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Beach access route icon.Beach access routes allow pedestrians to cross a beach so that they can play, swim, or participate in other beach- or water-related activities. A beach access route is a continuous, unobstructed path that crosses the surface of the beach and provides pedestrians access to the water. Beach access routes are not required where pedestrian access to the beach is not allowed.

Beach access routes can be permanent or removable. Removable beach access routes may be an option where restrictive permits are issued in coastal and shoreline areas, where seasonal tides or high flows may remove or damage a permanent structure, or in areas where the beach erodes or builds up quickly each season and causes a permanent beach access route to become inaccessible. Removable beach access routes can be moved to a protected storage area during storms and other periods when the routes are subject to damage or loss.

There are no scoping requirements for outdoor constructed features provided on beaches. Outdoor constructed features provided on beaches don’t have to be connected by beach access routes, ORARs, trails, or accessible routes. Whenever possible, providing access to outdoor constructed features on a beach gives people with disabilities more independence and opportunities to participate in beach- or water-related activities.

Scoping Requirements

Facilities Serving Beaches [F248.1.1] Restroom icon

Beach access routes are required when an entity that administers or manages a beach constructs or alters any circulation paths, parking facilities, toilet facilities, or bathing facilities that serve the beach. The entity is not required to spend more than 20 percent of the costs of constructing or altering these facilities to provide beach access routes.

Beach Nourishment [F248.1.2]

Beach access routes are required when the entity that administers or manages the beach undertakes a beach nourishment project. The entity is not required to spend more than 20 percent of the costs of a beach nourishment project to provide beach access routes.

Minimum Number of Beach Access Routes [F248.2]

At least one beach access route must be provided for each one-half mile of beach shoreline administered or managed by the same entity. The number of beach access routes is not required to exceed the number of pedestrian access points provided to the beach by the entity. Pedestrian access points to a beach include parking facilities, dune crossings, and stairways or ramps leading from boardwalks to the beach. In high-density population areas, entities should consider providing beach access routes more frequently than the minimum of every one-half mile to prevent people with disabilities from traveling extensive distances to access the beach.

Location [F248.3]

Beach access routes must coincide with or be located in the same general area as pedestrian access points that serve the beach.

Technical Requirements [1018 and 1018.1, Exception 3]

The technical requirements for beach access routes include specific provisions for connections, the surface, clear width, obstacles, openings, running slope, cross slope, resting intervals, protruding objects, and dune crossings. Removable beach access routes are not required to comply with the specific provisions for running slope, cross slope, resting intervals, and dune crossings.

Using the Beach Access Route Exceptions [1018.1, Exceptions 1 and 2]

When a condition for exception does not permit full compliance with a specific provision in the technical requirements on a portion of a beach access route, that portion of the route must comply with the specific provision to the extent practicable. After applying all the applicable conditions for exceptions to a beach access route, if an entity determines that it is impracticable to provide a beach access route that meets the technical requirements, then a compliant beach access route is not required. Additional information on the conditions for exceptions, including documenting use of the exceptions on portions of a beach access route and notifying the Access Board when it is impracticable to provide an entire beach access route, is provided in the section of this guide on the conditions for exceptions.

Removable Beach Access Route Requirements

Removable beach access routes are not required to comply with the specific requirements for running slope, cross slope, resting intervals, and dune crossings.

Connections [1018.2]

Beach access routes must connect an entry point to the beach to the high tide level at tidal beaches (figure 30); the mean high water level at river beaches; and the normal recreation water level at lake, pond, and reservoir beaches. Whenever possible, providing a beach access route that extends into the water will allow people to remain in their mobility devices and to transfer directly into the water.

Line drawing of several people enjoying a seaside beach. Text shows the location of the high tide level.

Surface [1018.3]

Surface iconThe surface of beach access routes and resting intervals must be firm and stable. Sand is not a firm and stable surface. Additional information on firm and stable surfaces is provided in the trails section of this guide.

Clear Width [1018.4]

Clear width iconThe clear width of beach access routes must be a minimum of 60 inches to enable people using mobility devices to pass people traveling in the opposite direction without veering off the firm and stable surface into the sand. The clear width of beach access routes that are not removable can be reduced to a minimum of 48 inches at dune crossings.

Beach wheelchairs are not a substitute for providing beach access routes. Beach wheelchairs have large, wide wheels that can roll across sand without sinking but do not provide independent access.

