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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality
Theme: Accessibility :
Accessibility for the Disabled - A Design Manual for a Barrier Free Environment
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Steep staircases.

Poorly designed steps that hinder foot movement.


To provide safe and well-dimensioned staircases for the comfort of all people, especially those with mobility problems.


3.1 General

*Differences in level should be illuminated or minimized as much as possible for the comfort of disabled people.

*A complementary ramped route, elevator or lift should be provided where there are steps in an otherwise accessible path.

*All steps should be uniform.

*Circular stairs and stepped landings should be avoided (fig. 1).

*Open risers are not recommended.

3.2 Width

*The minimum width of a stairway should be 0.90 m for one-way traffic and 1.50 m for two-way traffic.

*For indoor stairs, the riser should be between 0.12 m and 0.18 m, and the tread between 0.28 m and 0.35 m.

*For outdoor stairs, the maximum riser should be 0.15 m and the minimum tread should be 0.30 m.

3.3 Landing (fig. 2) (fig. 3)

*An intermediate landing should be provided when the stairs cover a difference in level of more than 2.50 m.

*The length of the landing should be at least 1.20 m extending along the full width of the stairs.

3.4 Nosing (fig. 4)

*Sharp edges and overhanging nosing should not be used for treads.

*Nosing should be flush or rounded and should not project more than 40 mm.

3.5 Handrails

*Handrails must be installed on both sides of the stairs and around the landing for gripping (fig. 3).

*For stairs more than 3.00 m wide, one or more intermediate handrails could be provided (fig. 5).

*The distance between the handrails when both sides are used for gripping should be between 0.90 m and 1.40 m (fig. 5).

*Handrails must extend a distance between 0.30 m and 0.45 m at the top and bottom of the stairs (see Railings and Handrails) (fig. 3).

3.6 Tactile marking (fig. 2) (fig. 3)

*A textural marking strip should be placed at the top and bottom of the stairs and at intermediate landings to alert sightless people as to the location of the stairs.

*The tactile marking strip should be at least 0.60 m wide and should extend over the full width of the stairs.

*To guide users with poor vision, the colour of the strip should contrast with the surrounding surface. 3.7 Surface

*Landings, treads and nosing should be slip-resistant and free of projections.

*Exterior stairs should be pitched forward at 10 mm per metre to drain surface water.

*Slip-resistant stair nosing should be used to fix carpets on stairs.

3.8 Emergency stairs

*Emergency stairs should be identified by tactile markings.

3.9 Mechanical stairs (escalators)

*Mechanical stairs can be provided with an adaptable tread at least 1.20 m long, if they are to be used by persons confined to wheelchairs (fig. 6).

*The edges of escalators should be painted in a contrasting colour for the benefit of poor- sighted users.


*When the configuration of the nosing cannot be modified, slip-resistant strip scould be applied to the nosing as an alternative solution (fig. 7).

*Slip-resistant strips should be 40 mm wide and should not extent more than 1 mm above the tread surface.

*To guide people with sight problems, the colour of the strips should contrast with that of the stairs.

Circular stairs and stepped landings should be avoided.
Fig. 1


Intermediate landing dimensions; minimum 1.20 m length.
Fig. 2


Dimensions for landings, handrails; tactile marking on landings.
Fig. 3


Recommended nosing types.
Fig. 4:  Recommended nosing types


Intermediate handrail for wide staircases.
Fig. 5


Mechanical stairs (escalators) with adaptable tread for use with wheelchairs.
Fig. 6


Slip-resistant strips of 40 mm wide for unmodifiable stair nosings.
Fig. 7

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development