Curb ramps provide access between the sidewalk and roadway for people
using wheelchairs, strollers, walkers, crutches, handcarts, bicycles,
and also for pedestrians with mobility impairments who have trouble stepping
up and down high curbs. Curb ramps must be installed at all intersections
and midblock locations where pedestrian crossings exist, as mandated
by federal legislation (1973 Rehabilitation Act and ADA1990). Curb ramps
must have a slope of no more than 1:12 (must not exceed 25.4 mm/0.3 m (1
in/ft) or a maximum grade of 8.33 percent), and a maximum slope on any side
flares of 1:10. More information on the specifications for curb ramps can
be found in the Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights of Way.4
Where feasible, separate curb ramps for each crosswalk at an intersection
should be provided rather than having a single ramp at a corner for both
crosswalks. This provides improved orientation for visually impaired
pedestrians. Similarly, tactile warnings will alert pedestrians to
the sidewalk/street edge. All newly constructed and altered roadway projects
must include curb ramps. In addition, all agencies should upgrade
existing facilities. They can begin by conducting audits of their
pedestrian facilities to make sure transit services, schools, public
buildings, and parks, etc. are accessible to pedestrians who use wheelchairs.
While curb ramps are needed for use on all types of streets, priority
locations are in downtown areas and on streets near transit stops, schools,
parks, medical facilities, shopping areas, and near residences with
people who use wheelchairs.
For more information about curb ramp design, see Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access, Parts I and II, by the Federal Highway Administration, and Accessible Rights-of-Way: A Design Guide, by the U.S. Access Board and the Federal Highway Administration. The Access Board’s right-of-way report can be found at www.access-board.gov.