Design Tips




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Design Tips

Designing or modifying a fishing pier or a dock to make it handicapped accessible may seem like a difficult task. However, with the proper information and guidelines anyone with construction experience can build a safe and accessible pier or dock.

These tips will also help to modify your existing dock to be more accessible to a handicapped population.

The following design guidelines are based off ADA guidelines to ensure a general level of usability for people with disabilities.



* In order to allow for safe access a gangplank (walkway) should be used to connect the pier to solid ground

* The gangplank should be able to fluctuate with the water level, while maintaining the maximum slope requirements.

* The maximum slope on the gangplank should be 1:12 or 8.33% if less then 30 feet in length. For example, if there was a 2 foot height difference between the shore and the dock, the gangplank should be at least 24 feet long.


illustration of gangway with transition plate

*A sloped transition plate should be used to connect the gangplank to the pier.









* A fishing pier should have railings, to prevent a chair from rolling off. At least 25% of the railings should be less then 34 inches in height. This allows a person using a wheelchair or other mobility device has the opportunity to fish from the pier. These low sections of railing should be at least 30 inches wide and spaced throughout the pier surface to allow fishing opportunities for multiple anglers.








illustration of railing heights and clear space


* Provide at least 9 inches of space from the railings bottom edge to the surface of the pier. This will allow for foot clearance beneath the railing.

illustration of dispersion of accessible fishing locations




* When a pier has rails, guards, or handrails the platform should have a 2 inch high lip to prevent wheelchairs from slipping off the pier.  If you choose not to have a lip, then provide at least a 12 inch extension where the low railing exists.

                         illustration of 12-inch deck extension without edge protection



* Behind each fishing location there should be at least a 30" x 48" open space to allow wheelchair access.

* Somewhere on the fishing pier there should be a 60" clear space to allow for 180 degrees of turning.




* When boat slips are provided a minimum of 1 handicapped accessible boat slip is required per 25 slips.


* Each accessible slip should have at least a 60 inch clear space adjacent to it, allowing room of a 180 degree turn.  These clear spaces should be spaced out a minimum of 10 feet along the pier.


*  Make sure that the dock pier is at least 36 inches wide to allow sufficient space for the wheelchair to operate safely.



*  We highly recommend the installation of a boat lift that will allow access to a boat from the pier.  These lifts resemble hospital lifts, but are of durable construction and built to withstand the elements.  Another option includes a device which resembles an elevator to gain access to larger vessels. Manual transfers from a wheelchair to a boat are also possible. When performing a transfer make sure to have enough assistance, utilize proper body mechanics, and ensure that the boat is properly secured to ensure safety.

        Portable wheelchair lifts for marine applications


The printable file containing all of these requirements can be found at the link here. Adobe Acrobat is required to open and read this file.  For those that do not have Adobe, this is an HTML version of the accessibility guidelines. Click here for this version.