210 and 504 Stairways
The 1991 Standards require stairs to be accessible only when they provide access to floor levels not otherwise connected by an accessible route (e.g., where the accessible route is provided by an elevator, lift, or ramp). The 2010 Standards, at sections 210.1 and 504, require all newly constructed stairs that are part of a means of egress to comply with the requirements for accessible stairs, which include requirements for accessible treads, risers, and handrails. In existing facilities, where floor levels are connected by an accessible route, only the handrail requirement will apply when the stairs are altered. Exception 2 to section 210.1 of the 2010 Standards permits altered stairs to not comply with the requirements for accessible treads and risers where there is an accessible route between floors served by the stairs.
Most commenters were in favor of this requirement for handrails in alterations and stated that adding handrails to stairs during alterations would be feasible and not costly while providing important safety benefits. The Department believes that it strikes an appropriate balance by focusing the expanded requirements on new construction. The 2010 Standards apply to stairs which are part of a required means of egress. Few stairways are not part of a means of egress. The 2010 Standards are consistent with most building codes which do not exempt stairways when the route is also served by a ramp or elevator.
210.1 General. Interior and exterior stairs that are part of a means of egress shall comply with 504.
1. In detention and correctional facilities, stairs that are not located in public use areas shall not be required to comply with 504.
2. In alterations, stairs between levels that are connected by an accessible route shall not be required to comply with 504, except that handrails complying with 505 shall be provided when the stairs are altered.
3. In assembly areas, aisle stairs shall not be required to comply with 504.
4. Stairs that connect play components shall not be required to comply with 504.
Advisory 210.1 General. Although these requirements do not mandate handrails on stairs that are not part of a means of egress, State or local building codes may require handrails or guards.