One weird unfunded mandate that exposes the disregard for handicapped accessibility in 8-bit video games… tip number 3 will shock you!


Old 8-bit video games typically do not adhere to modern standards of occupational safety or handicapped-accessibility.

The issue:

The issue we will deal with here is making an old game, in this case, Zelda II for the Nintendo Entertainment System, properly compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Obviously this will be simplified, since we don’t have to worry about structural stability, proper materials, or material cross-section (or anything three-dimensional) in a game of this style.

ADA question

Fig 1: This is a screenshot from the late ’80s Nintendo game Zelda II. This is an entrance to specific palace in the game. There are two extremely large “steps” (approximately 3 feet high each) and a human-sized statue on top of a pedestal.

Note that the enormous steps leading up to the palace are not even remotely handicapped-accessible.

(Plus, such large steps are probably also forbidden by municipal building codes.)


As a publicly accessible building, the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act could potentially apply to this palace.

We will add a ramp (although alternative solutions exist, such as elevators).

For ADA compliance:

  • Ramps must have no greater than a 4.8° incline (1 foot of rise per 12 feet of distance)
  • An individual segment of ramp cannot be any longer than 30 feet. Longer segments must be broken up by landings.
  • Landings must be at least 5 feet wide.

In this case, for 6 feet of elevation gain, we will need two 30 foot ramps and one ~12 foot ramp. This will require two landings.

ADA ramp

Fig 2: With three ramps (and two landings) installed, the palace entrance is now handicapped accessible.

There is still one serious problem—although though the ramp has an acceptable incline and distance, we have created a new death trap for the palace due to the lack of handrails.

The handrail requirements that would apply to the 8-bit Zelda II world include:

  • Handrails must be 34–38 inches above ramp surfaces.
  • Handrails must end in a 12 inch “loop” beyond the ramp (see diagram).

ADA handrails

Fig 3: With proper ramps and handrails, this palace is now one step closer to being ADA accessible. The sprites themselves are all © Nintendo.


It is important to realize that locations in video games may also be visited by characters who cannot jump 8 feet in the air from a standing start.

PROS: Significantly increases quality of life for individuals with mobility problems.

CONS: A classic “unfunded mandate”—imposes significant architectural demands without providing the money to actually perform the construction.