All posts by Lawrence Stuart

ADA Compliant Parking Spaces (Chapter 5)

Since the 1970s, American parking lots have been providing easily accessible, specially marked spaces for persons with disabilities that affect their mobility.  The spaces are usually placed in close proximity to the main entrance of a public building or business, with no impediments like curbs or medians to limit a disabled person’s access to a facility.

Slowly, and with the help of law enforcement, Americans have become accustom to the special parking and have begun to respect the spaces—ensuring that there is ample access for everyone.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone understands why it is necessary to have the parking spaces or who decides how many there are.

The ADA Rules

The determining factors in how many parking spaces must be provided in a parking lot are clearly defined and apply to all parking lots, general access or regulated access.  These rules apply to each associated lot for a building.  That means that if a building has two or more separate lots, the rules apply to each lot individually, not cumulatively.  A building with two lots, one that has 28 spaces and another with 210 spaces must have two handicap spaces and seven handicap spaces, respectively.  The building cannot put all seven handicap spaces in one of the lots, and none in the other, even if one is in closer proximity to the building.

Parking facilities must offer a minimum number of ADA-accessible spaces.  The minimum number of spaces is based on a sliding scale and has been calculated to provide a reasonable population-based ratio of regular spaces to restricted use spaces.

The ADA also outlines the number of larger, van-accessible spaces required.  The rules state that at lease one out of every six ADA compliant spaces must be van-accessible.

The basic requirements for some common parking lot sizes are:


Parking Facility Total Minimum Number of Accessible Spaces
Standard Van* Total 
(Standard + Van)
1 – 25 0 1 1
26 – 50 1 1 2
51 – 75 2 1 3
76 – 100 3 1 4
101 – 150 4 1 5
201 – 300 5 2 7
501 – 550 9 2 11**


Also, if you are building a lot that will accommodate valet parking, you are still required to provide the ADA mandated number of handicap spaces.  The thinking behind this is quite reasonable; many citizens that are considered mobility-challenged utilize adaptive driving equipment.  Such equipment may be unfamiliar or difficult for an untrained person to use.  It is easier for the citizen to park themselves, than turn over parking to a valet.

Dispersion of Spaces

It is advisable for a facility to disperse the ADA compliant spaces in such a fashion as to optimize accessibility for mobility-challenged people.  For example, a shopping center with a large anchor retailer and several smaller stores would do well to provide the majority of spaces near the anchor and a limited number by each curb ramp provided near the smaller stores.

In cases where two or more buildings share a common parking facility, the capacity of each building should be a consideration in the dispersion of ADA compliant parking spaces.  For example, a shopping mall with an outparcel should distribute the spaces in such a fashion to benefit both facilities yet maintain an equitable number of spaces to each business.

Proper Placement

A common mistake in placing ADA compliant handicap parking spaces is ignoring the presence of curb ramps and positioning the spaces directly in front of a building’s entryways.  It is perfectly acceptable, and actually preferred that spaces be positioned closest to the nearest curb ramp—even if the ramp is to the side of a building.  As long as the ramp is part of a safe walkway or pedestrian area that leads to an accessible entryway, it need not be centered in front of the main entrance.

Also, if a parking facility undergoes an alteration, it is important to adjust the number of compliant spaces appropriately.  This means, if a lot is resurfaced and the number of spots changes as a result of the resurfacing, a facility must adjust the ADA spaces to meet the code.  (i.e. if a lot had 74 total parking spaces before a reconditioning project, but has 77 after the project, an additional ADA compliant space is necessary).  This rule does not apply to any resurfacing or line painting that does not change the total number of available spots.

Residential Parking Lots

In apartment complex parking areas and other residential areas served by a common parking area, the rules are directly affected by the number of housing units versus the number of parking units.  If there are an equal or greater number of parking units than housing units, the property need only supply one handicap compliant parking space for each handicap-accessible housing unit.  In facilities where there are fewer parking spaces than there are housing units, there is no requirement for handicap-accessible parking spaces, though the United States Access Board recommends following the ADA Rules for parking facilities.

Proper Markings

All parking facilities should be clearly marked for vehicle spaces and pedestrian movement.  The ADA Rules require handicap-accessible spaces be marked with blue boundaries and the familiar wheelchair logo.  DOT reflective signage should be mounted at the head of each accessible space at a height of 60” from the ground.  Van-accessible spaces should be specially noted with the ADA signage.

