide. In this design, the “curb ramp” is the level space between the wheelstops, linking access aisles to the sidewalk system.

The most common arrangement is to have a 6” high concrete curb define the parking and sidewalk. The same overhang issue can exist here. Again, a 5’ width sidewalk, or a 2’ wide grass strip between parking and a 3’ wide sidewalk will accommodate the vehicle’s overhang and provide width for an accessible route. With a curb, a short curb ramp or curb cut can be used to access the sidewalk system from parking. The best solution for wheelchair users may be to lower the whole sidewalk to the level of the asphalt. In this arrangement, the wheelchair user transfers from the car to his chair, rolls across the level access aisle onto the sidewalk, and then turns left or right to ramp up the sidewalk system.

A “projecting ramp”, where the ramp extends out into the parking area, is sometimes seen. This would interfere with the “levelness” of the access aisle, and cannot be counted as part of the access aisle. Remember, the access aisle must be level it’s full length. Placing a projecting ramp anywhere into this space eliminates it as an access aisle. You don’t know where along the access aisle the transfer into the wheelchair will be made. If a van pulls “head in”, the transfer may take place at the “front” of the access aisle. If the van backs in, at the “rear” of the aisle. If a car is used (or the side door of a van), the transfer is made somewhere in the middle. Projecting ramps are the least effective / accessible solution.