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Avoid Accessibility Mistakes in Parking Areas with ADA Compliance

You’ve considered the most common parking designmistakes – adequate space for end aisles, overuse of wheel stops, curbs, or other control devices, and the area’s flow capacity. But did you consider accessibility and the new ADA compliance standards?

Shortly after the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2010, a new ADAAG (ADA Accessibility Guidelines) was passed. These standards, an update to the original standards passed in 1991, include parking requirements and affect new construction that begins on or after March 15, 2012.

One of the biggest changes in the new standard is that the number of van-accessible stalls increases to 1 in 6, whereas it was 1 in 8 in the previous standards. Other notable changes to the standard include the layout for van stalls and other modifications for passenger loading zones.

Lacking in Layout The layout of spaces is a concern. "You want to provide enough space for a van and a space next to the van, and you want to provide an accessible path for people to be able to get from that space safely to their designation point," says architect Shannon Sanders McDonald. "It can be a little bit complicated, in terms of providing a safe route that doesn’t cross over other paths. But you can’t always do that because of local fire codes where you have to keep all clear in front of the building for a fire vehicle, and there still has to be a path where wheelchairs cross."

"Even if you meet the ADA rules, sometimes it’s still very challenging," she adds. "Most people try to get the van-accessible and handicapped-accessible parking spaces as close as possible to the first level, the entry, and any appropriate paths from the parking structure."

Common Sense = Common Error

Interpretation of the rules is often where mistakes are made. "A common error is using common sense and interpretation approaches that are consistent with the way building codes are interpreted," explains Mary Smith, senior vice president of Walker Parking Consultants. "For example, the elevator doesn’t need to serve all floors if all of the accessible stalls are on the floors served by the elevators. This is not true."

Failing to make the cashier booths accessible is also a common mistake. ADAAG has made it clear that all single occupant workstations have to meet the rules, even if you believe cashiers have duties that would prevent a person in a wheelchair from holding the position. Not all workstations have to meet the requirements for full accessibility, but putting a booth up on a curb with a step into it does not comply with ADA.

Compliance in Current Projects Mistakes in designing parking for ADA compliance are not only in new construction – there are several common mistakes to avoid in parking for existing facilities as well.

"For existing facilities, the most common error is restriping non-compliant stalls the same way, rather than correcting the layout to meet ADAAG," says Smith. "If built prior to 1992, there are often not enough total spaces, not enough van spaces, and more importantly, the stalls are not correctly sized and/or incorrectly striped."

"Rather than simply instructing the restriper to redo the same layout, ask the striping company if it has been trained on the requirements of both the federal and state law," she explains. "Some are quite competent, others say they are but are not, and others have no clue. If there is a question, contact a local parking consultant, architect, or even a disability agency to come out and make recommendations."

The Department of Justice has stated that fixing the layout is readily achievable and not a burden. And when it comes to ADA compliance, the responsibility is all yours.

"The most common mistake is assuming that ADAAG compliance is checked adequately by local building code officials," Smith explains. "Generally, they are only responsible to enforce state codes and those may not be fully compliant with ADA."

"Never accept a statement by a designer inexperienced in parking design that ‘it meets code,’ ‘it’s not a big deal,’ and the worst of all, ‘we’ll use signs to make sure it works right,’" cautions Smith. "If there is any question, insist that the designer retain a parking consultant to ensure functionality is provided." B

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