When businesses think of ADA compliance, they probably don’t think of their parking lots first, but pavement is a critical part of accessibility and is tightly regulated at both the federal and state levels.
In fact, the regulations attached to pavement and parking lot construction are complicated enough that many property owners turn to a trusted pavement Houston contractor to make sense of them all. An experienced, licensed Houston contractor will know what the relevant requirements are for a particular pavement project and will ensure they are properly implemented.
How Does the ADA Factor into Parking Lot Design and Construction?
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) is less than 30 years old, but it’s one of the most impactful pieces of legislation from a builder’s perspective. The ADA covers an exhaustive range of employment, transportation, accessibility, and communications concepts – parking lot design and signage is only one small part of the entire act.
However, it is an extremely important part as most spaces are required to have an ADA-compliant parking area in place. Whether a particular parking facility is ADA compliant depends on several factors, including:
- The location and number of accessible parking spaces
- How the parking spaces are designated through signage and striping
- The location and layout of all accessible routes to the building’s entrance(s)
- The size and location of all access aisles
- The presence of access ramps and any architectural barriers (like curbs)
- The quality and slope of the pavement
Each of the above must adhere to ADA standards, and there’s clearly a lot for property owners to keep in mind when building or updating their parking facilities.
What Facilities Do the ADA’s Parking Lot Standards Apply To?
The vast majority of facilities must be accessible via an ADA-compliant parking lot. The ADA’s standards are defined at the federal level, but states and local municipalities may have additional standards that businesses are expected to comply with. For example, every accessible parking space must be designated by signage, but the exact language required on this signage may be slightly different from state to state.
Given these subtle differences from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it’s recommended that organizations work with an experienced pavement contractor. Organizations can also contact their local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office, as the EEOC is responsible for enforcing ADA compliance.
As for which organizations must observe the ADA’s parking lot standards, the following are included in the ADA’s guidance:
- All government services and institutions. This includes public schools and libraries, courthouses, postal service branches, and so on. It also includes government buildings at every level – federal, state, local and so on.
- All facilities operated by a for-profit organization that relies on the general public or exists for their benefit. This essentially covers all commercial and retail centers.
- All privately-owned facilities that employ at least 15 people.
- All nonprofit or charitable organizations that employ at least 15 people.
There are very few exceptions to the ADA’s rules, so it’s safe to assume that those rules also apply to your facility’s parking facilities.
ADA Compliant Pavement is Level and Designed for Safe Passage
When considered ADA regulations, much of the focus is on striping, signage, and placement of accessible parking spots. We’ll address those standards in depth, but it’s also important to ensure the pavement itself is in good enough condition for safe, reliable access.
In practice, this means installing concrete or asphalt pavement that is level and free of any surface issues that may cause safety risks.
These stipulations are particularly important for any accessible routes, as they must be easily navigable by wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Here are a few important points on that front:
- Accessible route slope – Parking lots must be built with accessible routes that lead people from their parking space to the building’s entrance. This route must be built to tight specifications, including its slope. Specifically, any accessible route must feature a slope less than 1/12″ in the direction of travel. This slope ensures disabled people are able to safely and comfortably approach the building.This is an extremely tight tolerance, so reputable pavement teams will use laser levels to verify that the route is properly sloped.
- Curb ramps – Curbs are an obstacle for wheelchairs and other mobility aids, so accessible routes must not be blocked off by one. A reliable way around this is to build accessible ramp runs that connect parking spaces to an adjoining sidewalk. Ramp runs are typically sloped to be on an even grade with the sidewalk, and they must follow several ADA stipulations to be compliant. Handrails, landings, rise heights, and the pavement’s surface (non-slip, specifically) all must be built to specification.Again, compliant curb ramps are best handled by an experienced pavement contractor, who should have these standards thoroughly mapped out.
- Detectable warning systems – Detectable warning systems are installed at the base of ramp runs, at the perimeter of parking lots, at crosswalks and anywhere else a mobility-challenged individual may need forewarning about potential slip, fall or traffic hazards.Detectable warning systems are tactile and visual in nature, giving mobility-challenged individuals plenty of time to react. Examples include painting surfaces with a high contrast color or adding a domed texture to warning areas.
- Pavement surface quality – For ADA compliance purposes, property owners must also keep their pavement surfaces in good enough condition for safe passage. This means promptly repairing any potholes, uneven pavement, or extensive cracking. The most effective way to do this is to invest in regular asphalt or concrete maintenance, as an experienced pavement contractor will have expert insight into how to improve the pavement’s condition.
These considerations are essential for permitting safe access for individuals dealing with mobility issues. They are, however, only part of the equation. In addition to the above, the number, size and location of parking spaces must also be ADA compliant.
ADA Compliant Parking Spaces are Critical Accessibility Features
Much of the ADA’s parking lot focus is spent on describing what accessible parking spaces should look like, where they should be located, how big they should be and how they should be marked. Here are the specifics for property owners:
- The number of accessible parking spaces – The ADA mandates a certain ratio of accessible to non-accessible parking spaces. For parking lots with up to 100 spaces, there must be at least one accessible space for every 25 total spots. For parking lots between 100 and 200 spaces, there must be an accessible spot for every 50 total spaces. And for parking lots with 300-500 spaces, there must be an accessible spot for every 100 spaces. Beyond this, parking lots must reserve 2 percent of their spaces for accessibility purposes.Further, one out of every six accessible spaces must be van accessible, with additional room and within close proximity to an access aisle.
- The location of accessible parking spaces – According to the ADA, accessible parking spaces must be located as closely as possible to the nearest accessible entrance. If there are multiple accessible entrances into the building, accessible parking spaces may be split up among them. There must be an accessible route from each space to the building’s entrance, too.
- The size of accessible parking spaces – Accessible parking spaces must be at least 96 inches wide unless they’re van-accessible spots. Van-accessible spots may be 96 inches wide if the adjacent access aisle is also at least 96 inches wide. An alternative sizing for van-accessible spots is widening the van spot to 132 inches and shrinking the access aisle down to 60 inches wide. Both are considered ADA compliant for sizing purposes.
- The arrangement of all access aisles – Access aisles provide a safe unloading area for vans and a safe route from the parking space to the adjoining sidewalk. Access aisles must be placed adjacent to accessible parking spaces and must be marked out using striping. They must be at least 60 inches wide, though they may be up to 96 inches wide depending on the width of the adjacent parking space (van-accessible spaces may feature a smaller access aisle, given their extended width).
- Signage, striping, and car stops for accessible parking spaces – All accessible spaces must be designated with signage and striping. Signage must be mounted at least 60 inches off the ground and feature the international sign for accessibility. Van-accessible spaces must be referenced as such on signage.Through pavement striping, accessible spots must be clearly marked around their perimeter, and access aisles should also be marked out with a striped pattern to alert motorists and pedestrians.
Car stops are also required for accessible spaces, as they are used to prevent vehicles from running over nearby accessible routes and reducing their effective width.
ADA Parking Compliance is Easy for an Experienced Houston Pavement Contractor
As you can see, parking lots are held to a complex array of ADA regulations. For property owners, it can be a challenge keeping them all straight, but an experienced Houston pavement contractor can help. With their experience in constructing ADA-compliant parking areas, asphalt and concrete Houston professionals are the experts in parking lot accessibility.