Last edited 21 Aug 2019

 Introduction

Ramps are sloped pathways used both inside and outside buildings used to provide access between vertical levels. Ramps provide an alternative to stairs for wheelchair users, people with mobility issues and people with prams, bicycles and other wheeled items.

The gradient, slope or steepness of a ramp is the angular relationship between its rise (vertical height) and its horizontal projection or length (run), often expressed as a ratio. The rise may be set at a unit of one, so that, for example, a slope of 1:20 means that as each dimensional unit of height rises or falls, the dimensional unit of length runs out by 20 units. A ramp that has too steep a slope will prove difficult for people to use and could even be unsafe, whilst a ramp with too shallow a slope can require excessive length.

There are a wide range of issues that must be considered in the design of ramps, including:

 Regulations

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Approved Code of Practice and guidance states:

'Regardless of their disability, people should be able to gain access to buildings and use the facilities. This could mean that an employer may need to make some changes to a building or premises to take account of the disabled person's needs.'

The buildings regulations Approved Document M (Access to and use of buildings) requires that 'reasonable provision shall be made for people to: a) gain access to; and b) use the building and its facilities.' It also states that 'where the gradient of the approach, whether over its whole length or in part, is 1:20 or steeper, that part of the approach should be designed as ramped access.'

In all cases, it is recommended that stair access also be provided as ramps are not necessarily convenient for all people, even those with mobility issues.

Where the total rise between levels is greater than 2 metres, an alternative means of access for wheelchair users should be made available, such as a lift.

The gradient of a ramp and its going (horizontal distance) between landings must be in accordance with the following table:

 Max. going of ramp Max. gradient Max. rise 10m 1:20 500mm 9m 1:19 473mm 8m 1:18 444mm 7m 1:17 411mm 6m 1:16 375mm 5m 1:15 333mm 4m 1:14 285mm 3m 1:13 230mm 2m 1:12 166mm

 External ramps

Approved Document M sets out the following requirements for external ramps:

• Gradients should be as shallow as is practicable.
• The surface should be firm and even.
• Stairs should also be provided as adverse weather conditions can increase the risk of slipping on a ramp.
• Landings should be at least 1.2 metres long at both the foot and head of the ramp.
• Support in the form of handrails should be provided on both sides of the ramp.
• The approach to the ramp should be clearly marked.
• Flights should have a going of less than 10 metres and a rise of less than 500 mm.
• The surface width of a ramp between walls, upstands or kerbs must be at least 1.5 metres.
• The surface of the ramp must be slip resistant and of a colour that contrasts visually with that of the landings. However, the frictional characteristics of the ramp and landing should be similar.
• Landings should be provided as passing places (at least 1800 mm wide x 1800 mm long) when it is not possible to see from one end of the ramp to the other, or where the ramp has 3 or more flights.
• All landings should be level, subject to a maximum gradient of 1:60 along the length, and a maximum cross-fall gradient of 1:40.

 Internal ramps

The design considerations for internal ramps are the same as those above for external ramps, excluding issues relating to the external environment.

Steps should be provided as well as a ramp unless one of the following criteria can be fulfilled:

• The ramp is sufficiently short.
• The ramp has a shallow gradient.
• The rise is no more than the minimum that can be provided by two risers.