Accessible Parking


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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that gives people with disabilities the right to access public programs and public accommodations. Having accessible parking spaces, and the ability to reserve those spaces for people with disabilities, is vital for access. State and local laws, regulations, and codes-such as the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code and the Fairfax County Public Facilities Manual, and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle regulations determining who can park in accessible spaces-brings the ADA to life.

 

Accessible Parking Spaces

The ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADAAG) sets standards for accessible parking which are in turn incorporated into state and local building codes. Accessible parking spaces must be provided in all parking areas open to the public and located on the shortest access route from the parking area to the facility entrance. The following information comes primarily from the ADAAG, but it's important to check the building codes applicable in your locality to make sure that there are no additional requirements. Good sources for the Virginia and Fairfax codes are listed in the resources section.



Signs

Accessible parking spaces are to be identified by an above-grade sign displaying the International Symbol of Access and the words "DMV PERMIT REQUIRED, PENALTY $100 - $500 FINE, TOW-AWAY ZONE". The signs shall be 12" wide and 24" high and shall be mounted on a wall or post so that the lower edge of the sign is not less than 4' nor more than 7' above grade. A van accessible space shall have an additional sign 12" wide and 7" high and shall display the words "VAN ACCESSIBLE". Note that an accessibility symbol painted on the parking facility floor cannot be the only way an accessible space is marked. It is the property owner/manager's responsibility to post accessible parking signs that conform to current regulations. The signs shall consist of white lettering on a blue background. A plate with the standards for Fairfax County is available online in the forms section of the Fairfax County Public Facilities Manual, numbers 32A-7 and 32B-7. In addition, the requirements for posting signage for accessible parking are also in plates 32C-7 and 32CM-7 of the Fairfax County Public Facilities Manual.

Disability parking signs can be obtained from commercial sign shops. Most sign shops also install the signs. Sign shops can be located in the Yellow Pages and the Internet. Many indicate in their advertisements that they are in compliance with the ADA, but prices vary considerably and getting several quotes may assure the best price. Consumers are advised against using sign shops that are not aware of and do not have the current requirements for signs for the jurisdiction in which the signs will be placed.

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Location, Number, and Size of Accessible Parking

Accessible parking spaces must be located on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible entrance. Where buildings have multiple accessible entrances with adjacent parking, the accessible parking spaces must be dispersed and located closest to the accessible entrances. The law sets out the minimum number of accessible parking spaces, based on the size of the parking facility. Appendix 1 lists the minimum number of accessible van and car spaces required but check with local building codes should they be more stringent. Also note that for places having multiple parking facilities (such as malls) the numbers of total parking spaces are not combined to determine the number of accessible spaces. Instead, each parking facility is counted separately. In addition, at least one of eight parking spaces must be van accessible, and in facilities with fewer than eight accessible parking spaces, at least one must be van accessible.

Access aisle dimensions, sign specifications and accessibility routes (including appropriate curb ramps) are all specified by law. All parking spaces shall be delineated on both sides with a single line (stripe), with a minimum width of 4 inches. The width for a universal parking space is a minimum of 8 ½ feet, measured from the centerline of one stripe to the centerline of the adjacent stripe.

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Accessible Parking Spaces for Cars

Accessible parking spaces for cars have at least a 60-inch-wide access aisle located adjacent to the designated parking space. The access aisle is just wide enough to permit a person using a wheelchair to enter or exit the car. These parking spaces are identified with a sign and located on level ground.

Accessible parking spaces for cars must have the following features:

  • Sign with the international symbol of accessibility mounted high enough so it can be seen while a vehicle is parked in the space.
  • If the accessible route is located in front of the space, install wheelstops to keep vehicles from reducing width below 36 inches.
  • Access aisle of at least 60-inch width must be level (1:50 maximum slope in all directions), be the same length as the adjacent parking space(s) it serves and must connect to an accessible route to the building. Ramps must not extend into the access aisle.
  • Boundary of the access aisle must be marked. The end may be a squared or curved shape.
  • Two parking spaces may share an access aisle.

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Accessible Parking Spaces for Vans

Van-accessible parking spaces are the same as accessible parking spaces for cars except for three features needed for vans:

  • Sign with "van accessible" and the international symbol of accessibility mounted high enough so the sign can be seen when a vehicle is parked in the space.
  • 96" min. width access aisle, level (max. slope 1:50 in all directions), located beside the van parking space.
  • Min. 98-inch-high clearance at van parking space, access aisle, and on vehicular route to and from van space.

More specific information and guidance on accessible parking spaces is available from the Code Analysis Division, Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, 703-324-1700.

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Disability Parking Placards and Plates

Most of the following material is from a pamphlet published by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, "Virginia Has Disability Parking Placards and Plates" (pdf document) and their pages on disability on their Web site, www.dmv.virginia.gov .

There are two ways of identifying a driver or passenger as a person with a disability who needs accessible parking: through a placard that hangs from the rearview mirror or a special license plate. To be eligible for either, a person needs to have a temporary or permanent disability that limits or impairs his ability to walk, or creates a safety concern while walking. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues those placards and plates. Both display the international symbol of access and are valid in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Institutions and organizations that provide transportation for persons with a disability may also apply for plates and placards. The institution or organization must be a non-profit entity. Businesses that directly or indirectly charge persons with a disability a fee are not eligible. People may apply for disabled plates and placards at any DMV customer service center.

Placards and plates sent to the recipient by mail. When applying for or renewing a placard in person, the DMV will provide an orange receipt that can be hung on the rear view mirror and will give the bearer accessible parking privileges until the placard is received. More information about the placards and plates is available on the Web at the DMV website.

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Placards and Plates

Temporary parking placards, valid for up to six months, are available if the person has a disability that limits or impairs the ability to walk, and which, in a doctor's opinion, will improve in six months or less. DMV issues one placard per customer. The doctor must indicate the expected length of your disability. If after six months the doctor certifies that is still disabled, that person may obtain another placard valid for up to another six months.

Permanent parking placards, valid for five years, are available, if in a doctor's opinion, a person has a permanent disability that limits or impairs the ability to walk, or creates a safety concern while walking. A "permanent disability" is a condition that limits or impairs movement from one place to another or the ability to walk (as defined in Va. Code §46.2-1240), has reached the maximum level of improvement, and is not expected to change even with additional treatment. After five years you may obtain another placard valid for another five years without a physician certification.

Permanent parking placards are also available for organizations that regularly transport groups of persons with physical disabilities. The institution or organization must be a non-profit entity. Businesses that directly or indirectly charge persons with a disability a fee are not eligible. All placards expire on the last day of the month and year indicated on the placard.

Disabled license plates are also available if, in your doctor's opinion, you have a "permanent disability." In most cases, these license plates are issued when the driver is the person with a disability, not a passenger such as a child. Like other license plates, they are valid until the vehicle registration expires. A doctor does not need to re-certify the disability when renewing vehicle registration. Disabled license plates are also available for organizations that use specially equipped vehicles to transport groups of persons with physical disabilities.

Disabled veterans license plates are also available and one set of plates is provided for free. Like other license plates, they are valid until the vehicle registration expires. Disabled veterans license plates are also available without the international symbol of access; however, these plates do not provide accessible parking privileges.

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Application Process

Application forms for placards and plates are available on DMV's website or at any DMV customer service center.

Individuals can obtain placards or plates by presenting a Disabled Parking Plates or Placard Application (form MED 10). The application must include a doctor's certification if obtaining a permanent placard for the first time, or applying for disabled plates or a temporary placard. A doctor does not need to re-certify disability if renewing a permanent placard; applying for a permanent placard for the first time and already have disabled license plates; or applying for disabled license plates and already have a permanent placard. Persons applying for disabled veteran license plates with the international symbol of access must use forms MED 10 and VSA 54. A representative of the Veteran's Administration must sign the VSA 54 form.

For safety's sake, please remove your placard from your rearview mirror when driving. Organizations can obtain placards by presenting an Institutional/Organizational Permanent Placard Application (MED 11). To obtain plates, institutions must present a Disabled Parking Plates or Placard Application (MED 10).

Temporary and permanent placards cost $5. There is no additional charge for plates displaying the international symbol of access, other than the usual charge for plates.

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Rights and Privileges

Accessible parking privileges allow the bearer of a disabled placard or plate, or her driver, to

  • park in any parking space designated for a person with a disability
  • park for up to four hours in metered or time-restricted spaces without paying a fee unless prohibited by the locality. (For example, Arlington County is one jurisdiction which does not allow free parking in metered or time-restricted spaces, even those which are accessible).

Accessible parking privileges do not allow the bearer of a disabled placard or plate, or her driver, to stop, stand or park in the following areas:

  • where parking is prohibited.
  • in spaces reserved for others special types of vehicles.
  • where it would clearly present a traffic hazard.

Parking privileges may vary by state or local jurisdiction. In addition, private parking facilities, such as airport parking lots, may restrict the time and free parking provisions for vehicles displaying disabled parking placards or plates.

It's unlawful to

  • park in a space reserved for a person with a disability without displaying a disabled placard or plates. A conviction of this offense could result in fines from $100 to $500.
  • allow anyone to use disabled placard or plates to park in a disabled parking space unless the person is transporting the bearer of the placard or plate. A conviction of this offense could result in fines of up to $500 and/or the revocation disabled parking privileges, requiring the bearer to surrender the placard or plates.

It's also illegal to

  • create or use a counterfeit copy of a disabled parking placard or license plates.
  • alter a disabled parking placard or license plates.
  • make a false statement about a disability in order to obtain or assist someone else in obtaining a disabled parking placard or license plates. Convictions for these offenses, which are Class II Misdemeanors, could result in fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Additionally, DMV may revoke disabled parking privileges, requiring the surrender of placard or plates.

 

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Privacy for Temporary and Permanent Placard Holders

(The following section is adapted from the DMV website.)

In order to assure their privacy, the owner of a placard or his representative may use removable tape to cover the name and date of birth on the placard. However, a person must remove the tape, if requested by a law enforcement officer, for verification. The person named on the placard must be the driver or a passenger in the vehicle each time the placard is used. The placard must hang from the rearview mirror when the vehicle is in an accessible parking space.

The placard must be returned

  • when applying for a new placard
  • when the placard expires or
  • when the placard is no longer needed by the person with a disability.

For more information on disabled placards and plates, call any DMV Customer Service Centers or DMV's Customer Information Services at 800-435-5137. They are also available on the Web at www.dmv.virginia.gov. Customers needing a TTY can call 1-800-272-9268 or send an email through the DMV Web site.

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To Report Violations

To report the use of expired placards or the suspected misuse or alteration of placards or plates, a person should call the Virginia State DMV at 804-367-6602, TTY 800-272-9268.

To report parking violations, i.e., vehicles parked in a disabled parking space without a valid disabled placard or plate, a person should call the local police non-emergency number in the jurisdiction in which the violation happened (see list below). When calling, have a description of the vehicle (make, model and color), license plate number, location, date, and time. Reporting violations assists the police departments in policing accessible parking spaces. Registering complaints enables the police to target specific areas for patrol purposes; it may enable the police to issue a parking violation ticket on the spot. To report a violation, call:

  • Fairfax County: Voice/TTY 703-691-2131
  • City of Fairfax: 703-385-7960, TTY 703-359-2480
  • City of Falls Church: 703-241-5053, TTY 703-532-4489
  • Herndon Police Department: Voice/TTY 703-435-6846
  • Vienna Police Department: 703-255-6366

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Securing a Residential Accessible Parking Space

The property owner and manager of a multi-unit residence are obligated to provide an assigned and posted accessible parking space for a resident with a disability that requests such a space. This applies to housing in which the residents rent or own, such as condominiums or a cooperative.

The resident must make a specific request for a "reasonable accommodation" from the management. That request should be for an assigned and posted accessible parking space, either in writing or verbally. A written request allows for a paper trail should the management refuse the request, but a verbal request meets the requirements of the Fair Housing and ADA. (See sample letter of reasonable accommodation request in Appendix 2.) The request should not be for an accessible public parking space, with its required signage, but an accessible space assigned only for the resident's use. Along with the request, the management may ask that the resident provide documentation or justification, such as a copy of a valid disabled parking placard or plate and the requirements for the parking space (for example, van accessible or location of access aisle).

If the request is valid and reasonable, the management is legally responsible to provide the space within a reasonable amount of time. If management rejects the request, the person with a disability may seek recourse with offices having authority to enforce fair housing laws:

  • Disability Rights Office of the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Housing Office at 800-669-9777, TTY 800-927-9275
  • Fairfax County Human Rights Commission at 703-324-2953, TTY 703-324-2900

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Appendix 1 - Required Number of Accessible Parking Spaces

Accessible parking spaces for cars must have a minimum 60" wide access aisle located adjacent to the designated parking space. This enables a person using a wheelchair to enter or exit the car. Two parking spaces may share an access aisle.

A van accessible parking space must have a minimum 96" wide access aisle to accommodate a wheelchair lift.

As a rule, one out of eight accessible parking spaces, and always at least one, must be van accessible.  The required number of accessible parking spaces is determined as follows:

Total Parking Spaces Total Accessible Car Van
1 to 25 1 0 1
26 to 50 2 1 1
51 to 75 3 2 1
76 to 100 4 3 1
101 to 150 5 4 1
151 to 200 6 5 1
201 to 300 7 6 1
301 to 400 8 7 1
401 to 500 9 7 2
501 to 1000 2% of total 7/8th* 1/8th**
1001 and over 20 plus 1 for each 100 over 1000 7/8th* 1/8th**

* 7 out of 8 accessible parking spaces
**1 out of 8 accessible parking spaces

 

 

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Appendix 2- Sample Letter to Request a Reasonable Accommodation for an Assigned Parking Space

Date
Writer's Address

Name of Authority (such as owner, landlord, condominium management, or homeowner association, for example)
Address of Authority

Subject: Request for reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act


Under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, and the Fair Housing Act, as amended, I respectfully request an assigned accessible parking space close to my housing unit located at (unit number and/or address). This request constitutes a "reasonable accommodation" because of my disability. (Describe briefly the nature of your disability, such as a wheelchair user, etc). I am in possession of a valid disabled parking (placard or plate) issued by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

A "reasonable accommodation" is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Under the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, an assigned accessible parking space is one of reasonable accommodations you must make to your current parking space polity.

Also under the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, you have an obligation to provide a prompt response to my request for a reasonable accommodation. For this purpose, I believe ten (10) business days is sufficient. Accordingly, please let me know your determination at your earliest convenience.

Your prompt consideration of this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

(your name)


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