Overlooked facts about accessible parking requirements

| September 12, 2011 | 4 Comments

Almost everyone is accustomed to the spaces reserved for those with accessible parking permits, and knows to leave those spaces for people who truly need them (we hope). We know that anyone with restricted mobility qualifies for handicapped parking. However, limited mobility isn’t always visible; a common misconception that should be noted next time you question why someone is able to park in those conveniently located spaces.

Accessible parking spaces have made life a little easier for those with a handicap. Required by law in most public spaces, they shorten the walking distance between the driver and the destination. Easily recognized by the standard wheelchair ADA symbol, guidelines dictate that there should be one disabled parking space ever 25 spaces with a sign displayed 60 inches above the ground.


Many incorrectly believe that the driver himself must possess a handicap to qualify for an accessible parking permit. In fact, someone with limited mobility who cannot drive also qualifies, such as someone who is legally blind. Someone may drive for him or her, but the permit ensures the passenger’s safety; it’s extremely dangerous for someone who cannot see to walk around a busy parking lot.

In addition, as explained by Washington State’s dept. of licensing, those with handicaps that are not visible, such as lung disease, cardiovascular disease, or sensitivity to light or vehicle emissions, also qualify for disabled parking permits.

Next time you think about illegally parking in a disabled space, remember that the spaces are there not only for convenience, but also as a safety precaution. Leave the spot for the person who really needs it, and prevent an emergency situation.

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Category: Regulations

Comments (4)

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  1. Jack says:

    Handicap parking (reserved spaces) are part of the ADA regulations to ensure access to goods and services. Access from a parking context entails rules about reserved spaces themselves, signage, and routes to/from. In laymen’s terms, there needs to be a barrier free means to exit your vehicle and enter a building. The only distance rule is that the reserved spaces must be located on the shortest accessible route of travel from adjacent parking to an accessible entrance.

    Distance however is not the vital part of handicap parking. Barrier free access from getting out of your vehicle to entering the building is. The slop/grade, the access aisle, the surface material, the curb cut, the door handle, etc. Even if a reserved spot was only 3 feet from the building, it wouldn’t be much good if you had to climb a 20 foot ladder, swing on a rope, drop through a window and land on an air mattress to get in.

    Distance is still an important factor and one of the main contentions when it comes to handing out permits. The contentions stem from variable distances each business requires to access their goods and services. A small coffee shop may take only 20 feet, a drug store may take 125 feet, a grocery store 500 feet, a baseball stadium 1000 feet, a large mall 2500 feet, etc. Add to this, the varying distances a person with a disability may be able to cover from day to day, hour to hour. There is no one distance that works for everyone and everywhere.

    The good news is there are many readily available means to assist with distance when barrier free access is provided: Wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, crutches, canes, etc. These mobility devices allow for turning distance into a convenience factor rather than a need. Simply choose the device you need to cover the distance involved. Eligibility for a handicap parking permit could then be determined by access aisle. If an access aisle is required to enter/exit your vehicle or transfer to your mobility device, you would qualify for a handicap permit.

    • Debbie Moore says:

      Just as you say. Thanks for your insight, Jack.

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