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How Not to Park in a Handicapped Space

Updated on March 11, 2015
Handicapped Parking Space
Handicapped Parking Space | Source

Have you ever tried to find a place to park only to find that all the spaces were taken? Or maybe you needed extra room to load a heavy haul from the grocery store into your vehicle, but someone next to you parked too tightly, making loading impossible. You are probably also familiar with the annoyance when someone takes up two spaces at once with their vehicle. We’ve all been there.

Now imagine this frustration when such parking faux pas happen in handicapped parking spaces, which not only inhibit drivers’ ability to access their destinations, but can even delay them in getting to where they are going and add needless time struggling in the parking lot.

Common emotions drivers with disabilities experience when handicapped parking is not respected:

Loss of independence

Below are some helpful tips to make your next visit to a parking lot just a little bit brighter. Check out the major offenders below and learn how not to park in a handicapped space and what the Americans with Disabilities Act has to say about accessible parking next time you visit a parking lot.

Over the line

Have you ever parked your car and went into a building only to come back out to the lot to discover that someone has parked so closely to you it’s nearly impossible to open your door to enter your vehicle? Now imagine, having that same dilemma but adding a wheelchair, scooter, or other bulky mobility equipment to the equation.

Parking over the lines
Parking over the lines | Source

Parking over the line or taking up two spots can cause a number of issues for drivers with disabilities, like:

  • Drivers with disabilities may be stuck outside waiting until the driver who parked over the line returns.

  • Robbing individuals of their time. Drivers with disabilities have places to go and people to see, just like non-disabled drivers and would much rather spend their time completing their errand than waiting outside for people to move their vehicles.

  • Drivers may attempt to enter their vehicle, despite the lack of room, and cause door nicks or scratches to your exterior vehicle body.

  • Even worse than door nicks or scratches, drivers who try to enter their vehicle without adequate room may get physically injured.

Being conscientious of surrounding parking spaces is not only a polite gesture, but can really be essential for sharing space for your fellow driver who may have a disability.

The UK has recently rolled out an Access-Aid designed for drivers with disabilities to provide a visible sign to anyone who may be parking beside their vehicle that they are disabled and may need extra space. The tag can be easily slide in the driver’s window, making it very easy for fellow drivers to spot. Keep an eye out for such signs, next time you park near a handicapped parking space.

On the lines

You may have noticed that not all handicapped parking spaces are like the other! There are some spaces that are marked with signs or painted blue lines that are sized for cars or average sized vehicles. There are also larger spaces with diagonal striped blue lines painted next to it that are reserved for vans and larger accessible vehicles.

Parking on the lines
Parking on the lines | Source

Keep in mind that spaces marked with diagonal lines or marked “van accessible” should be respected and reserved for those with large vehicles. Many drivers with disabilities need larger spaces especially if they drive a vehicle that is equipped with a ramp or loading lifts to maneuver their mobility equipment.

Drivers of accessible vans most often appreciate the following:

  • Having enough space to park without having to tightly maneuver a large vehicle in between other cars in the lot.

  • Fellow drivers not parking over the diagonal blue lines so that they can comfortably enter and exit their vehicle.

  • Cars and other small vehicles not taking up reserved van accessible spaces, especially when there are other open handicapped spaces available in the lot which only smaller vehicles may access.

Outside the lines

Parking outside the lines can be just as inconvenient for fellow drivers with disabilities as parking over the lines or in van accessible spaces.

Parking outside the lines
Parking outside the lines | Source

Often in large department store or grocery store lots you will see designated handicapped parking spaces that may be turned in the opposite direction from the other vehicles that are lined up in the lot. This is to provide enough room on either side of the vehicle for the driver or passenger to enter and exit and load and unload a wheelchair.

A common offense with these types of reserved spaces is that fellow drivers park over the lines facing the wrong direction, completely preventing another vehicle from being able to access that space.

Without an accessible permit or license

“It’ll only take 5 minutes – I’ll run in and come right back!”

How often do you notice handicapped parking violations

See results

“I’ll just borrow my grandma’s temporary parking tag from her surgery – you know how crazy parking can be!”

“I’ve circled the lot 4 times and there aren’t any spaces open – I’ll just take my chances!”

“There are so many reserved spaces in this lot – and no one ever uses them all!”

We’ve all heard them. The excuses people often make for parking in reserved handicapped spaces without a parking tag or marked license plate. But it’s important to keep in mind that justifying an excuse to yourself for parking in a space that you do not really need is no excuse at all.

Often we do not realize that after we park in a reserved space and enter the building, there may be a family pulling into the lot who really does need that space and it is not available.

Watch some other examples of handicapped parking violations

With heavy equipment

All too often, handicapped parking spaces become prime real estate for those who wish to take advantage of the reserved space.

As a disabled driver, I cannot count the times I have come into contact with businesses or even city personnel who intentionally block off handicapped spaces to park heavy equipment or maintenance vehicles.

Such vehicles are often frequently left in front of sidewalks which block cutouts that make it possible for wheelchair users to access walkways and door ways.

Take a look at the photo below which is just one of many examples I have seen at my own place of equipment. All of the handicapped parking spaces in the same lot were roped off and reserved for heavy equipment that was parked there for over 24 hours.

Parking violation with heavy equipment
Parking violation with heavy equipment | Source

Please know this is not ok. There are other alternatives, such as:

  • Rope off regular parking spaces instead of handicapped parking spaces. There are a lot more of them than there are handicapped spaces.

  • Ask the city or building owner to rope off or add cones to reserve an ideal space for large equipment along the roadside or in another location.

  • If no other alternative exists, offer drivers who may access that lot an alternative parking space and ensure the entrance will be easily accessible by patrons of all abilities.

What the ADA says about handicapped parking

Check out some fast facts about what the Americans with Disabilities Act has to say about accessible parking in the U.S.:

  • One of every six accessible spaces must be “van-accessible.”

  • A parking lot with 400 spaces needs eight accessible spaces, with two of them van-accessible.

  • Accessible spaces must connect to the shortest possible route to the entrance of the facility.

  • Parking facilities that are used exclusively for buses, trucks, delivery, or law enforcement are not required to include reserved handicapped spaces.

  • Access spaces must be painted with hatch marks to discourage parking in them, especially for van accessible spaces.

  • Each space must be 8 feet wide; van accessible spaces must have 98 inches for height clearance.

Americans with Disabilities Act
Americans with Disabilities Act | Source

Respecting accessible parking can make all the difference to the family with a son or daughter in a wheelchair who already struggle loading equipment in and out of the car; or to the man with a heart condition preventing him from walking long distances; or to the mom with a small child with behavioral issues who need that short distance from her vehicle to a building.

What are some excuses you have heard for parking in handicapped spaces when not necessary? Have you witnessed any parking fiascos of your own? Share your own stories in the comments!


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    • profile image

      Name'n'Shame Disabled Parking Bay Abusers 

      3 years ago

      Hi there,

      I have added this to my facebook page. I think this is a brilliant article, and well worth reading, especially for the people who just don't care... If anyone is interested, my facebook page is

      It is a page that name and shames people who abuse the system.

      Thank you for this artice.

    • peachpurple profile image


      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      true, there are drivers who park at the disable lot, no sense of m oral at all

    • WheelerWife profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Minnesota

      easylearningweb - ha! yes! I will have to youtube that video to see if I can find that episode :) really does make you think!

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 

      3 years ago

      Reminds me of the funny Seinfeld episode, when they decide to park illegally in the handicapped spot, and angry people trash their car. Funny but does teach a lesson. ;-)


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