You see them everywhere you go. The classic blue logo on the concrete and a metal sign designating a handicap-only parking space. If you have a disability, these spots generally allow you easier and closer access to the building.
But whether there is a sign or not should not be the only thing you pay attention to when trying to park at the mall, grocery store or other places of business. The striped white paint, the size of the space and certain keywords on the marked sign are just as, if not more, important. You think you know what an accessible parking space is – but do you really?
Not Every Disabled Parking Space Is Created Equal
Businesses are required to provide accessible parking spots for their disabled customers. These spaces must provide the shortest accessible route to the entrance of the building or facility. Accessible parking spaces and routes should be located where disabled individuals do not have to cross a vehicular lane. When parking cannot be located immediately next to the building and the accessible route crosses traffic, a marked crossing should be provided.
There are three types of these accessible parking spaces available. Each of these spaces has unique identifying factors you should be aware of so you can make the most courteous parking decision on your next outing.
Accessible Parking Spaces for Cars
These designated accessible parking spaces are for disabled people in a standard vehicle. They are easy to spot, as they are marked with a sign, located on level ground, and have at least a 60-inch-wide aisle next to the parking space. This gives a person using a wheelchair or other assistive devices enough room to enter or exit the vehicle.
Accessible Parking Spaces for Vans (One-Sided Entry)
Driving a wheelchair-accessible van means you will need extra parking space on the side of the vehicle to lower the ramp. The one-sided-entry parking spaces have a white-striped access aisle on the passenger side that is 96 inches wide. The handicapped parking sign for these spaces is marked as “Van Accessible.” You will notice these spots also have a vertical clearance to accommodate the van height next to the access aisle and on the route to and from the parking space.
Accessible Parking Spaces for Vans (Two-Sided Entry)
The two-sided-entry parking space has all of the specifications of a one-sided-entry space, but includes access aisles on both sides of the vehicle. This allows for the disabled driver or passenger to easily enter and exit from either side of the van with enough space to maneuver.
There is no penalty for a disabled person parking in a van-accessible parking space. However, if you don’t have a van and there are other standard handicap spaces available, it is courteous to park there instead. See our post on accessible parking etiquette for more information on mindful parking.