Access to public spaces is a fundamental right of all people in America. The nation’s public spaces are for everybody to utilize and enjoy. A disability should never prevent a person from being able to access any public space that they desire to visit.

A nationwide disability access infrastructure is in place to ensure that people with disabilities are able to access any and all public spaces they require. This disability access infrastructure is regulated by federal and state laws.

Disabled drivers especially need to understand the disabled access laws. As a disabled driver, it is crucial that you know what your rights are and what you can expect when visiting public spaces.

Below, we will answer the most commonly asked questions about disability access in the US, such as: What exactly is a public space? Is it a legal requirement to have disabled access in the US? What laws cover disability access in America? Are all public spaces required to have disability access? What are the disability access requirements for public spaces? How many disabled parking bays do public spaces need?

Disabled Parking - disability access
Image by congerdesign on Pixabay: What does disabled access mean?

What Does Disability Access Mean?

Disability access, or disabled access, means that a certain place – a building, amenity, or other space – is accessible to people with disabilities. A high level of accessibility would mean that a disabled person can avail of the space in question using a similar amount of effort and time as a non-disabled person.

Is It A Legal Requirement To Have Disability Access In The US?

Yes, it is absolutely a legal requirement to have disability access in the US. Disability access is covered by multiple federal and state laws. These laws cover disability access in the vast majority of different types of public and private spaces.

What Laws Cover Disability Access In America?

There are three federal laws that cover disability access in America.

  • The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)
  • The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

There are also state laws in many states that protect the accessibility rights of disabled people.

What Are Public Spaces?

Public spaces are also known as “public accommodations”. They are defined as spaces that offer goods and services to the general public. They can be government-owned and operated entities or privately owned and operated businesses or services.

  • Examples of government-owned and operated entities include courthouses, national parks, welfare services, libraries.
  • Examples of privately owned and operated businesses or services include malls, cinemas, restaurants, theaters.

Are All Public Spaces Required To Have Disability Access?

Yes, all public spaces are required to have disability access. However, two common spaces are not considered to be “public spaces”.

These are:

  • Religious buildings such as churches, mosques, and synagogues
  • Private members’ clubs

These two types of spaces are not covered under federal law, but they are often covered under state and local laws.

Disabled Parking - disability access in public spaces
Image by Matt Alaniz on Unsplash: Public spaces are required to have disability access.

What Are The Disability Access Requirements For Public Spaces?

Under the ADA, the main disability access requirements for public spaces include, where necessary:

  • Disabled parking spaces
  • Wheelchair ramps, railings, and elevators
  • Visual fire alarms
  • Braille signage
  • Disabled restrooms grab bars
  • Widened doorways and hallways for wheelchair users
  • Closed captioning and/or audio description services

How Many Disabled Parking Bays Do Public Spaces Need?

Parking lots at public spaces are required to have a certain number of disabled parking bays under the ADA. The number of disabled parking bays a parking lot should have is relative to the total amount of spaces in the lot.

Parking lots with between 1 and 25 spaces must have at least one accessible parking space. The number then increases along with the capacity of the parking lot in question.

Parking lots with between 501 and 1000 spaces must have at least 2% disabled spaces.

What Are The Different Types Of Disabled Parking Bays?

There are three types of disabled parking bay:

What Are The Qualifying Conditions For Disabled Parking?

The qualifying conditions for a disabled parking permit, which would allow you to use disabled access parking facilities, vary slightly state by state. However, the main body of conditions is the same for all states and includes:

  • Not being able to walk 200 ft without needing to stop to rest
  • Not being able to walk without the aid of an assistive device such as a cane, crutch, wheelchair, Zimmer frame, prosthetic device, or another person
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Lung disease
  • Portable oxygen tank usage
  • Arthritis
  • Neurological condition
  • Blindness
  • Deafness

Featured image by gregroose on Pixabay