For people with many types of disabilities, a handicapped parking place is critical to be able to drive somewhere in their community. Although the term “handicapped” parking is still often used, accessible parking is a more current term to use in 2016.
To assist people with disabilities and parking, the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design outlined accessible parking requirements.
▪ Accessible parking spaces are eight feet wide; van-accessible spaces are 11 feet wide.
▪ Access aisles for either type of space are five feet wide, giving the person with a disability more space in case of the use of adaptive medical equipment such as walkers, canes, scooters or wheelchairs.
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▪ One of every six accessible parking spaces, or fraction thereof, must be “van-accessible.” For example: A parking lot with 400 total spaces needs eight accessible spaces, and two of those eight spaces must be van-accessible.
▪ Accessible parking spaces must be identified by signs that include the International Symbol of Accessibility.
▪ Signs at van-accessible spaces must include the additional phrase “van-accessible.”
▪ Signs at accessible parking spaces are mounted so that the lower edge of the sign is at least five feet above the ground. This helps ensure visibility both for motorists and local enforcement officials.
▪ Accessible spaces must also connect to the shortest possible accessible route to the accessible building entrance or facility they serve.
In North Carolina, there is a $250 fine for parking in an accessible space illegally. Enforcement for violations (fraudulent use of permits, illegal parking in accessible spaces, etc.) is typically carried out by state and local authorities, such as the local police department.
Who can use an accessible parking space? Each state establishes criteria and procedures to issue accessible parking permits (often in the form of distinctive license plates or placards) to individuals with disabilities. In North Carolina, both of these are issued and a doctor must sign the request.
Any vehicle that is driven by or is transporting a person who has a disability and that displays a distinguishing license plate, a removable windshield placard, or a temporary removable windshield placard may be parked for unlimited periods in parking zones restricted as to the length of time parking is permitted. A person cannot use another person’s placard to park in an accessible space. A driver cannot also park in an accessible close space for a short while, “just to run in.”
Sometimes I see a person get out of a car in an accessible space and they don’t “look” like they have a disability, and I wonder should they be parking there? I cannot make assumptions. Remember that many people are living with invisible disabilities that would require a handicapped placard or license plate such as those living with COPD, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, etc. The list goes on. Trust that the person parking in the space is being honest.
For me as a wheelchair user, accessible parking is critical and gives me independence.
I drive a vehicle with a ramp, so I require the van accessible parking space which allows room for the ramp to go down to the pavement and then I can get out of the car. This space has white cross marks on the pavement next to the parking space.
I am so grateful for the law that requires accessible spaces today and I hope that you will better understand and respect its purpose.
Pam Dickens has a master’s degree in public health and has worked in the field of disability and health for many years. This is part of our yearlong series of columns written by people with disabilities in our community. Write to Pam Dickens and all our writers in c/o firstname.lastname@example.org