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What is a Handrail?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 16, 2024
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A handrail is a long object commonly used to help people maintain stability and facilitate mobility. Examples of places that handrails may be found include in a stairwell, in a subway tunnel, and along a handicapped access ramp. People who benefit from them include children, elderly people, and handicapped individuals.

A handrail can serve several purposes. It can be used to help healthy people who are ascending or descending stairs or an incline to avoid injury. A handrail can also act as a mobility aid which provides assistance to people who are already injured or who are handicapped. It is also common to find these objects in the handicapped stalls in bathrooms where they can help people lower and raise themselves and help them maneuver within the stall.

Handrails are objects that people commonly encounter and use without much thought. There is a wide variety of designs and they can be made of a wide range of materials, such as steel, wood, and plastic. The model of handrail used is often based on the other interior design aspects of the place where they are. Public handrails, however, are subject to a great deal of regulation in some places.

Various aspects of handrails are commonly subject to regulatory codes. To begin with, there are certain dimension guidelines. These outline how wide a handrail can be and the placement of finger recesses on its sides.

Additionally, it must be considered how the handrail is positioned. They should never be flush against a wall because a person’s hand needs to be able to wrap around it. The purpose of these regulations is to help ensure that handrails are not deemed ineffective because they are ungraspable.

The height at which handrails are placed is commonly a regulatory issue. If they are not properly placed, there is also a risk they will be ineffective. Their height may be determined by a facility’s primary users. For example, in a daycare, where the primary occupants are children, the handrails are likely to be set to a height that accommodates them or there is likely to be an additional set of handrails to accommodate them.

When handrails are installed, it is also important to ensure they do not cause injury to the people who use them for assistance. They need to be sturdy and secure, meaning the brackets and mounting may be subject to safety regulations. A handrail also needs to be strong, so the amount of weight it is required to support is usually another regulatory issue.

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