I know I am required to have accessible parking spaces…but where do I put them???

Northeast ADA Center Staff April 04, 2016

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Most people understand that that if they provide parking at their site/facility, they then have to provide accessible parking as well.   Things get a little trickier sometimes when you have to determine where to place the accessible parking spaces. On sites with a small parking area and one entrance to the building served, it’s rather obvious where to place your accessible parking spaces. However, on larger sites, and sites with multiple entrances, it is not always that clear cut. The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design require that accessible parking spaces must be located on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible facility entrance. This term “shortest accessible route of travel” is very important to understand. Some of the key points to remember about an accessible route are as follows: an accessible route never has curbs or stairs, must be at least 3 feet wide, and has a firm, stable, slip-resistant surface. The running slope along the accessible route (the slope in the direction of travel) should not be greater than 1:20 (5%) for a walking surface, or greater than 1:12 (8.33%) for ramps that are part of an accessible path of travel. You also want to avoid having an excessive cross slope (in excess of 2%), as this can be difficult for individuals with disabilities to navigate as well.     In a perfect world, the shortest route of travel from accessible parking spaces to the accessible entrance is also the shortest accessible route of travel, but this may not always be the case, particularly on older sites. Another concept to keep in mind is that on many sites, pedestrians will encounter a curb to enter a building, which typically necessitates a curb ramp, because with no curb ramp, there is no accessible route. So ultimately the location of the accessible parking spaces, and the curb ramp, are closely tied together. If you provide accessible parking spaces directly in front of the entrance, but the curb ramp to get on to the sidewalk is  located 15 spaces away, you are essentially creating a much longer path of travel for the individual using the accessible parking space. I often think of accessible parking spaces and curb ramps as similar to the “chicken or the egg” paradox, because you simply cannot have compliant accessible parking spaces if they are not located on the shortest accessible route of travel to the accessible entrance(s) served, which often necessitates a curb ramp……   Where buildings have multiple accessible entrances with adjacent parking, the accessible parking spaces must be dispersed and located closest to the accessible entrances. For example, if a shopping center has a row of 15 stores, the accessible parking spaces may not all be located at one end of the shopping center, so that the stores at the other end of the “row” are not served by accessible parking. Dispersing the accessible parking spaces to best serve all the tenants is what is expected. In some cases, depending on the site and parking scenario, accessible parking spaces may be clustered in one or more facilities if equivalent or greater accessibility is provided in terms of distance from the accessible entrance, parking fees, and convenience. Remember that if you have a large site and you have dispersed the accessible parking spaces to serve a number of entrances, take a look at the accessible route of travel from all of the accessible parking spaces and make sure that things like curb ramps (if needed) are present. It’s not just enough to paint the spaces and put up a sign with the International Symbol of Accessibility, location matters as well.   If you have any questions about accessible parking space location, please give us a call at 800.949.4232 or email us at northeastada@cornell.edu and we will be happy to discuss your concerns. As well you can visit NortheastADA.org