In 1990, the United States signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides more building access for the disabled. Canada does not have a disability law, but it does have specific disability building codes, also called barrier-free codes, in the Canadian National Building Code (CNBC). Section 126.96.36.199 of the CNBC refers to requirements for wheelchair ramps throughout the country, though some provinces have more stringent restrictions.
Rise and Run
According to the CNBC, a wheelchair ramp must have 1 inch of rise for every 12 inches of ramp, commonly known as run. This makes the required wheelchair slope a ratio of 1:12. Less slope--1:16 or 1:20, for example--is easier for wheelchair users and can be implemented at the contractor's discretion.
A ramp may change directions at various points, but the turns must be either 90 degrees or 180 degrees, according to Wheelchair Canada. If the direction change is 180 degrees, the wheelchair landing to make the turn must be twice as long as needed for a 90-degree turn.
The CNBC requires that ramp width be at least 36 inches, which accommodates most wheelchair and walker users. Width requirements vary depending on the type of access. Because extra-wide wheelchairs are used in some cases, ramps should be slightly wider than the requirement, according to Wheelchair Canada. Some ramps accommodate two-way traffic, in which case the ramp should be approximately 120 inches wide.
A ramp must have a level surface known as a landing at the top and the bottom of the ramp. Wheelchair Canada says the landing should typically be 60 inches by 60 inches. These recommendations are not always followed, even by the government. In June 2010, Parks Canada created a wheelchair ramp that was too steep and had no landing at the bottom. This $500,000 ramp was so difficult to traverse that the NJN Network suggested that only professional wheelchair athletes could climb the ramp.
Barriers and Railings
A ramp must have handrails if the run of a ramp rises more than 6 inches or if a projection extends 72 inches horizontally or more, according to Wheelchair Canada. This handrail should extend to the landings as well. It is recommended, though not required, that a barrier at least 2 inches high be placed along the edges of the ramp.