Here's how to decipher disabled parking rules

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The laws governing where disabled parking places must be located, how they are marked and how they are enforced are very clear – as long as the markings are.

By Lisa King

Did you ever wonder who determines how many disabled-parking spaces a business or public facility should have and where they should be placed?


Gail Renfro, director of Human Resources for the Shelby County Fiscal Court, said those specifications are regulated by the Kentucky Office of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The ADA determines how many [parking] spaces a business should have,” she said.

The ADA has an accessibility checklist that addresses disabled access in a wide variety of public places, including parking lots, restrooms, restaurants, elevators and water fountains.

The ADA’s rules for how disabled parking spaces are identified specifies that international symbols of accessibility be used, which is a depiction of a wheelchair. The symbol either can be painted on the pavement or on a sign marking the parking spot.

Around Shelby County, it’s easy to spot several ways in which businesses mark disabled- parking spaces, all of them acceptable as long as they are marked with the universal wheelchair sign.

There are parking spots with the symbol only. Of those, most of them use the more visible blue paint, although quite a few are in yellow.

Many are in good shape, but some are almost invisible. Some are marked with signs only, and some use both the painted symbol and a standing sign.

Renfro said that when symbols begin to wear off, they are repaired by the road department if the sign is in the county and by public works if in the city.

Private facilities – such as fuel stations, retail outlets and meeting places – must take care of their own turf, but they are subject to fine.


Ratios determine number

Rick McNeese, a technical advisor for the Department of Housing, said there is a ratio in the ADA’s signage code that addresses how many disabled spaces there should be.

“It depends on how many people use the facility,” he said.

The ADA specifies that the number of spaces is based on ratios of one space for lots of 25 or fewer total spaces to 10 spaces out of 1,000 to 2 percent of the total number for all of more than 1,000.

The code also says the spaces should be on the shortest possible accessible route to the building entrance.

And McNeese said there are different classifications of facilities when dealing with signage issues.

For example, parking lots at medical facilities should have 10 percent of its total spaces reserved for persons with disabilities for outpatient facilities and 20 percent at places specializing in treating persons with mobile impairments.

Parking spaces so marked should be 8 feet wide and should have an access aisle with a minimum of 5 feet. There should be at least one van accessible spot.

McNeese said that though businesses must comply with federal law, his office can come out and check them out to see if they are adequate.

“We do inspect them as a courtesy, but they still have to meet ADA codes,” he said.


Facilities adjust sometimes

At least one business in Shelbyville is taking steps to ensure it continues to meet the criteria established by the ADA – the post office on Main Street.

“I have made the decision to add another [handicapped] space in our lot to meet the growing needs of our community,” Postmaster Chip Robinson said.

“Also, the only we have is all the way out by Washington Street, and thought that’s what our original plan called for, I just wanted to upgrade that.

“We will be adding another one in front of the entrance when we re-stripe our parking lot, which we hope to do very soon. I had to confer with the mayor to make sure I was not violating any rules, but I just wanted to be more up to date with the needs of the community and to do the best we can to serve our patrons who need a parking spot right in front of the building to make getting into the building a little easier for them.”

Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said that he informed Robinson that the city does not have any additional requirements concerning handicapped spaces other than federal guidelines.

“We just abide by what ADA requires,” Hardesty said.


Who can park in disabled spots?

Kentucky law (KRS 189.042) specifies who can park in a spot so designated.

The ADA’s home page emphasizes that many people assume that anyone with any type of disability is eligible to get a placard that allows the use of accessible parking, but that is not true. The state’s statute includes specific physical limitations that someone must have to be eligible.

Some of those include not being able to walk 200 feet without stopping to rest, being unable to walk without assistance, having respiration restricted by a lung disease, having a cardiac condition or being limited in the ability to walk by a neurological or orthopedic condition.

All of these conditions must be validated by the person’s physician.

Pregnant women are not eligible to receive a placard, but businesses are allowed to place a sign in the parking lot for expectant mothers.

Residents may apply for a placard at the county clerk’s office.

Shelby County Clerk Sue Carole Perry said she does not know how many placards have been issued in the county.

“There is no charge for them, so we don’t have to keep track of them for inventory purposes,” she said.


Violations not a big problem

Local law enforcement officials say that there is not a big issue with people parking illegally in such spaces. Fines for individual violators can be $500.

“We don’t have a big problem with it, the only place where we are called occasionally because of a complaint is Walmart,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Det. Jason Rice said.

He added that many times at that business, deputies have found that the driver simply forget to hang the placard on the mirror.

“In addition to responding to a complaint, we also will issue a ticket if we visibly see someone violate that law, but it is not something we see a lot of,” he said.


Regulating businesses

McNeese said that although police agencies write tickets for people who violate the parking laws, the Department of Justice is the agency that regulates whether a facility is conforming to the ADA code concerning handicapped spaces, acting in the event of a complaint.

Norb Ryan, ADA coordinator for the state of Kentucky, said that is the case.

“We are a response-based agency,” he said. “We only have a staff of three and do not have the manpower to inspect all public facilities in the state, so if someone makes a complaint we will go out, and also we get requests from people who are either building a new facility or are renovating who ask us to come and see if they are in compliance.”

But what if there are violators?

 “If someone is in violation, we would send them a letter telling them they are in violation and if we didn't hear back from them, we would do a second follow up, and if they still didn't respond, we would send it on to the Department of Justice,” Ryan said. “The penalty would vary from case to case, depending on whether it's a government or a private entity; government entities are held to a higher standard.”