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Curb cuts

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The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973 laid out the requirements for curb cuts (aka curb ramp) as part of an overall policy to remove restrictive barriers for those with physical handicaps and the elderly. Curb cuts provide a gentle slope from the four to six inch drop from the sidewalk to the road. Without curb cuts, people in wheelchairs are forced to do a wheelie to get up over a curb, or bounce down dangerously, and the elderly can trip and injure themselves.

The legislation requires that there will be no less than two curb cuts be provided per block and located at intersections, the curb cute must be at least 40 inches wide, the gradient must be less than 12 inches of slope for every one inch rise from the street (8.33% or less), and one curb cut can be provided at the radius of the curve in special circumstances as long as provisions are provided to prevent vehicles from encroaching on the ramp.

A problem that was encountered with these curb cuts was that the visually impaired had difficulty detecting the intersection and were accidently entering the intersection at the inappropriate time. This was remedied by the new regulations set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 2001 which requires colored, tactile detection systems be installed. These detection systems must have a 70% color contrast from the surrounding sidewalk, a touch detectability, and a sound detectability. Studies have shown that truncated domes are the most effective shape at providing a tactile and sound detectability, but are still safe for wheelchairs, strollers, and people wearing high heels.

Most commonly, a curb cut consists of the ramp, or ramp run, which is the sloped part that allows the smooth transition from the sidewalk level to street level. Transitions are the end beginning of the ramp on the sidewalk, and end of the ramp, at street level. Flared sides, or flares, create a smooth transition on the sides of the ramp. The gutter is the section of the street at the immediate end of the ramp.

References / Resources