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Last edited 30 Jan 2018
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:
- The appropriate steepness, length and width.
- The distance between landings.
- Likely users and the mode of assistance they are likely to require.
- Surface materials.
- Approach and access onto the ramp.
- The position of handrails and barriers.
- Placement of door handles and the swing direction of doors.
- Impact of a ramp on available space, existing trees, vegetation, and so on.
- Compliance with the building regulations.
- The availability of alternative means of access.
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.'
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|
 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.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Accessibility in the built environment.
- Access and inclusion in the built environment: policy and guidance.
- Access consultant.
- Access control in buildings.
- Approved Document K.
- Approved Document M.
- Disabled access lifts.
- Equality Act.
- Gently sloping.
- Hazard warning surfaces.
- Inclusive design.
- Landings in buildings.
- Lifting platform.
- Older people.
- People with disabilities.
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