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A wheelchair ramp is an inclined plane installed in addition to or instead of stairs. Ramps permit wheelchair users, as well as people pushing strollers, carts, or other wheeled objects, to more easily access a building.

A wheelchair ramp can be permanent, semi-permanent or portable. Permanent ramps are designed to be bolted or otherwise attached in place. Semi-permanent ramps rest on top of the ground or concrete pad and are commonly used for the short term. Permanent and semi-permanent ramps are usually of aluminum, concrete or wood.

Ramps must be carefully designed in order to be useful. Many jurisdictions have established minimum widths and maximum slopes. A less steep rise can be easier for a wheelchair user to navigate, as well as safer in wet or icy conditions.

The South African National Standard for Building Regulations

The South African National Standard for Building Regulations state that Wheelchair ramps (or other ways for wheelchair users to access a building, such as a wheelchair lift) are required in new construction for public accommodations in South Africa. They also state that these wheelchair Lifts & Ramps must meet certain regulations & requirements.

People with disabilities should be able to safely enter the building (Ramps) and be able to safely use all the facilities within it – specifically toilets. (Disabled Toilets)

There must be a means of access that is suitable for people with disabilities to use. In addition, access must be available from various approaches of the building via the main entrance and any secondary entrances, and should lead to the ground floor.

There must be a means of egress (a point of departure) that is suitable for people with disabilities to use in the event of any sort of emergency. This relates to any sort of emergency, but in addition, a further clause states that departure routes (or egress) must also be designed in accordance with Part T of the regulations, namely the section that relates to Fire Protection.

Unfortunately many buildings in South Africa were not designed and built to accommodate wheelchair users or the elderly. The owners of these buildings may therefore be challenged by the need to find architects and renovators familiar with accessible design issues in order to make them accessible. There are various Organizations and Companies that can assist with Universal Design and Access to make sure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from any events, services, information, communication, products and venues.

Organizations & Companies That Can Assist With Universal Design & Access

There are now various Organizations and Companies that specialize in Universal Design and Access and can advise you on how to design these Ramps, Stairways & Hand Rails to make sure that persons with disabilities have equal rights and that they are safe for everyone. The National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting specialize in Universal Design and Access to make sure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from any events, services, information, communication, products and venues. These Organizations and Companies can assist in different ways including:NCPD Logo

The National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD): believe that this can be prevented by applying Universal Design Principals during the design phase and they therefor offer the following services to assist:

  • Workshops for architects, developers and other building professionals to develop an understanding of universal design and access.
  • Facilitating access audits for new or existing buildings; echo e-access for the natural and communication environment. Audits are followed by a report indicating shortfalls and recommendations.
  • Marketing of facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities

Contact Fanie Swanepoel or Danie Marais for more information on Tel: +27 11 452 2774 or email them on: or

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Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting: Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting conducts Environmental Accessibility Audits designed to identify environmental barriers that could hinder access for Persons with a Disability. Our consultants will review your site, note potential barriers from a functional and safety perspective, and  propose cost-effective solutions which can be actioned within short, medium and longer term time frames. Our reports are practical in nature, specific in the solutions offered, and allow for ease of use by all. Relevant to all environments, from corporate offices, manufacturing or industry sites, education facilities or hospitality environments, we can assist.

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Inclusive Design: is a company founded on the fundamentals of the South African Constitution and aims to serve as a driver of social inclusion for positive and effective change in the lives of people with diverse human needs. Our philosophy is guided by individual and shared needs of people and not that of special needs. Universal Design serves as a means in which to create and enhance the functionality of environments, services and products, for the widest range of users, recognizing diversity of the human condition. Inclusive Design as a company, recognises the importance of awareness raising and the dissemination of information on diversity and inclusion as an integral deliverable to achieve Universal Access and improving lives.Inclusive Design

What we do:

Inclusive Design serves as a mechanism to audit, review, design, create and advise on adaptations and/or enhancements for the functionality of environments, transport, technology, education, services and operations, and products for all users, to accommodate the full spectrum of human diversity. Inclusive Design specialises in providing practical, sensible advice on issues relating to Universal Access and works on the premise that environments, services and facilities that are accessible to people with disabilities are equitable in the eyes of the law, makes business sense, as well as being easier and more comfortable for all users, irrespective of their functional requirements.


Inclusive Design works with clients to find viable, feasible means of incorporating universal design into their environments, services, facilities and products. In a field of consulting where amateurs are rife and claim expertise, Inclusive Design has gone to great lengths to prove their competency on an international level. Headed by a consultant who is the highest certified Universal Access Consultant in South Africa, as verified by IAAP (International Association of Access Professionals) and with a plenary of examples and experience, Inclusive Design delivers, on time with exceptionally detailed results and recommendations. We put effort into making reports and findings legible, easy to understand and implementable to enable clients to positively affect change to becoming universally accessible and inclusive.


