Sensory Trust factsheet

Outdoor access guidance - handrails
5. Handrails

Handrails along ramps or steps provide welcome, often essential, support to people with limited mobility. The appropriate design solution will depend upon the location and on the ability of the users. The following notes are intended as a basic guide and not as detailed specifications. It is essential that any design meets current Building Regulations.


Provide handrails for steps, ramps, abrupt changes in level or where people with walking difficulties are likely to require extra support. Handrails should be provided on both sides for people limited to the use of one arm. The alternative is a central rail.

Rail diameter

Range 45-50mm

Rail height

850mm above step nosing or ramp surface, 1m above landing.


Distance from adjacent wall minimum 45mm (wall surfaces should be non-abrasive). Where rails are recessed there should be 150mm clearance above and 75mm below the rail.

Rail length

Extension beyond the top and bottom of steps and ramps approximately 450 mm

Double rails

Double handrails should be provided to assist semi-ambulant people and wheelchair users. Top rail height 1 and lower rail height 750 mm. Handrails should be easily discernable to assist people with visual impairments.


Handrails must be securely anchored and continuous throughout their run, to include any level resting places. Choose handrails that are easy and comfortable to grasp - a round or oval section is best. The ends should be rounded off of turned into the wall for safety. For entrance steps/ ramps extend the rail to the door.


Select materials that enable a firm and comfortable grip. Metal can be uncomfortable, especially when cold or wet, and are better if nylon of plastic coated. Alternately a good quality, non-splintering hardwood can be used.


Handrails should be checked regularly to ensure that they are properly secured and that there is no splintering of cracking which can make them uncomfortable or even dangerous to use.

Links to more outdoor access guidance

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