July 26, 2023

33 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Curb Ramps

On this day 33 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, rightfully protecting individuals with disabilities and ensuring they have the same opportunities as everyone else!

The ADA includes 5 titles: employment, public entities (and public transportation), public accommodations (and commercial facilities), telecommunications, and miscellaneous provisions. Title II addresses public services and the importance of making public entities accessible to individuals with disabilities. One element of Title II (and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) is curb ramps at pedestrian crossings.

curb ramps (noun) – a short ramp cutting through a curb or built up to it that provides an accessible route that people with disabilities can use to safely transition from a roadway to a curbed sidewalk and vice versa.

Curb ramps are a small but important part of making the public right-of-way accessible to people with disabilities. They can provide ease of access for wheelchairs, strollers, walkers, bicycles, and pedestrians who have trouble stepping up and down high curbs. Not only is it difficult, but it is also dangerous to cross the street if the sidewalk on either side of the street does not have a curb ramp. As illustrated below, curb ramps are made up of multiple components.

Clear space is the area at the bottom of the ramp, typically 48 inches long, that protects people after they descend from the ramp.

Flared sides bring the curb itself to the level of the street. These are mandatory if people are required to walk across them.

• The detectable warning surface is a distinctive surface pattern of domes detectable by cane or underfoot to alert people of their approach to street crossings and hazardous drop-offs. This is especially helpful for pedestrians who are visually impaired.

Return curbs are used if foot traffic across the ramp is prevented or discouraged, such as when the ramp has non-walking surfaces, like grass, or obstructions on both sides.

• The turning space at the top of curb ramps provides pedestrians room to approach or exit ramps and turn without encountering compound slopes of flared sides.

• The ramp is the sloped section that individuals use to travel up and down when transitioning between the street and the sidewalk.

Lochmueller Group reviews ADA compliance in every design project we do, including installing curb ramps, crosswalks, and pedestrian signals in accordance with the ADA. We understand the importance of making our projects accessible for all of our clients and are excited to continue reinventing our clients' futures moving forward!

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