When gates or barriers are installed to control beach access, the gates or barriers must allow the passage of mobility devices, including beach wheelchairs. Gates or barriers should provide clear openings at least 48 inches wide for beach wheelchairs.

Obstacles [1018.5] 

Obstacles icon.Changes in the vertical alignment of boards or the connection points for removable sections of beach access routes can be obstacles to beach access. When beach access routes are constructed of concrete, asphalt, or boards, obstacles cannot exceed one-half inch in height at their highest point. When beach access routes are constructed of materials other than concrete, asphalt, or boards, obstacles cannot exceed 1 inch in height at their highest point. Where possible, separate obstacles that cross the entire beach access route by at least 48 inches so that people using mobility devices can fully cross one obstacle before confronting another.

Openings [1018.6] 

Openings iconOpenings are gaps in the surface of a beach access route. Gaps, including spaces between the planks on a boardwalk and drainage holes in temporary or permanent surfaces, that are big enough for wheels, canes, or crutch tips to drop through or become trapped in are potential hazards.

Openings in the surface of beach access routes and resting intervals must be small enough so that a sphere more than one-half inch in diameter cannot pass through. Where possible, elongated openings should be placed perpendicular, or as close to perpendicular as possible, to the dominant direction of travel or outside of the clear width of the beach access route.

Running Slope [1018.7.1]

Running slope icon.The running slope of any segment of a beach access route must be no steeper than 1:10 (10 percent). When the running slope of a segment of beach access route is steeper than 1:20 (5 percent), the maximum length of the segment is specified in table 6, and a resting interval must be provided at the top and bottom of each segment.

Gradual running slopes provide more independent use for people with disabilities. Resting intervals must be provided more frequently when running slopes are more severe.

Table 6—Maximum Running Slope and Segment Length 
  Running Slope of Beach Access Route Segment  Maximum Length of Segment 
Steeper Than   But Not Steeper Than
 1:20 (5%)  1:12 (8.33%) 50 feet 
1:12 (8.33%) 1:10 (10%) 30 feet


Cross Slope [1018.7.2]

Cross slope icon.When beach access routes are constructed of asphalt, concrete, or boards, the cross slope must be no steeper than 1:48 (2 percent). When beach access routes are constructed of materials other than asphalt, concrete, or boards, cross slopes no steeper than 1:20 (5 percent) are allowed when necessary for drainage.

Resting Intervals [1018.8]

Resting intervals are level areas that provide an opportunity for people to stop after a steep segment and recover before continuing on. Resting intervals are required between beach access route segments any time the running slope exceeds 1:20 (5 percent).

Resting intervals must be at least 60 by 60 inches. When the surface of the resting interval is constructed of asphalt, concrete, or boards, the slope of the resting interval must be no steeper than 1:48 (2 percent) in any direction. When the surface of the resting interval is constructed of materials other than asphalt, concrete, or boards, slopes no steeper than 1:20 (5 percent) are allowed when necessary for drainage.

Protruding Objects [1018.9]

Objects that protrude into the clear width of beach access routes and resting intervals can pose hazards to people who are blind or have low vision. Constructed elements on beach access routes and resting intervals must comply with the technical requirements for protruding objects in section 307 of the ABA Standards (figure 31). Signs and other post-mounted objects are examples of constructed elements that, if not located correctly, can be protruding objects.

A line drawing showing the limits of protruding objects.


Dune Crossings [1018.10]

A dune crossing that is part of a beach access route and has a slope that exceeds 1:20 (5 percent) must also provide handrails that comply with section 505 of the ABA Standards and must also provide edge protection. The handrails must be continuous at a height of 34 to 38 inches above the walking surface along both sides of the dune crossing (figure 32). Edge protection in the form of a curb or barrier must prevent the passage of a 2-inch sphere where any portion of the sphere is within 2 inches of the dune crossing surface. The technical requirements for dune crossings do not address the vertical pickets provided in some handrail designs.

When a dune crossing is part of a beach access route, the clear width of the beach access route may be reduced from a minimum of 60 inches to a minimum of 48 inches. Where a removable beach access route is provided as a dune crossing, the beach access route technical provisions for running slope, cross slope, and resting intervals do not apply. When the running slope of a non-removable segment of a dune crossing is steeper than 1:20 (5 percent), the maximum length of the segment is specified in table 6, and a resting interval must be provided at the top and bottom of each segment.

Line drawing of a dune crossing that is part of a beach access route.