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Ramps, Stairways, Hand Rails

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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), QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting and Tri Access 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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The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA): (QASA) is a non-profit organisation (NPO 000-881) of Quadriplegics and Paraplegics living in South Africa. QASA’s mission is to be an effective “co-ordinating, policy-making and supporting organisation striving to prevent spinal cord injury and to improve the lives of quadriplegics and paraplegics by securing resources to advocate, educate, capacitate, support and mobilise.”QuadPara Association of South Africa

QASA runs a number of Projects and Services and can assist with various issues relating to Universal Design & Access. The National Access Authority (NAA) provides a policing and advisory service for access issues and deals with access complaints and transgressions of the National Building Regulations. By promoting an accessible environment and taking to task, abuse of human rights, this project has ensured more accessible environments and promoted the concept of Universal design.

QASA is sustained by strategic relationships with corporates, social enterprise, the National Lottery Commission and a number of campaigns & events. Some of QASA’s projects generate revenue which services the essential non-revenue generating projects. Click on the link below to find out more about the Universal Design & Access services that they provide, or visit our Organizations - QASA Page to find out more about QASA & the other Projects & Services that they provide. You can also contact them through their website at or read the article below to find out about Accessible Features & the other companies in South Africa that can assist you.

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Tri Access: Tri Access Consultants was founded in 2018 by Igor Rix who, from of a personal encounter, developed a passion for breaking down the barriers to access. This is enabled by providing assessments and audits on legal accessibility compliance pertaining to premises and the built environment and promoting "Good Access is Good Business".
Igor Rix, is an Access Consultant and has studied a Diploma course in Access Consultancy at the Access Institute in Melbourne, Australia and also completed a course in Universal Design: Public Transportation via the Buffalo University, New York.

 “Accessibility is a basic human need and we all have a constitutional right and privilege to participate in all of life’s experiences in some unique way or another and should therefore have barrier free access to enjoy easier, friendlier and healthier environments.” - Igor G. RixTri Access Flyer

Contact Tri Access to do an access audit or review to ensure that your premises are accessible to all. Access Audits involves inspecting the built environment to determine compliance with legislation to enable access that is easier, friendlier & healthier to use by everyone. Our Access Consultants conducts audits & provides solutions when businesses & individuals take a proactive step to become legally compliant or being compelled by law and or society to be compliant.

You can contact Igor Rix on: +2783 703 0707, Email: or visit their web site:

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, as shown in figure 4.

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; 19
  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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