June 25, 2019

Local Business Parking Lots Aren’t Accessible

Photo of Tim Ashley loading into his accessible van.

Tim Ashley loading into his accessible van.

Earlier this year, with help from disability consulting organization ADA Surveys and Plans (ASAP) and sponsorship from the Colorado Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities, The Independence Center conducted a campaign called “Better Access Is Better Business.” The purpose of the campaign was to help businesses identify elements in their parking lots that aren’t in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), and hopefully make the necessary changes to remedy the issues. ASAP conducted over one hundred parking lot surveys between El Paso, Pueblo, and Teller counties, checking for a variety of elements required by the ADA.

The survey results were not what we hoped for, but weren’t all together surprising either. Findings showed far too many business parking lots in the Pikes Peak region fail to comply with the ADA. There were numerous infractions among businesses surveyed, but the top three most common issues were the complete absence or incorrect dimensioning of adjacent access aisles, the lack of parking spaces with access aisles for vans with wheelchair ramps, and the complete lack or improper placement of accessible parking signs.

The underlying problem is the rules established by the ADA cannot be directly enforced by local governments or Regional Building, since the ADA is a civil rights law. For the interior portion of local buildings, the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department enforces the ADA through a set of building codes developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), but they do not inspect beyond five feet of the building’s entrance. This directly leads to the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities. Cities and towns should pass their own ordinances laying out rules based on the ADA, which determine parking lot requirements. They can then use their Code Enforcement Officers to inspect and approve any parking lots that are being repaved or restriped. Without proper inspections, accessibility issues easily go unnoticed and business owners have no idea they’re out of compliance.

The IC advocates for people with disabilities in and around Colorado Springs, and this issue has caused harm to far too many people to ignore. According to Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center, “Parking lots are a gateway to economic and civic activity in our community and the lack of accessible parking lots denies access to individuals with disabilities”.

With proper inspections and educational efforts, this problem can be solved. Someone needs to be inspecting these parking lots; whether it be the municipality, Regional Building, or some other entity – to not do so, is unjust and puts business owners at risk of drive-by lawsuits. The IC plans to create a training program and provide training to asphalt and parking lot striping companies to improve their knowledge of accessible parking lot regulations. If you would like to learn more about The IC’s community advocacy efforts, visit http://bit.ly/TheICAdvocacy