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Parking – To comply or not to comply

Janis Kent, Architect, CASp © January, 2014

Everyone complains about the increase in litigation and threat to sue that has been going on, but in reality are we as accessible as we should be? Many items are relatively easy to fix…that is if we know there is a problem. For many not planning or doing construction, they might not even realize there is an ongoing requirement on older buildings to do any fixes – Barrier Removal. And once we realize we might have a problem…well what do we do about it and which items first?

A study in California has just been released and made public by the California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA). One of the tasks this commission has been charged with, is to track alleged construction related physical access violations in our built environment. They have been tracking the recorded demand letters and court filings in California state/federal courts. The CCDA has analyzed more than 3,000 claims over the last 16 months – which include three times that amount of violations. With the results, they have compiled information on the 10 most common violations of accessibility. Surprisingly enough the top 4 of these 10 all have to do with parking which comprises over 40% of the top 10. The top two alleged violations were actually 25% of the total violations.

So what does this mean in terms of analyzing our existing properties, and what we need to be aware of even for new construction;

  • Loading zones and van access aisles were the number one alleged violation. What this could mean is that either the van access aisles were not 8′ minimum wide, or were not located on the passenger side of the van stall, or did not have appropriate markings, or had slopes in excess of 1:48, or even missing altogether. Loading zones for passenger drop-offs may not be 5′ minimum wide by the 20′ required length, may be missing the appropriate markings, may not be on the same level as the pull-up space, or again missing altogether
  •  Existing accessible parking spaces not being compliant was number two for alleged violations. This could be a myriad of items from incorrect sizes, to excessive slopes or even potholes, to incorrect or missing markings on the parking surface, or even location of the accessible stalls in proximity to building entries
  •  The third-most alleged violation had to do with non-compliant or missing parking signage. Typical signs are the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) which is required at every accessible stall, the California $250 Minimum Fine sign also required at each accessible stall, van accessible signs at one out of every 6 accessible stalls, and the California Tow Away sign with the appropriate information visible from each accessible stall or vehicular entry. These signs also have requirements for installation height and contrast, among other things
  •  The fourth-most common alleged violation is the incorrect number of accessible stalls, whether missing altogether or just computed wrong. One item to note, with previous laws the number of accessible stalls was computed based on the total number of stalls on the site. With the 2010 ADA which became mandatory in March of 2012, this computation is based upon facility totals, not total overall spaces. Facility is parking structures and parking lots – each computed individually, many times giving a short fall for the required amount

The other items in the top ten were; path of travel to/from the parking lot and the public right of way were not accessible; entry doors were not accessible or missing the ISA; curb ramps were not accessible; counters, bars, and table surface heights were non-compliant; interior access aisles were non-compliant with items not located on an accessible route; and toilet room entries were not accessible.

With all of this being said, it might be worth your while to evaluate the parking on your existing projects and properties. While everything may appear to be fine on the surface, the current statistics are showing this as one of the prime concerns for inaccessibility. Re-grading may be more costly, but items such as re-striping with compliant sizes, signage, or even striping in additional stalls many times are a minimal expense and can add greatly to accessibility, thereby reducing alleged violations. Other items on the top ten list should also be investigated, if appropriate to the facility. Just something to consider.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.

© Janis Kent, Architect, CASp 2014