Inclusive Design

Image Courtesy of Inclusive Design

Universal Access Consulting:

Consulting serves to advise clients on the options, requirements and areas where Universal Access can and should be achieved. With experience and knowledge of both South African building regulations for Persons with Disabilities, supporting equality legislation and international access requirements, Inclusive Design makes for the perfect collaborator to achieve Universal Access. Our consulting services serve to impart knowledge with clients on aspects, features and implementation of Universal Access to increase awareness of the requirements of people with disabilities as well as the broader range of beneficiaries including, pregnant women, people with young children, elderly people and people with temporary disabilities or recovering from surgery.

As part of our consulting services we also offer specific research, skills transfer and mentorship related to Universal Access and assist our clients wherever possible to progress towards a viable, feasible and desirable means of implementation to achieve equality. In line with the social model of disability, our emphasis has shifted away from the concept of being ‘disability’ focused, to that of being focused on ‘Universal Access’, which acknowledges that the benefit thereof goes beyond the classification of people with disabilities. Universal Access Consulting can take place in numerous fields, including:

  • built environment (architecture and planning)
  • systems, services and operations
  • marketing, communication and information sharing (online, print media and presentations)
  • transport and all associated and supporting infrastructure and systems
  • Policy development, reviews and updates

Universal Access Auditing:

Universal Access Consulting

Image Courtesy of Inclusive Design

Auditing is the examination or inspection of various aspects of the environment, service, facility or product to determine compliance with local and/or international requirements. Audits are conducted through physical inspection and are followed by reports to indicate short-falls, areas of improvement and areas of non-compliance. Universal Access Auditing is largely conducted in the built environment in South Africa, where SANS 10400 Part S (2011): Facilities for Persons with Disabilities is the deem to satisfy requirement, which is supplemented with ISO21542 in areas where more details are required or environments which are more specialised. This process is detailed, and the audit is conducted meticulously and often includes discussions with users of the facility regarding usability, which leads to a custom report with bespoke recommendations for both built infrastructure and operations.

Inclusive Design also offers companies an advantage through a proprietary Universal Access Application™ which enables large areas of the built environment to be audited in a systematic, accurate, thorough and detailed process (for example: a campus). Saving clients time and money as the UA App captures vast amounts of data, with measurements, photo evidence and SANS 10400 Part S (2011) compliance in an easy to read, tabulated format, in a matter of days. This process conventionally takes a vast number of human hours to capture, process and write-up by a highly experience UA Auditor, but with the Universal Access App™ it is simplified, quickened, accurate and unbiased. 

Universal Access Auditing can take place in numerous fields, including:

  • built environment (architecture and planning)- with the UA App™
  • systems, services and operation
  • marketing, communication and information sharing (online, print media and presentations)
  • transport and all associated and supporting infrastructure and system
  • policy and implementation plans

Universal Access Awareness:

Universal Access Audits & Reviews

Image Courtesy of Inclusive Design

The Great Father of our Nation, Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is our belief, at Inclusive Design, that by teaching principles of good design, that we can make a significant impact upon our society. It is therefore always a recommended deliverable in our work to transfer skills and educate others on Universal Design and Universal Access. The capacitation of more people with the knowledge and understanding of the value that inclusive design offers to staff, clients and society, is part of our vision and what we strive to achieve. What we term Universal Access Awareness, can be customised to the clients’ needs, and can vary from an introductory presentation to an in-depth training session on specific aspects. Universal Access cannot be achieved without at least the basic understanding of the paradigm that leads to equality.

Additional Services:

  • Disability Awareness Training (also known as Disability Awareness Training or Sensitisation)
  • Disability Specific Monitoring and Evaluation (Qualified M and E services)

Business Competitiveness:

Universal Access is a broad concept that requires understanding, application, implementation, experience and governance around various sectors, such as the built environment, services, facilities, transport, technology, regulations and more. Inclusive Design has explicit experience in Policy, Guideline and Framework writing and advising, Technical Requirement writing, Implementation Plans, Onsite Auditing, Plan Drawing Auditing, Architectural and Planning Consulting, Auditing and Consulting in the realms of Transport, Marketing and Communication, and Training. Inclusive Design is not focused on a specific area of disability, and therefore offer holistic recommendations in order to accommodate a spectrum of users, irrespective of their abilities. Inclusive Design practice good business principles, deliver on time, communicate directly with clients, and offer superior project deliverables.

If there are any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at Inclusive Design on Tel: +27 72 027 3623 or Email: Cape Town (HQ) ● Pretoria (Administration), or visit our website at:

These Organizations and Companies listed above which specialize in Universal Design and Access will follow those standards set by  "The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act" to make sure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from any events, services, information, communication, products and venues.

