When you go away to college, it’s often the first time you’re living independently away from your parents. Figuring out all you need to do as you bridge into adulthood can be complicated – and even more complicated if you’re disabled.

Accessible parking is a must-have for anyone who is disabled, as it helps them to access a range of services, including education. Luckily, the Americans with Disabilities Act is there to help millions of Americans to gain access to places each and every year, and college campuses are no exception. Here’s what you need to know about handicap parking on college campuses so you’re prepared to start your college adventure.

Are College Campuses Required To Have Handicap Parking?

In short, yes. Under the ADA, businesses and agencies that offer services, programs, or other activities are required to have a certain number of handicapped parking places. How many depends on how many spots are in the parking lot to begin with.

For example, under the ACA, a new parking lot with 50 spaces is required to have at least two handicap parking spots and one handicap spot that van-accessible. A parking lot or garage with 300 spots is required to have at least seven handicap parking spots and two van-accessible spots.

These disabled parking spots must be close to the building entrance. If the parking lot serves more than one building, then the handicap parking spots should be dispersed throughout the lot in a way that enables people to park near as many accessible entrances as possible.

Disabled Parking - college campus building
Image by Shoeb Khan on Pexels: How many handicapped parking bays are colleges required to have? This depends on the size of the lot.

Do Handicap Parking Spaces Require Signs?

Even on a college campus, handicap parking spots should be clearly marked. You should see signs with the International Symbol of Accessibility clearly marked and additional signage on van-accessible spaces that designate them as such.

If a parking lot has fewer than four spaces, then no signage is needed – but chances are you won’t find parking lots this small on a college campus.

What You Need for Handicap Parking on Campus

Each college or university will have their own processes around handicap parking. They may require you to get a special campus parking permit from the office that handles parking operations on campus. You may also need to have a disabled parking placard from the state Department of Motor Vehicles to be able to park in accessible spaces on campus, or the college may allow you to buy a handicap campus parking pass.

Will You Be Charged For Handicap Parking?

While many colleges allow those with disabled parking passes to park on campus in designated areas, you likely will need to pay for an additional campus parking permit since everyone on campus has to. In many places, however, handicap parking permits mean you don’t have to pay for metered parking and can park for longer in spaces that do have time limits.

It’s important that you check with your campus to understand what their parking rules are, because it may be different than normal parking rules you’re used to.

Can Anyone Park In Handicap Parking Spaces?

On most campuses, anyone who does not have a valid handicap parking permit issued from the college cannot park in campus disabled parking spaces. It’s also a violation for anyone who doesn’t qualify as disabled to park in these spaces.

Are There Places You Cannot Park?

Even with a handicap parking permit on campus, there are a few places you cannot park. For example, you cannot obstruct a curb or ramp meant for handicap parking and accessibility. You also cannot park in red zones or emergency zones. Always be mindful of where you’re parking when you’re on campus.

Disabled Parking - college student
Image by Element5 Digital on Unsplash: College campus requirements for handicapped parking bays help to ensure university is accessible for everyone.

Where Can Handicap Visitors Park?

When visiting a campus, a handicap parking placard or plate grants you the ability to park in a parking garage or a handicap metered spot. Many campuses also give out temporary visitor handicap parking permits, so inquire about one when you’re planning to visit a campus to see if it’s the right place for you.

College is an exciting adventure that should be accessible for everyone. Make sure to check out any potential college campus you are interested in attending to find out all they have to offer disabled students – for parking and beyond.

Featured image by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash