The Accessible Parking Challenge

By Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA

Parking and mobility professionals have the power to make a difference for 30 million (and growing) Americans with disabilities–people who need to park in our communities, campuses, and complexes to live an independent life, but who often circle, circle, circle and go home because accessible parking is not available.

People shared these comments with us in a recent survey:

  • “It all comes down to a lack of kindness and understanding.”
  • “I am a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. Parking is the biggest obstacle in my life!”
  • “Parking issues make me add 90 minutes to my morning commute.”
  • “Street-side accessible parking spaces always assume the disabled person is the passenger. Try having to upload a wheelchair from the driver’s side, getting in and shutting the door while traffic is going by!”
  • “I have no grip or finger dexterity so pulling out tickets at parking garages is impossible.”

Does your on- and off-street parking comply with 2010 ADA Standards and meet all accessibility guidelines? Try putting yourself in the position of a wheelchair user (figuratively and perhaps even literally) and someone with impaired manual dexterity as you take inventory:

  • Would you find it easy to park close to the building?
  • Do you provide the space needed to load and unload a wheelchair safety and easily?
  • Are there streetscape issues (e.g. honor boxes for newspapers, curbs, benches, planters, etc.) that could interfere with mobility?
  • Do your snow and ice removal polices/equipment present any obstacles that interfere with accessible spaces and access aisle markings?
  • Can someone in a wheelchair easily reach–and manipulate–your pay stations and meters using case and credit cards?

This inventory action item is just one of a dozen included in the IPMI-led Accessible Parking Coalition’s soon-to-be-published, Let’s Make Accessible Parking More Accessible: A Practical Guide to Addressing Disabled Placard Abuse and Other Parking Issues for People with Disabilities.

The 24-page guide will be published later this month and will be a practical starting point to help your organization begin to address this issue effectively. It’s full of ideas and real-world examples of how others are making parking more accessible.

The problems related to accessible parking can’t be fixed overnight. This is a complex issue and the APC is a multi-year, multi-platform initiative, but there’s a great deal we can do as an industry if we do it together. More soon!

Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is IPMI’s communications counsel.