If ramps allow accessibility to a larger number of people as opposed to stairs, then why are stairs more common than ramps in public buildings (or buildings in general)?

Comparing a reasonable angle of incline for a ramp to a set of stairs, the stairs have a smaller footprint to get the the same height. Is this perhaps the reason?

Perhaps stairs are a more comfortable method of moving up and down levels if you are capable of using the stairs. That would help explain why ramp and stair hybrids exist (such as the one pictured below).

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  • I live in a nursing home (Arlington Pointe/ Middletown, OH) with no stairs inside for personal or patients. But it has 4 levels, 1 nurse station with 4 rump-style corridors "(each starts at the nurse station) with patients rooms on both sides. At the end of each corridor there is an exit to go outside but mostly for medical transports. What a very unusual, beautiful and accommodating for everybody involved construction!!! I can go freely from level to level in my wheelchair Jul 19, 2019 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


There are a couple of reasons:

1. Safety

Have you ever tried climbing stairs covered in ice or rain, sometimes it can be rather slippery and dangerous, and those are on flat surfaces. Now try the same on an inclined ramp, the chances of sliding or falling down would be much greater.

2. Footprint

Like you mentioned you can have stairs go up much quicker and steeper than a ramp in a smaller space. Could you imagine all the stairs going up the 102 floors of the Empire State building being replaced with ramps. Using this mobility ramp calculator it says you'd need this ramp to be 15,000 feet long, thats 2.8 miles!

  • 2
    … or 4.6 kilometres of Guggenheim Museum spiral
    – Crissov
    Jul 31, 2015 at 21:54
  • 9
    or 25,714 average size bananas
    – DasBeasto
    Jul 31, 2015 at 21:58
  • While the main answer is informative and seems correct, my +1 is actually for the bananas.
    – Nick Todd
    Aug 1, 2015 at 0:17

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