Ramp Design Regulations

NOTE 1: Ramps might be required for use by persons without disabilities, for example, persons pushing trolleys who require ramps as an alternative to stepped access.

NOTE 2: Ramps should only be provided where level access cannot be achieved. Where a ramp is provided, stepped access should normally accompany it for persons with ambulant disabilities who find ramps difficult to use.

4.8.1 Any ramp or series of ramps shall provide a safe, comfortable and convenient route for wheelchair users.

4.8.2 Any ramp provided in terms of this part of SANS 10400 shall

  1. have a gradient, measured along the centre line, that is not steeper than 1:12 ;
  2. have a clear, trafficable surface not less than 1 100 m wide;
  3. have a surface in accordance with 4.5;
  4. have a landing at the top and bottom of each ramp of not less than 1,2 m in length (clear of any door swing) and of width not less than that of the ramp;
  5. comply with the requirements between landings as given in table 2 and figure 11;
  6. have a handrail on both sides of the ramp or, where the width is greater than 2,4 m, a central handrail in accordance with the requirements of 4.10 where the gradient is steeper than 1:15;
  7. where ramps in the same direction are used for a vertical rise of more than 600 mm, be staggered by the width of the ramp, in order to prevent a long straight line of ramps (see also 4.8.2(d)).

NOTE: Where the total rise contemplated for a series of ramps is greater than 2 m, consideration should be given to alternative means of vertical circulation.

Table 2 — Ramp requirements between landings

1 2 3
 Gradient  Maximum vertical rise mm Maximum ramp length between landings meters
 1 : 12  500  6
 1 : 15  665  10
 1 : 20  750  15

4.8.3 No door leaf or window shall open onto a ramp or landing (see also 4.8.2(d)).

4.8.4 The camber or banking on walkways and ramps shall not exceed 1:50.

4.8.5 At any point where the clear height of the area below the soffit is less than 2,1 m, and it is not enclosed, the means of limiting inadvertent access to such area shall be indicated.

4.9 Stairways

4.9.1 Stairways shall comply with the requirements of SANS 10400-M, SANS 10400-T and the following requirements:

  1. the width of any stairway, measured to an enclosing wall or balustrade, shall be at least 900 mm;
  2. a landing that serves two flights of stairs in the same straight line shall be of length at least 1 100 mm;
  3. the rise of each tread step shall be of the same height and shall not exceed 170 mm;
  4. solid risers shall be provided in all accessible routes;
  5. a stairway shall be provided with handrails on both sides of the stairway in accordance with the requirements of 4.10;
  6. The maximum height allowed in a flight of stairs, between landings, shall not exceed 1,530 m;
  7. The stairway shall not include any winders (as defined in SANS 10400-M);
  8. No spiral stairway shall form part of an accessible route.

4.9.2 Nosings shall effectively contrast with their immediate surroundings. The minimum dimensions of each nosing shall be 40 mm × 40 mm.

NOTE: Further guidance on contrast and methods of measurement is provided in SANS 784.

4.9.3 Outdoor stairs and outdoor approaches to stairs shall be so designed that water will not accumulate on walking surfaces.

4.9.4 Tactile guidance, where provided, shall be in accordance with the relevant provisions of SANS 784.

4.10 Handrails

The design and construction of handrails shall be in accordance with the following:

  1. handrails shall have an elliptical gripping surface profile that is approximately 50 mm wide and 40 mm deep, or a circular profile of diameter not less than 35 mm and not more than 50 mm;
  2. the height to the top of a handrail from the nosing of the tread of the stairs or from the surfaces of a ramp shall be in the range 900 mm to 1 000 mm and shall remain consistent along the length;
  3. handrails shall be securely fixed and shall be rigid;
  4. the surface of the handrail and wall, or any other surface adjacent to them, shall be free of any sharp or abrasive elements;
  5. the clear width between a handrail and an adjacent wall shall be at least 60 mm;
  6. handrails shall extend 300 mm horizontally beyond the top and bottom of the ramp or stairway (see figure 12 and shall return to the supporting structure or shall be finished with a positive return, and the minimum dimensions for landings on escape routes as required in SANS 10400-T shall be maintained;
  7. handrails shall be continuous between landings where this does not create a hazard;
  8. handrails shall be supported centrally from below with not less than 50 mm between the underside of the handrail and the top of the support;
  9. where a stairway is wider than 2,4 m, a handrail shall be provided at no more than 2,4 m intervals.

NOTE: Handrails that extend at the top and bottom of a stairway are a tactile aid for persons with visual impairments, and a balancing aid for ambulant persons with disabilities.


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