Guidelines for Prioritizing Curb Ramp Retrofits Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

MacKnight, Hannah, Civil Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Chen, Tong, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia

Curb ramps are universally beneficial. When municipalities implement curb ramps, they improve access for not just people with disabilities but also those using strollers, carts, and luggage, as well as runners and pedestrians. Though small when compared to some large-scale transportation projects, curb ramps play a large role in making transportation facilities available and accessible for all users. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires compliant ramps to be installed with new construction or when a facility is altered. With limited budgets each year, states have to prioritize which ramps to improve first. The purpose of this study was to identify best practices in prioritization and develop guidelines for a curb ramp improvement program.

The study entailed the following five tasks: (1) gathering information from other states regarding curb ramp prioritization processes, (2) conducting a survey of Virginia agencies and organizations that work with people with vision or mobility impairments and/or older adults, (3) assessing quantitative prioritization approaches, (4) comparing prioritization processes explored in the prior two tasks, and (5) developing program guidelines and identifying program performance metrics.

The survey yielded no consensus regarding which elements are most important for prioritizing curb ramp upgrades. Study results did indicate, though, that condition was rarely the sole consideration and that respondents tended to consider connectivity. At the local level, officials commonly used the prioritization criterion of transit. For a statewide program, however, such a criterion may be impractical. State DOTs are often divided into smaller districts; at the state level, a prioritization process should afford these districts sufficient flexibility to apply engineering judgment as they develop factor weights to best meet the needs of their communities. The curb ramp prioritization process would be enhanced by more widely available sidewalk and crosswalk data, allowing officials to consider connectivity.

MS (Master of Science)
accessible design, pedestrians
Sponsoring Agency:
Virginia Department of Transportation
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: