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 dictate the requirements for accessible parking spaces.
The ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADAAG) sets standards for accessible parking, which are in turn are 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.
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 inches wide and 24 inches high and shall be mounted on a wall or post so that the lower edge of the sign is not less than 4 feet and no more than 7 feet above grade.
A van accessible space shall have an additional sign 12 inches ide and 7 inches 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.
Accessible parking signs can be obtained from commercial sign shops. Most sign shops will also install the signs.
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. 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.
Accessible parking spaces for cars must have the following features:
Parking space identification sign with the international symbol of accessibility mounted 60 inches minimum above the ground surface measured to the bottom of the sign.
If the accessible route is located in front of the parking space, install wheel stops to keep vehicles from reducing the clear width of the accessible route below 36 inches.
Two parking spaces may share an access aisle except for angled parking spaces.
- Access aisle width is at least 60 inches, must be at the same level and the same length as the adjacent parking space(s) it serves, maximum slope in all directions is 1:48, and access aisle must connect to an accessible route to the building. Ramps must not extend into the access aisle. Parking space shall be 96 inches wide minimum, marked to define the width, and maximum slope in all directions is 1:48. Boundary of the access aisle must be clearly marked so as to discourage parking in it.
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.
- Vertical clearance of 98 inches minimum to accommodate van height at the vehicle parking space, the adjacent access aisle, and on the vehicular route to and from the van-accessible 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. Van parking space must be 132 inches wide minimum with an adjacent 60-inch wide minimum access aisle. A van parking space of 96 inches wide minimum width an adjacent 96-inch wide minimum access aisle is also permitted 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.
- 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, but will improve in six months or less. If after six months the doctor certifies that the person still has a disability, that person may obtain another placard valid for up to another six months.
Permanent parking placards, valid for five years, are available if a person has a permanent disability that limits or impairs the ability to walk, or creates a safety concern while walking. Permanent parking placards are also available for nonprofit organizations that regularly transport groups of persons with physical disabilities.
License plates are also available for people with permanent disabilities. In most cases, these license plates are issued when the driver is the person with a disability, not a passenger such as a child.
Individuals can obtain placards or plates by presenting a Disabled Parking Plates or Placard Application. 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 must also submit this form.
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).
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.
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 an accessible 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.
- 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
- Town of Herndon Police Department: Voice/TTY 703-435-6846
- Town of Vienna Police Department: 703-255-6366
With some exceptions, a housing provider is required to provide an assigned accessible parking space as a reasonable accommodation to the tenant’s disability. A reasonable accommodation is a change or modification to existing rules, processes, or procedures to allow a person with a disability equal use and enjoyment of the property. A reasonable accommodation request can be made verbally or in writing, although the latter is always recommended. (See sample letter of reasonable accommodation request in Appendix 2.) A valid accommodation request must establish a nexus between the person’s disability and the need for the accommodation. In this instance, the person seeking the accessible parking spot would need to establish that, but for her disability, she would not require an assigned accessible parking space. Along with the request, the housing provider may ask that the resident provide documentation or justification, such as a letter from a doctor or a copy of a valid disabled parking placard. If a request which is otherwise valid and reasonable is rejected, then 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
Accessible parking spaces for cars must have a minimum 60 inches 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 inches wide access aisle to accommodate a wheelchair lift.
As a rule, one out of six accessible parking spaces, and always at least one, must be van accessible. The required minimum number of accessible parking spaces is determined by the 2010 ADA Standards.