Modern handicap vans and wheelchair lifts empower wheelchair users to experience personal freedom and go where they want, when they want. Wheelchair vans provide significant personal mobility in an easy-to-use package, but operating your wheelchair van may take some getting used to. This post prepares you or your caregiver for one of the first tasks you’ll encounter: parking your wheelchair-accessible van.

We break down the parking spots you’ll likely see, and we have a short instructional video outlining the proper ways to park and exit your wheelchair vehicle in a wheelchair van parking space.

Whether you’re stopping for food during road trip, picking up groceries or driving yourself to a job interview, you’ll encounter three different types of handicap-accessible parking spots. How you pull into a parking spot will depend on what type you’ve found and what other vehicles are around you.

Standard Handicap Parking Spaces

This parking spot is the most common type you’ll encounter. They are marked with the iconic blue background and stenciled wheelchair user. The parking spots are designed for standard vehicles and have at least a 60-inch-wide aisle next to the parking space to accommodate wheelchair users. These parking spots are great for sedans and SUVs, but they are not large enough to work for side-entry wheelchair vans.

Handicap Parking Spaces for Vans: One-Sided Entry

These parking spaces are designed specifically for side-entry wheelchair vans, and the parking sign will typically be labeled as “Van Accessible.” They have a 96 inch-wide white-striped access area on the passenger side, so wheelchair users can safely enter and exit the van using a wheelchair ramp or lift.

When you approach a one-sided parking space, you’ll want to pay special attention to what side of the parking spot the striped section is on. If need be, consider backing into the spot so the ramp can deploy in the marked off area.

Also, remember to consider how much space you need to deploy the ramp when you’re getting back in your vehicle. We’ve all encountered the uncourteous drivers who park on hash marks and make it really challenging, if not impossible, to deploy the van’s ramp and make it back inside. Try to give yourself enough room to avoid being boxed in by drivers who aren’t aware of handicap parking etiquette.

Handicap Parking Spaces for Vans: Two-Sided Entry

The two-sided-entry parking space is the upgraded version of the smaller one-sided option. This space has the same specifications of a one-sided van accessible parking spot, but it includes white-striped access aisles on both sides. Because the hash stripes are on both sides of the parking spot, you can pull in normally. Just be sure to leave enough room for the wheelchair ramp to properly deploy so you can make a 90 degree turn with your power chair when exiting or entering the vehicle.

Parking Next to a Curb

In the off chance that you can’t find an open handicap parking spot and you’re parking next to a curb, then there are two important things to remember. First, turn off the “kneel” feature switch, since the ramp will be deploying at curb height. Second, remember to give your side door enough space from the curb because it deploys outward upon being opened.