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The Evolution of Handrail Design in Hospitals

When it comes to where handrails are needed most, hospitals jump to mind quickly. From patients recovering from surgery to elderly patients in need of added support, easily accessible, safe, and antibacterial handrails are a necessity in many areas of a hospital. Hospital handrails can be found in stairways, walkways, ramps and hallways, but handrails in bathrooms are also necessary.

Requirements for Handrails in Hospitals

Antibacterial / Hygienic

In a hospital environment, everything must be easy to clean and sanitize in order to protect the health of patients and staff alike. Choosing a material that is easily cleaned is essential to protecting the safety of all who enter the hospital. Aluminum handrails, with their smooth finish, are easy to clean and can be sanitized quickly.


Hospitals that used to be simple sterile environments have given way to the creation of an environment that is welcoming, friendly, and promotes healing. To accomplish this goal, hospital designs are very intentional about choosing materials for each aspect of the design. Hospital handrails could be an afterthought to the design, but they are actually an integral part of creating a welcoming and friendly environment.

Finding the right balance of beauty and function in a hospital handrail isn’t always easy. It needs to be aesthetically pleasing, and it must also be functional, easily identifiable, and easily accessible.

Commercial duty and high traffic capability

Hospitals must balance their duty as a healing environment with their needs as a commercial business. All of the materials integrated into a hospital design must have the capacity to withstand high traffic, be easily cleaned, and integrate into the hospital’s design.

Code compliance

Above all, hospital handrails need to comply with Commercial Building Code requirements and should adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. If this can be accomplished while still remaining a pleasing aesthetic touch, even better. 

ADA standards require handrails to be between 1 ¼-2” in diameter. There are provisions for non-circular cross-sections, but a circular cross-section allows for a power grip (where the fingers are flexing back towards the palm), one that is 5x stronger than a pinch grip (where the fingers are pinching towards the thumb). A power grip helps to prevent falls and injuries as a result of those falls.

To comply with ADA regulations, handrails must be 34-38” above the stair nosings or floor surface, giving the vast majority of people easy access to the hospital handrail. An additional 12” of handrail length is required at the top of a set of stairs and the equivalent of one tread depth is required at the bottom. The ADA also requires that the ends of a handrail either return to the wall or the floor surface to prevent snags on clothing or bags that could throw someone off balance, causing a fall.

Hospital corridor handrails, walkway handrails, bathroom handrails, and ramp handrails must also comply with the ADA code along with the commercial building code. 

The Evolution of Hospital Handrails

Over time, hospital handrails have evolved to become the safest version for patients and staff. What began as metal along the wall, most effective for preventing scuffs and scrapes from equipment, moved into plastic flat bars with grips at the top, and eventually evolved into the safest option of ADA compliant handrails.

Metal along the wall

Flat metal barriers along the wall could be used as support for patients, but their main purpose is protecting the wall from bumps from gurneys and other medical equipment. 

The flat profile acts as more of a hand rest and guide rather than a handrail that could support someone’s weight in the event that they used it to prevent a fall.

Plastic flat bar with grips at top

Another evolution in hospital handrail design was a plastic bar with a grip at the top. The grip provided more support for those needing the additional assistance while travelling down a corridor or hallway, without the ability to fully wrap the hand around the bar, fall prevention wasn’t the ultimate purpose. These handrails acted as wall protection from gurneys and other medical equipment.


Eventually, the flat crash bar was replaced with an actual handrail bar. These hospital handrails with a circular profile provide the best grip to increase stability and prevent falls. In addition, they meet ADA standards for code compliance and act as a universal design feature. By nature of their design, they are ideal for aiding in fall prevention of the elderly and those with stability issues, such as patients recovering from surgery or weak from illness.

Hospital handrails that meet ADA standards also do double duty as wall protection, ensuring that any bumps from a gurney or other medical equipment won’t scuff or scrape the wall. 

Promenaid Medical Handrails Are Perfect for Hospitals


In the realm of hospital handrail suppliers, Promenaid rises above the rest for manufacturing and supplying the ideal hospital handrail. From hallways to hospital corridor handrails to handrails that act as railings along balconies or on stairwells, Promenaid provides medical handrails that meet ADA standards and all levels of residential and commercial building code, are easily cleaned, and enhance the hospital’s design.

Handrail highlights

Promenaid is the leading manufacturer for hospital settings. Our handrails are all ADA compliant and versatile in a way that makes them perfect for stairways, hallways, walkways, and ramps.

The satin-anodized aluminum handrails are extremely durable and won’t flake or chip, ensuring that when they’re cleaned and sanitized, germs won’t lurk behind. For a more traditional look, Promenaid offers TrueWood™ wrapped aluminum handrails in Red Oak or Walnut, creating a classic look with the strength and durability of an aluminum core.

Our handrails are easy to install, meaning you won’t have to worry about excessive noise, mess, or wasted time. The revolutionary brackets snap into the continuous channel on the underside of the handrail, eliminating the need to pre-drill and attach brackets directly to the handrail. A vinyl insert then fills the channel, creating a circular profile perfect for gripping.

Speaking of grip, the ADA compliant diameter of 1 ½-2” means that Promenaid handrails allow for a power grip, the strongest grip available. Using this grip creates stability and a third point of contact for those with balance issues needing support as they navigate through the hospital.

Project Spotlight: Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville

Project details

Location: Jacksonville, Florida

Products used: Handrails for stairs, hallways, and common areas

The Jacksonville Baptist Medical Center needed to accommodate the expanding needs of their community. The building has been undergoing expansions and renovations to better suit the diverse, growing community that it serves. This nationally-ranked hospital needed a product that would not disrupt normal operations while meeting code compliance and matching structural aesthetics.

Promenaid’s handrails offered a modular, easy-to-install solution that improved the Baptist Medical Center’s purpose-built spaces. Each area in this hospital had its unique set of accessibility challenges, and the modular nature of Promenaid handrails provided a superior support system with consistent styling across a variety of challenging layouts. The ease of installation saved time and minimized congestion, even when installation crews were working with these products for the first time. 

Since installing Promenaid handrails, the Baptist Medical Center has cited them in multiple projects. It’s safe to say that Promenaid handrails were a visual upgrade for the campus and the perfect, practical enhancement that they needed.

“I have never seen a handrail system like this before. The product is beautifully sleek and very easy to install. I’ve spec’d them into our next big tower project.” — Matt Bode, Architect, Baptist Medical Center

Choose a Superior Handrail for Your Hospital Design

Choosing a superior handrail for your hospital design doesn’t have to be complicated. Promenaid’s elegant and versatile handrails will ensure the safety of both patients and staff while complementing the welcoming and healing design of the hospital.

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