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Make Accessible Parking Count

Sign that refers to parking spot as reserved for Handicapped, but should read Accessible Parking. Old signage, and sometimes new, uses the term "handicapped" as shown in this photo. Replacing these signs with those that read "Accessible Parking" is something to aim for. Why? Because "Accessible" more correctly describes the parking space. It certainly isn't "Handicapped." And many of its users object to being referred to as "Handicapped." B, Massachusetts

People in parking lot. One in wheelchair, one with impaired vision This photo was taken in the parking lot of the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, Durham, North Carolina. Although the group during the survey may have been larger than needed, it was very important to include "educated users." By that I mean people who use wheelchairs: both those using cars or vans. They provide lived experience and are likely to see the trouble spots, if any. And although the ADA standards seem straightforward, it's best to include an ADA technical assistance expert as well. In this case, the ADA specialist was the state rep for the regional ADA assistance center. At other workshops, ADA specialists have been the ADA coordinators for the city or county. Sally, Washington, D.C.

A recent survey shows that we meet the guidelines with three well-marked spaces directly in front of the entrance to the museum. All three are van accessible and have ample aisles and a direct route to the entrance. They get used all the time, and we have little problem with them being used inappropriately. However, we are about to change our entrance and, as a result, parking for visitors with disabilities.

Current plans are to move our visitor entrance to the middle of the building from one end where it is now. If we did this, it would mean moving and adding to the total of designated parking spots we have now in front and alongside the building. Here's our challenge: we do not operate either of the lots where our visitors park. Both the small lot in front of our building and on the road that runs alongside are operated by the city. We have an appropriate number of spaces in the front lot if you only count those maintained by the city. However, we also have access to parking in a lot owned and maintained by the National Park Service. It does not have any designated accessible spots. Designating accessible parking spots in this lot would not necessarily be appropriate because it is so far away from our entrance. We would prefer to designate additional parking spots in the city parking lot in front of the building to compensate for the number of parking spots in the national park parking lot. I forgot to mention that the front parking lot is also used by the neighborhood residents. This would mean negotiating with two separate governmental agencies and our neighbors. It gets pretty complicated. We are waiting to make any changes until our renovation plans are completed. Corinn, California

As the ADA coordinator for my county and as a person who uses a wheelchair and drives, I've surveyed as well as used numerous parking lots. Four things often get overlooked. First are the uneven surfaces. Having to navigate a route with bumps and dips makes it difficult to push a wheelchair. Second, and this is worse, if the route I have to navigate takes me behind parking spaces and out into traffic, I run the risk of being hit by a moving vehicle. Facility managers should take a good look for themselves as to the lay of the land. If they did, they could try out the route. Better yet would be to ask someone with a disability for a ride and to check out the parking and route to the door with that person.

Something that really makes me angry is people who park in the designated access aisles-the area with the stripes. By doing so, they render the adjacent accessible space useless to a person who needs to lower a lift or ramp. Facility managers should ensure that the law is enforced and that this doesn't happen.

Lastly, another big problem is facilities that allow delivery vehicles to block the curb. Blocking the accessible route is a real injustice to all patrons, but particularly to those with mobility and vision difficulties. Again, policies should be established and communicated to the proper personnel to watch out for this and to make other arrangements. Sandy, Florida

The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA, uses its web pages to make clear the accessible parking options for vans. Here's what they say:

Parking. The Museum has an indoor parking garage located on 21st Street. Clearance for vans is 6'5". Vans larger than this transporting disabled visitors may park to the left of the garage entrance. Please advise security at the ticketing area upon entering the Museum. Designated parking spaces for disabled visitors are located on the street level of the garage (level P2). Automatic doors lead to elevators that take you out to the Bartol Atrium and ticketing area. Don't forget to have your parking ticket validated at the Box Office to receive a reduced rate in the garage.

The U.S. Department of Justice puts many of its ADA settlements online at

What follows is part of a settlement with a popular Boston restaurant. It's instructive in that it lays out the basic elements of accessible parking. The barriers noted in the DOJ's survey were as follows: a) there were an inadequate number of parking spaces accessible to individuals with disabilities; b) the parking spaces designated for use by individuals with disabilities did not have access aisles, and were not flat and level. One had a pothole and another had a slope of greater than 1:50; c) the parking spaces designated for use by individuals with disabilities were not being properly maintained; snow plowed from the rest of the lot was deposited in the spaces designated for use by individuals with disabilities; d) the parking spaces designated for use by individuals with disabilities were not on the shortest accessible route of travel to the entrances; e) there was no accessible route of travel from the parking spaces designated for use by individuals with disabilities to the entrances. There was a three to four inch step up to the landing at the front of the building.

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