If you use a wheelchair because of a temporary or permanent health condition, you already know how challenging it can be to get where you need to go. Certain natural areas may be difficult or impossible to access in your wheelchair, but most other places should provide accommodations for you.
The owner of a building or those responsible for public or government property have the obligation to follow the laws established to provide as much access as possible to those who use wheelchairs. While it is true that, in some cases, a property owner may incur some expense to install a ramp to allow for wheelchair access, it is also true that, by taking cheap shortcuts, a property owner may put your life in danger.
What does the ADA say?
The Americans with Disabilities Act sets specific standards for handicap access ramps. These standards are not optional, and the ADA has carefully established these specifications so that you and others who use wheelchairs can reach your destination safely and as easily as possible. A wheelchair ramp is more than just a board covering a flight of stairs. In fact, if you approach such a make-shift ramp, you may have many concerns about using it. Instead, an ADA-approved ramp will have the following:
- A slope that is no steeper than 12 inches of length for every inch of rise
- A rest platform for any ramp with a rise greater than 30 inches
- A landing meeting ADA measurements at the top and bottom of the ramp
- At least 36 inches of width by ADA standards but 48 inches by California law
- Edge protection along the sides of the ramp to prevent your wheelchair from slipping off
Handrails are an essential part of a wheelchair ramp. The ADA requires ramps to have rounded rails, solidly fixed and meeting the specifications for height and length. While all these specifications can be complex, the ADA has researched them carefully to determine the most effective way to provide you and others a safe passage.
What can you do after an accident?
Failing to follow the rules for wheelchair ramps can lead to serious injuries. You may find that trying to climb a steep ramp causes you to lose control of your wheelchair. Your chair may tip over, or you may roll backward. A ramp with no rails or edge protection may cause your chair to drop off the edges, leading to a catastrophic fall.
If you have suffered injuries in any of the above or other incidents related to a substandard wheelchair ramp, you have options for seeking justice. A skilled attorney will know the laws in California and how those laws relate to your situation.