The Americans with Disabilities Act is the document requiring businesses to make their facilities accessible to people with various special needs. The ADA has guidelines on the spacing and layout of parking spaces. While the ADA does not address on-street parking specifically, some general parking suggestions apply.
The key to making spaces accessible for everyone who is handicapped is to make the spaces large enough to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and other equipment. ADA specifications indicate that a 96-inch aisle is needed for a full-sized handicapped space, although smaller spaces can be made available as well. With on-street parking, planners may get this clearance space by opening space on the sidewalk side of the parking spot.
Angled spaces are acceptable as ADA-compliant parking; however, most city streets have parallel parking on-street. ADA guidelines recommend that people who need handicapped parking should be able to pull in forward or backward in the best possible space design. This ability to pull in either way grants the greatest flexibility for people who need to assist others in unloading from the vehicle.
One in eight spots should be van accessible. These spots need to stretch the full 96-inch specification. They also should have a special sign indicating that a spot is van-accessible. Many vans come with electronic wheelchair lifts, which is why the extra space is needed. For on-street parking, van spaces may be difficult to accommodate.
The ADA requires that spaces are in the location with the shortest possible route to the entrance. Because on-street parking typically is for more than one business, the shortest route is not necessarily the best benchmark. Another choice is to space the spots so that someone who needs them will have to go only a small distance to get to any place nearby.
- handicapped sign image by sonya etchison from Fotolia.com