What makes a handrail a true falls prevention and accessibility handrail?

There are plenty of railings available for the home, but…

Railings are not handrails

Railings are found on balusters on stairways. They're intended primarily to prevent falling off the side of the stairs, not to prevent falling down the stairs.

Decorative wooden railings, whether for balusters or for walls, are designed to mimic stair railings of 150 years ago.

Imagine trying to use a hammer if the handle were shaped like a stair railing.

Railings that provide a 'pinch grip' are not adequate to fully assist with mobility, let alone to prevent a fall. This is especially true for small or frail hands.

Handrails have the profile for a 'power grip', which studies demonstrate is five times stronger than a 'pinch grip'.

International Handrail Standards


Handrail, according to the Americans With Disabilities Act and accessibility and safety standards worldwide, is:

  • 1¼" - 2" in diameter
  • Round (or equivalent)
  • 1½" minimum from the wall
  • At least 1½" above any horizontal protrusion
  • Continuous on and between stairs, ramps, landings and horizontal extensions at the tops and bottoms of slopes

A handrail must withstand at least 500 lbs of force to satisfy the International Building Code commercial standard.


A handrail is a handrail when...

  1. It's strong enough to support your weight and prevent you from falling.
  2. It has the round 1¼" - 2" diameter profile required for a power grip.
  3. It is 1½" from the wall and unobstructed by brackets.
  4. It is smooth and continuous around corners and bends.