• Northern California Office: 415-813-9877
  • Southern California Office: 213-557-0215
  • Central Valley California Office: 209-713-3800

Does My Walkway Need an ADA Compliant Handrail?

Does My Walkway Need an ADA Compliant Handrail?

07 Jun 2022 By Admin

When it comes to installing ADA handrails and guardrails, there are three key areas that you need to focus on if your property is going to be ADA compliant. Those areas are stairs, ramps, and landings or raised walkways. An ADA concrete contractor like Protrk Construction can advise you on the steps you need to take to make these areas fully compliant, including having the appropriate ADA handrails and guardrails in place.

Let's take a closer look at some of the ADA requirements for installing handrails in those specific areas mentioned above. Keep in mind this is a general guide, and you should discuss the specifics with your ADA concrete contractor.


If you have stairs, whether it's just one or two risers or a full staircase, you need to have an appropriate ADA handrail in order to stay compliant with ADA regulations. There needs to be a railing on both sides of the stairs. These handrails must meet a number of requirements as set out in section 4.9.4 of the ADA standards:

  • Handrails must be continuous
  • There must be a clear gap of 38mm between the handrail and the wall
  • The grip surface must not be obstructed by newel posts or other construction elements
  • Handrails must be a minimum of 34 inches, and not more than 38 inches from the walking surface
  • Handrails must have a rounded end or be returned smoothly to the floor or wall
  • Handrails must be secured so that they do not rotate within their fittings

Jargon Buster! Is this the first time you have heard the term 'riser' in reference to stairs? If so, allow us to explain! A riser is the vertical component of a stair, while the 'tread' is the top part of the stair that you place your foot on!


If you have a ramp that has a rise of 6 inches or more or the length is more than 72 inches, then it also needs to have ADA handrails installed on each side by a qualified ADA concrete contractor. Curb ramps do not require a handrail. In terms of the actual requirements for the handrails, these are more or less the same as the requirements we discussed above for use alongside stairs. Ramps with drop-offs may also require edge protection, which we will cover below as we review landings and raised walkways.

Landings & Raised Walkways

If any surface features a drop-off, you must take measures to prevent people from slipping or falling off the edge. We call this edge protection. This could be through the use of a curb, wall, projecting surface, or ADA compliant handrails and guardrails. The drop-off height requiring a guardrail is not explicitly set out in the ADA regulations and is open to interpretation. You should speak with your ADA concrete contractor to determine where you need to install them for safety and ADA compliance. As a general rule, many contractors use a height of 6 inches or more since that is the height of a ramp that requires handrails. Some examples of the types of raised areas that may need guardrails would include the landing at the top of a ramp or an elevated walkway used to reach an accessible door. Edge protection curbs on ramps should be a minimum of 50mm high to prevent people from slipping off the edge.

What About OSHA Requirements

As an ADA concrete contractor, we are often asked about OSHA requirements for things like handrails and whether or not it trumps the need to be ADA compliant. OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which is designed to set standards that ensure safe and healthy working conditions. There are occasions where OSHA requirements may differ from ADA requirements. Handrails are an excellent example of that! As we already know, ADA compliant handrails need to be 34 to 38 inches from the ground. The OSHA requirements state 30 to 38 inches. If you were to go for the lower end of the allowance, that would be too low under the ADA requirement.

The good news is that since the two ranges overlap, it is easy for your ADA concrete contractor to satisfy both laws. However, it is important to note that if this was not possible, you might be surprised to find out that the ADA does not supersede OHSA or other federal safety laws. Even if the standard required by OHSA would adversely affect a disabled employee, those guidelines will override the ADA need for reasonable accommodation. Thankfully, there are many instances where it is possible to satisfy both laws and the California building code as long as you are working with a good ADA concrete contractor!


Design | Build | Certified

Why Wait to be "Forced" into ADA Compliance. If you are a public business or public property owner, save money, lawsuits, time and headaches by being prepared and avoiding it all in the first place. It’s time to call in the ADA pros. Use Protrk, an ADA construction expert, to Get it Done Right Prior to Forced Compliance. 

Call 415-813-9877 today or visit www.protrkconstruction.com for more details.


Being involved in ADA design and construction has given me the opportunity to help a lot of business owners and commercial property owners prevent costly ADA compliant lawsuits.

Mike Schaeffer

Owner & Founder Protrk®


Tested & Proven


Working For You


For ADA Compliance


The Right Call

Precision & Quality
Stress-Free Process

  • Step 1 - Third Party CASp Report
  • Step 2 - "As-Built" Drawings
  • Step 3 - Solutions & Value Engineering
  • Step 4 - Construction Documents & Permits
  • Step 5 - ADA Build Out
  • Step 6 - ADA Compliant Certifications