Requirements for Handicapped Railings

Handicap railings, the ADA.
••• Sigle Handicapé image by Loic LE BRUSQ from

Since the Americans with Disabilities act was passed in 1990, all handicap railings and hand rails must comply with the law. The ADA outlines specific requirements, ranging from how strong railings must be, to where they must be used. Any renovated or newly built structure accessible to the public is required to have hand rails that meet these requirements.


All hand rails must meet specific requirements, regardless of whether they are used in a bathroom, near a ramp or anywhere else. Rails must be between 1.25 and 1.5 inches in diameter, or such that the gripping surface equals those diameters. When mounted adjacent to a wall, the rails must have a 1.5-inch gap between the rail and the wall surface.

Strength and Hazards

Bars must be able to withstand specific forces and pressures. No bar can rotate in its fittings, and must withstand 1112 newtons of bending, tensile and shear stress. Any fasteners used to attach a bar to a wall or other surface must also be able to withstand this pressure. All rails and bars must be free of any sharp protrusions or abrasive elements, and any edges must have a minimum radius of 1/8th inch.


Handicap railings are required in several areas, particularly bathrooms and on any ramp or stairwell. In bathrooms, rails must be available on any ADA compliant water closet, with one bar located behind the toilet and one located on the wall immediately adjacent. These bars must between 33 and 36 inches from the floor. Any ramp or stairwell with a vertical rise of more than six inches, or a horizontal run greater than 72 inches, must have handrails. Rails must be provided on both sides, and must be between 34 and 36 inches above floor level.

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