Businesses in the United States must abide by laws that protect their employees, their customers and others who visit their premises. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the broadest-reaching laws that impacts how any particular business operates. The ADA requires that virtually all businesses make their facilities and services accessible to everyone.
Businesses with public facilities, for example, generally need to have accessible bathrooms and entranceways. They also need to ensure that they have an appropriate amount of accessible parking. Not only is it important to provide parking spaces with close proximity to entranceways or ramps onto the sidewalk, but it is also necessary for the parking lot to include access aisles adjacent to accessible parking spaces.
What is an access aisle?
Those looking at a blue-painted parking spot with spaces marked for individuals with disabling medical conditions will note that there is typically a second, vacant space next to at least one of those parking spots. That vacant space will have diagonal lines through it as an indicator that no one should park in that space.
The empty space is an access aisle. It is there to facilitate someone’s ability to get in and out of a vehicle while in a wheelchair or assist someone who is in a wheelchair enter and exit it with minimal heavy lifting or injury risk. Access aisles are a necessary inclusion in any parking lot, as accessible parking spaces without an access aisle may not be usable to those who require wheelchairs or provide assistance to someone in a wheelchair.
Businesses should seek to enforce parking rules at their access aisles by asking people to leave if they park there. They should also prioritize the removal of accumulated snow and ice from the access aisle at the same time that they remove snow from the accessible parking space and the rest of the parking lot. Both the inclusion of access aisles in the plans for a parking lot and the proper maintenance of those spaces will be crucial to a business’s ADA compliance
Reviewing current parking arrangements and best practices under the ADA can help a business to better protect itself from potentially expensive lawsuits down the road.