Disability 101: It’s all in the details
February 1, 2009
If I may, I would like to continue our discussion regarding accessible-parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities.
I do so with nervousness and trepidation. Accessible parking is one of the disability topics about which people get the most agitated and upset.
Someone is probably going to get hyper, but I’d like to discuss what the Americans with Disabilities Act says about accessible parking because there are a lot of misunderstandings.
The ADA says that accessible-parking spaces must have an access aisle measuring five feet in width. What’s an access aisle?
Many drivers who use wheelchairs sit in the driver’s seat and store their wheelchair behind them. To get out, they open the door, whip their chair out onto the pavement, and then transfer into their chair. That means they need space beside their vehicle to manage the transfer.
Other people who use wheelchairs drive a lift-equipped van. The lift deploys from the side of the van. This means they also need space beside their vehicle to set down the lift.
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The access aisle supplies the space needed on the side which allows wheelchair users to get into and out of their vehicle. It’s marked with painted parallel diagonal lines on the side of an accessible-parking space.
Unfortunately that access aisle can be wide enough in which to park, and some do. “Oh, look, the parking lot is full, and the only open spaces are way out in the boonies, but I can fit into this funny space with the lines!”
Some people think they can park their motorcycles there. After all, motorcycles don’t take up much space. Other people think it’s a handy place to leave shopping carts.
However, if you park your car, motorcycle, shopping cart or snow in the access aisle, people who use a wheelchairs will not be able to get out of or into their cars. You have just eliminated the usefulness of the accessible parking.
Speaking of snow, why is it that some snowplow drivers think that the accessible-parking spaces are the best place to store snow? A person who uses a cane, crutches or a walker, or a person who is unsteady on his or her feet is the person who has the most difficulty dealing with snow and ice. And yet you think this is the best place to leave snow and ice? That’s a liability incident waiting to happen.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about how an accessible-parking space must be marked. The ADA does not require the painted pictograph on the asphalt. The pictograph is a good idea, but it’s not required. What is required is a vertical sign placed immediately in front of each parking space identifying it as accessible parking.
Why did the ADA give preference to the vertical sign instead of the pictograph on the asphalt? Because as soon as it snows, the pictograph disappears and you’ve just lost all the accessible parking. Note also that a vertical sign must be in front of each accessible space, one sign per space.
Finally, accessible-parking spaces must be located on the accessible route closest to the entrance of the building. It does no good to put accessible parking way out in the hinterlands. Some people who use those spaces can’t walk very far, and having the spaces out in the hinterlands requires a lot of walking. That doesn’t make sense.
To find out more about the requirements for accessible-parking spaces, call your regional ADA Center at 1-800-949-4232. And for goodness sakes, don’t park there if you don’t have a placard!