Throughout the land of Southwest Colorado, there is a resounding echo: “Where do we put all this snow?”
To which there is one simple answer: “Not in the accessible parking space!”
As spring marches nearer and the rains melt the snowpack, this question will wane. However, the seriousness of access to public spaces will not. Without adequate parking, people with disabilities cannot access community resources. In some cases, this creates a barrier to people with disabilities accessing the same services people without disabilities take for granted.
In other cases, the impact is potential lost revenue for businesses. The buying power of people with disabilities is steadily growing. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the discretionary income of people with disabilities is $175 billion per year. That was in 2004; the number only continues to grow.
So, if it’s good for people with disabilities and good for business, why do we constantly hear from people with disabilities that their accessible parking spaces are not, indeed, accessible?
My guess is that it is a lack of understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act. So, in recognition of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Month, let’s review ADA requirements.
The ADA was signed into law in 1991, and revisions to the parking requirements were updated in 2010. There are many nuances, but some general rules apply:
Any facility open to the public is covered under the ADA, not just governmental entities.The number of accessible parking spaces is determined by the total number of spaces available. For instance, a parking lot with 25 or fewer spaces must have at least one designated accessible space and it must be van-accessible. A parking lot with 250 parking spaces must have at least seven accessible spaces and two of those must have a loading area for vans.Accessible spaces must be at least 8 feet wide; van spaces must be 11 feet wide.The spaces and access aisles (i.e., the space to allow a wheelchair to approach the vehicle and a ramp to extend) must be clearly marked, smooth and level, and clear of barriers.The aforementioned barriers include motorcycles (my friend George’s pet peeve), equipment and, to the point of this article, snow!
Fortunately, the internet is a terrific resource for ADA specifics that should clarify what is required (ada.gov and adata.org have excellent technical guides). We’ve all experienced inconvenience by levels of snow this year. But what is an inconvenience for some is a barrier for others. Walking around piles of snow in the curb cut is only possible if you have the ability to walk. Parking in another space is only possible if you aren’t relying on a clear, contiguous space where you can unload your wheelchair.
Snowy weather brings out our best. Neighbor helps neighbor, and businesses and organizations work to support the community as we dig out. While we’re in the spirit of helping each other, let’s remember the barriers we can help to remove for our friends and neighbors with disabilities.
Tara Kiene is president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.