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Federal Law and Handicap Parking Sign Usage

Federal law governs handicap parking sign usage.  This post will summarize the rules laid out in these statutes.  This is a high-level introduction to the topic, so please consult the MUTCD or an Americans with Disabilities (ADA) expert for detailed information.

Handicap Parking Sign Usage and the Law

In 2010, the US Department of Justice issued newly revised rules for using handicap signs.  The updated guidelines include the following directives:

  • New commercial and government buildings should be as accessible as possible for people with handicaps.  However, exceptions exist for facilities where completing the necessary modifications would impose unfair costs on owners and/or significantly affect historical or cultural features.
  • The 2010 standards also include a “safe harbor” provision for locations that comply with the original 1991 standards but not the newer rules.
  • In general, one out of every 25 parking spots should be set aside for the handicapped.  This rule applies in locations with up to 500 spots, after which a 2% rule applies.
  • Lots with 1,000 spaces must include a total of 20 spots set aside for the handicapped, with an additional spot required for every 100 more.  For example, a lot with 1,100 spaces must have 21 spots set aside for the handicapped, and a lot with 1,200 spaces must have 22 handicapped spaces set aside, etc.
  • One of every six handicap accessible spots must provide van access.
  • Handicap spots should be located as close to the neighboring facility as possible.
  • Builders should make pathways from handicap spots to surrounding buildings as smooth and level as possible.
  • Medical clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities may require more handicap-accessible spaces than the above rules mandate.
  • Each handicap parking sign should be elevated for easy visibility and conform to international design standards.

Handicap parking sign usage falls under federal jurisdiction.  Following these rules is not only required by law, it’s also part of being a good citizen.