Walkways and pedestrian areas should be painted either blue, yellow or white to clearly indicate areas where vehicles are prohibited.  Reflective paint or markings are not required but are advisable.

Help with ADA Standards

Serving clients in New Jersey, New York and Eastern Pennsylvania, the experienced professionals at East Coast Paving and Site Development are prepared to help you achieve the standards for ADA compliance.

For additional questions about ADA compliance, contact the paving experts at East Coast Paving and Site Development at 732-329-3600 or email

Curb Ramps and Detectable Warning Surfaces (Chapter 4 Part 3)

When creating an ADA compliant outdoor hardscape, it is important to understand the engineering considerations to be included in the design.  In recent years, there has been a noticeable addition to the curb ramps that have been required since 1992.  The original Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973 had mandated that all crossing areas where an elevated sidewalk or pedestrian thoroughfare met a road surface, a curb ramp should be constructed to make the area accessible for persons with mobility challenges.  These curb ramps have gone a long way in improving accessibility for people in wheelchairs, or those walking with a cane or crutches.  For many people, even the elevation of a curb—just six or nine inches, causes a great deal of difficulty.  The wide-spread addition of curb ramps has provided them with greater accessibility, and consequently greater opportunity.  While the curb ramps have gone a long way to make things more accessible for the mobility challenged, is needed to be done to ensure the safety of visually impaired people.  The United States Access Board explains that after much testing, the solution that was recommended was the addition of detectable warning surfaces.

Using High-Contrast Color

The recommendation for detectable warning surfaces states that because the variance in levels of visual impairment are so great, the surface should be of a highly contrasting color.  This means that in the case of a white, concrete sidewalk, a red, blue or bright yellow would be desirable.  If the paved area is asphalt construction, blue or red is preferred.  In the case of a red, stamped asphalt, a black and white detectable warning surface might be advisable.

The Federal Highway Administration studied the use of detectable warning surfaces in 2005 and found that the use of neutral colors (tan, grey and black) was not advisable.  For people with visual impairments, these colors did not provide a discernable visual warning.  The FHWA report also went on to recommend the normalization of the use of certain colors (i.e. blue for handicap access, red or yellow for street crossings).

The Truncated-Dome Texture

Careful consideration was given to the texture of the detectable warning surface.  The prevailing “truncated dome” texture was chosen for a variety of reasons.  First, the texture is easily recognized by touch, even through most shoes.  Also, because of the open configuration, the texture is not easily affected by elements like snow, rain, dirt or sand.  Basically, it stays clear in most conditions.  Rather than completely round domes, which could be an unstable texture, the truncated design was incorporated.  Testing confirmed that the truncated domes provided enough surface variance to be sensed, but still offered a safe surface for crutches and canes to interact with.

In the past texturizing impressions had been acceptable for curb ramps, but the FHWA recommendations amended in 2016 make no note of such techniques, and strictly refer to the truncated dome type of surface. 

ADA Compliant Curb Warning
Tile footpath curb warning for visually impaired.

Placement Recommendations

Though the engineering recommendations by the FHWA have not yet been adopted as law, they have been adopted by the United States Access Board.  The recommended installation of detectable warning surfaces are as follows:

At edge of drop-offs and passenger platforms for in rail transportation, a warning should be installed at a depth of 24” from the edge

At all curb ramps at a depth of 24” from the gutter, for the entire width of the ramp surface

At any designated crossing point of flush-engineered or blended surface pedestrian areas

Working within the ADA

Many customers are frustrated with the ADA standards and do not understand the importance of such requirements.  East Coast Paving and Site Development reminds you that complying with ADA standards is meant to provide everyone with equal access, and by following the recommendations of the United States Access Board, you’re not only following the law, you’re respecting everyone.  Let us work with you to create a site plan that is efficient and accessible for everyone.

Help with ADA Standards

Serving clients in New Jersey, New York and Eastern Pennsylvania, the experienced professionals at East Coast Paving and Site Development are prepared to help you achieve the standards for ADA compliance.

For additional questions about ADA compliance, contact the paving experts at East Coast Paving and Site Development at 732-329-3600 or email