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Accessible parking is essential to enable individuals with disabilities to participate in community life.  Availability of parking with accessible features allows persons with certain limitations to access businesses, schools, medical facilities, places of employment, etc. This post will discuss designated accessible, also known as “handicapped,” parking provisions in public parking lots.

universal access symbol painted on ground

Please note that the following regulations do not cover on-street parking or private parking.  Private parking matters are handled as reasonable accommodations.

Both the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB) and the 1991 & 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (1991/2010 ADA Standards) cover the requirement for designated accessible parking spaces within a public parking lot. In Massachusetts, the most stringent requirement must be followed.

Let us begin with an overview of the different types of accessible parking spaces.  A standard accessible space is 8 feet wide space with a 5 foot access aisle adjacent to it.  A van accessible space is 8 feet wide with an 8 foot access aisle adjacent to it.  Last but not least, a universal accessible space is 11 feet wide with a 5 foot access aisle adjacent to it.

Now we can talk numbers.  Depending on the number of standard parking spaces provided within a parking lot that is open to the public, there is a formula for how many accessible parking spaces must be provided.  It should be noted that currently the MAAB requires accessible spaces for parking lots with 15 or more parking spaces while the ADA Standards require accessible parking for lots with 1 or more parking spaces.  For example, according to the formula, if there are 76 parking spaces in a parking lot, there would need to be 4 accessible parking spaces provided to comply.

The regulations also state that, depending on the number of accessible parking spaces provided in a lot, a certain number must be van accessible.  The MAAB and the 1991 ADA Standards require that 1 of every 8 accessible spaces be van accessible. The 2010 ADA Standards require 1 of every 6 accessible spaces to be van accessible.  However, if all of the accessible parking spaces are designed as universal spaces, then van accessible parking spaces do not need to be provided as the space allowances for the universal spaces are equal to that of the van accessible parking space (16 feet).

The formula for the total number of accessible spaces does allow for one exception.  If the parking lot serves a “specialized medical facility,” the formula changes:  If the parking lot serves “outpatient units and facilities” e.g. a doctor’s office, hospital, etc., 10% of the total parking must be accessible.  If the parking lot serves units and facilities that specialize in treatment or services for persons with mobility related disabilities e.g. a rehabilitation hospital, then 20% of the total parking must be accessible.

I’ve only touched upon the basics of parking.  For more information, check out MOD’s Parking Fact Sheet (click to download) available for download which can be found under the “Publications” section of our website. Parking and other disability-related laws are also covered in our recently revised Disability Rights Laws in Massachusetts Booklet (click to download PDF)Click here to download Word version.

Please continue to follow our blog for an upcoming post covering requirements for on-street parking coming soon!

If there is an access topic you would like discussed, please let me know.  You can reach me at jeff.dougan@state.ma.us or 617-727-7440.

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Assistant Director, Community Services Program

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