This week marks the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Among the many life improving aspects of this law include wheelchair ramps, accessible sidewalks, doors, and parking spaces.
These laws allow those in wheelchairs and others the ability to travel more freely, whether it be to shop, work or simply enjoy time with friends and family.
Even with these laws on the books, we still have more to do to make our communities accessible to all. Not all the changes needed are legal, most simply require the able-body community to simply use some basic etiquette.
Especially as it relates to handicap parking spaces.
There are three types of handicap parking spaces: standard, one-side entry wheelchair van, and two-side entry wheelchair van.
Although most states don’t have laws or rules governing which types of parking spots a handicap parking permit grants access to, it does make a difference to drivers depending on their limitations.
Standard handicap parking spaces are the typical spots that most people are familiar with. They’re usually marked with the iconic stenciled wheelchair user on a blue background.
The parking spots can comfortably accommodate sedans and SUVs, but they are not large enough for side-entry wheelchair vans.
Van-specific parking spaces are much larger, and the sign is typically labeled as “Van Accessible.” These spots have a 96-inch-wide white-striped access area on one or two sides to let wheelchair users safely enter and exit the van while using a wheelchair ramp or lift.
This is where following some simple etiquette can make a world of difference to a wheelchair user. Essentially, it comes down to three simple acts all based on the same simple theme: Mind the Lines.
• Give ‘em Space. If you’re parking near a van-accessible spot, be sure to leave ample room away from the hash marks. If you park too close, you might block the wheelchair ramp of a side-entry van.
Few things are more offensive and frustrating to a wheelchair user trying to get in their vehicle at a shopping center or at a restaurant only to be blocked by an unaware driver who parked too close, blocking their ability to leave.
• Don’t Create Obstacles. Never leave a shopping cart in the space or hash marks. It may not seem like a big deal for someone to remove a shopping cart from the blue lines, but it can block someone’s ability to exit or enter their vehicle.
• Remove obstacles. If you do see a shopping cart or something else blocking the hash marks of a handicap parking space, remove the obstacle. This simple act of kindness will go a long way.
And of course, it goes beyond saying, there’s no period of time where it’s okay to illegally park in a handicap designated space. The inconvenience of having to walk farther for you, is an inconvenience nearly anyone truly requiring the handicap space would happily accept.
Tim Barone is CEO of Vantage Mobility International, a leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles.