Front- vs. rear-door entrance ramps
QUESTION: We are in a small town with an old city hall that has steps leading to the entrances. We know we need a ramp, but we’re not sure if it has to be in the front (where there are six steps) or if it can be at the back entrance where there are only two steps. Can we have the ramp in the back instead of the front?
— Julie, North Dakota
ANSWER: YES & NO. I have several questions to ask before I can comfortably say the back entrance is allowable. Those questions are listed below to help you start your decision-making process — whether it’s for a ramp or another accessible improvement for your facility.
1. Is this a historic building registered with your state or on the federal register? If yes, then you may indeed have to consider placing the ramp at the back entrance to preserve the aesthetic integrity. However, there are designs that do not interfere with the original front entrance, such as using plantings in front of the ramp to disguise the ramp’s presence. Be open-minded and creative.
2. Is the rear entrance also used by the general public and unlocked during business/facility hours? Reasonable accommodation must provide equal opportunity. In other words, the back door must be unlocked during the same hours as the front door. If the rear-door entrance is only allowed at certain times, then you cannot install a ramp there unless you’re willing to change your policies to address the situation.
Here’s something to think about from the user’s perspective: All too often I’ve been told that someone will let me in at the alternate entrance, but when I try to use it I end up waiting for that person to come back from a break, or from delivering a message, or some other excuse. Once I had to wait 20 minutes before someone opened the door. And on one occasion, I was stuck waiting in the cold with a light sleet-type of rain coming down on me and my service dog Maddie. Maddie was not happy with me!
3. Is there accessible parking near the entrance? Accessible parking should be as close as possible to the accessible entrance. If the parking is in the front, it would force a person to travel an extended distance by foot or wheelchair to use the rear entrance.
4. Do the rear-entrance doors meet the required 32-inch clearance? We’re not just talking about reaching the entrance, but also getting through the entrance. The door/doors must meet ADA Standards or the entrance cannot be used.
5. Is the route to/from the rear entrance accessible, well-lit, and safe? As a wheelchair user, I’ve had to go through moldy basements, past garbage cans, move boxes, and then knock on an interior door until someone came and opened it.
6. Will the rear ramp have the required slope, landing, and clearance space of a door that swings out into the landing platform area? Remember that both the rear entrance and the ramp must meet ADA standards.