Those involved in planning parking patterns for businesses and buildings across the country have a strong incentive to be familiar with the federal guidelines for handicapped parking spaces. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was most recently updated in 2010, and it includes the complete list of federal guidelines for handicapped parking compliance in the United States.
Number of Spaces
The number of handicapped parking spaces required for a business depends on the size of the parking lot. Up to the first 100 spaces, only one spot in 25 is required to be handicap-accessible. One spot in 50 is needed for the next 100 spaces, and one spot in 100 for any additional 100 up to 500 spaces. If a lot contains between 500 and 1,000 spaces, 2% of the spaces must be handicap-accessible. If a lot exceeds 1,000 spaces, 20 accessible spaces are required, plus an extra accessible space for each additional 100 spaces.
Certain facilities are required to have more accessibility depending on their function. Hospitals and outpatient centers, for example, must have 10% of their spaces meet modern accessibility guidelines. Physical therapy and rehabilitation clinics must have 20%.
Parking Space Locations
Per the ADA regulations, handicap-accessible spaces must be located on the shortest accessible route to the entrance of the building or site that the parking lot services. For general-use parking lots, handicap-accessible spaces should be located close to a public walkway, such as a sidewalk, with an accessible means of reaching it.
Parking Space Specifications
Handicap-accessible spaces have explicit guidelines on how they are to be sized and proportioned. Spaces with car accessibility must be a minimum of 96 inches wide, while spaces intended for use with vans must be a minimum of 132 inches wide. Both types of spaces must have an access aisle adjacent to them.
Access aisles connect accessible parking spaces to entrances. These aisles must be at least 60 inches wide, but they can be shared by adjacent accessible spaces. Access aisles must extend the entire length of the accessible space it services, and they should be clearly marked to discourage parking within their boundaries. Both access aisles and the spaces adjacent to them must have 98 inches of vertical clearance.
Accessible spaces should not generally be placed on a sloped surface – there is a strong preference for building accessible spaces and aisles on flat ground to better serve the needs of their users. Building accessible parking on grades is only permitted if the grade is very shallow (1:48 or lower).
Accessible parking spaces must also be adequately labeled to signify their use. Spaces must be labeled with the International Symbol of Accessibility – the well-known pictograph of the figure sitting in a wheelchair in front of a blue background. For a space to be in compliance with accessibility guidelines, a sign with the accessibility symbol must be placed at least 60 inches from the ground to mark the space in question. If the space is to be designed to be van accessible, a sign should be added beneath the first to reflect this as well.