A Comprehensive Guide to Handicap Parking

Everyone deserves to enjoy the best possible quality of life available to them. For the 18+ million Americans living with mobility issues, this means being able to access the same places anyone else can — including hospitals, retail establishments, restaurants, and other facilities.

Handicap parking is one of the greatest barriers to accessibility, and contributes to 7 out of 10 people with disabilities reducing their day-to-day travel

A lack of access to handicap spots is much much more than a mere inconvenience for those with mobility issues — it’s a detriment to their health, safety, and quality of life. Yet, despite this fact, 74% of people have seen a handicap spot improperly used or abused by those without disabilities.  

We believe that awareness is the key to creating meaningful and long lasting change, so today we’ll be sharing everything you need to know about handicap parking, best practices and laws so you can contribute to a more accessible world.

What are the Different Types of Handicap Parking Spaces?

Different types of wheelchair accessible vehicles have different designated parking spot requirements. For this reason, it is critical for businesses, organizations, and communities to understand the types of handicap parking spaces that exist and that may be required by members of the general public.

There are three primary types of handicap parking, including:

  1. Accessible Spaces for Cars

These spaces can accommodate a conventional car, van, or SUV. They are visibly marked and are typically located as close to the entrance of a facility as possible. Accessible car spaces also feature a 60-inch aisle adjacent to the parking spot to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, or other mobility aids.

  1. Accessible Spaces for Single-Sided-Entry Vans

Accessible parking spaces for one-sided entry vans are larger than traditional car spaces at 96 inches wide. They also include an access aisle, indicated by painted white stripes, which allow the individual using a mobility aid to freely enter and leave the vehicle.

These spaces also have special “van accessible” signage and higher vertical clearance.

  1. Accessible Spaces for Two-Sided-Entry Vans

These handicap parking spots are the same width and length as single-side-entry spots, but they have accessible aisles on both sides. This allows anyone with mobility limitations to decide which side of the vehicle they would like to use. 

Kia Sorento Red Rear Entry Wheelchair

What Happens If You Park in a Handicap Spot

As we mentioned earlier, nearly three quarters of the US population has seen handicap spots being abused regularly. Parking in a handicap spot when you do not hold a permit is illegal and could result in penalties, including (but not limited to):

  • Fines
  • License suspensions
  • Loss of license points
  • Vehicle towing
  • Criminal charges

It is also important to note that falsifying a handicap parking permit is a felony charge and can result in hefty fines, having your license suspended, and other criminal penalties.

In addition to these punitive actions, parking in a handicapped spot puts those living with mobility issues at risk. Blocking an accessible parking space could result in:

  • The individual being unable to access essential services such as healthcare
  • Respiratory distress (if the person has a lung condition and is forced to walk further than expected because an accessible space is not available near an entrance)
  • Vehicle collisions if a person in a wheelchair has to navigate a parking lot where drivers may not be able to see them

As a rule of thumb, unless you have a legitimate handicap parking permit, just don’t park there! The consequences for being parked in handicapped spot illegally are dire for you and could be life-threatening for someone else. 

Handicap Parking Laws: What You Need to Know

There are a few legislative requirements around handicap parking that all drivers should know. These requirements include:

  1. Proper Signage

There are stipulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding how and when signage should be posted for handicap parking spaces. They dictate that spaces must be indicated with the international symbol of access and that signs must be 5 feet tall to ensure visibility. So can you park in a handicap spot with no sign? The answer is no, because there should always be a sign.

The signs are to be displayed at the head of the parking space so as to be immediately noticeable to the driver. And finally, all access aisles must be denoted with white diagonal stripes.

  1. Permit Administration Rules

In order to receive a permit for parking in a disabled spot, an individual must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Inability to walk long distances without stopping to rest
  • Possession of medical documents proving vision impairments
  • Inability to walk without the use of a brace, cane, crutch, prosthetic device, wheelchair or similar device
  • Loss or notable impairment of the use of one or both legs, or both hands
  • Advanced lung or cardiac disease
  • Medically documented mobility or neurological impairments

Parking permits may also be administered on a temporary basis for conditions such as knee disorders, broken legs, chronic pain, pregnancy, etc.

Permanent disabled parking permits expire after five years, so the onus is on the driver to renew their permit as required. Temporary permits typically expire after three months.

  1. Maintenance Regulations

Businesses, organizations, and communities with handicap parking spaces are required by law to keep them in usable condition, which includes:

  • Repairing cracks/potholes in pavement or nearby sidewalks
  • Keeping the space and its surrounding free of debris, ice, mud, etc
  • Removing any obstructions that could interfere with use of the space
  • Maintaining a diligent snow removal routine
  • Addressing any necessary structural parking lot repairs

Parking in a Handicap Spot: Rules and Etiquette

In addition to handicap parking laws, there is an unspoken code of behavior surrounding disabled parking spaces that drivers and other members of the public should know. These rules for proper etiquette include:

  • Never park on the striped aisle located adjacent to a handicap parking spaceExtra Space Needed For Ramp Or Lift
  • Never allow another driver to borrow your handicap parking permit 
  • Always display your parking placard in the correct manner, in accordance with your state regulations
  • Never judge a person using a handicap parking space for not “looking disabled,” many people have less obvious disabilities like chronic pain or lung disease
  • Never park in a handicap parking space for convenience, even if “you’ll only be a minute”

#ParkAnywhere With Freedom Motor’s Rear-Entry Conversion Vehicles

One of the most common questions we receive is “Can you back into a handicap parking spot?” The answer to this question is both yes and no. While it isn’t illegal to back into a handicap spot, many wheelchair accessible vehicles make doing so difficult. 

In many cases, a handicap spot will only have an accessible aisle on one side of the parking space. If the driver backs into the parking space, the door with the deployable lift will be on the wrong side and therefore unable to open without obstruction.

Take Accessibility to the Next Level

At Freedom Motors, we offer the largest and most reliable collection of wheelchair vans and handicap accessible vehicles in the country. We also have an expansive inventory of rear-entry accessible SUVs that you won’t find anywhere else in the mobility industry. 

These rear-entry vehicles allow families to #ParkAnywhere, in any standard parking space — a truly life-changing benefit! Plus, our wheelchair accessible vehicles offer top-of-the-line features like automatic ramps, state-of-the-art tie down systems, OEM key fobs for rear gates, and more.