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Accessible Parking

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In this tip, you’ll learn why accessible parking has certain features, who gets to use accessible parking, and how YOU can support accessible parking wherever you are.
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Let’s demystify a classic hot topic in and out of disability communities: Accessible Parking.

Are you looking for technical, engineering, or legal requirements on accessible parking, including Federal, State, and local laws? Scroll to the bottom and check out Laws, Guidelines, and Permits for Accessible Parking.

Apply for a Free Disabled User Parking Permit

The City of Portland strives to balance the needs of our diverse community by preserving accessible parking for persons with disabilities. Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has put together a comprehensive page on Disability Parking in Portland, including how to apply for a free disability parking permit. 

Disability Parking in Portland PBOT Webpage

Request a Disability On-Street Parking Space

Residents that either don't have off-street parking, or their off-street parking has accessibility issues may request a disability parking space on-street next to their residence

A property owner may request a disability parking space be placed along their fronting property when:

  1. Property is located outside of a metered or permitted zone and
  2. Property is zoned residential and
  3. There is no off-street parking (off-street parking space definition: An off-street parking space included parking lots, parking structures, garages, carports, driveways without carports or garages or any other legal parking space on private property) and
  4. There are no more than 2 disability spaces already on the block face or 500 feet of lineal curb feet from the requestor address and
  5. The property requesting accommodation is not on an unimproved roadway.

The city will contact all property owners adjacent to disability parking spaces by mail every 2 years to determine whether the space is still in use.

Please call or email the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) for more information. Phone: (503)-823-7275. Email: PBOTParkingControl@portlandoregon.gov

Disability Parking in Portland PBOT Webpage

Accessible parking is an essential feature of any accessible place.

It provides a useable link between someone’s vehicle and their destination. (It’s not very useful to drive to a place if you can’t get out of your vehicle and get to the actual place, is it?)

Accessible parking provides additional features that make it more usable for many people with many kinds of disabilities.

Features of Accessible Parking

It’s closer. When at all possible, accessible parking is closer to the place it serves than other parking. This can allow people with mobility disabilities to get to a building. This is also true for folks with disabilities that impact stamina, endurance, or cause fatigue. People with visual disabilities must navigate less terrain (and fewer dangerous vehicles!) to get somewhere.

It’s bigger. A wider parking space and access aisle allows for ramps to deploy, mobility devices (like wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, and canes) to be unloaded, and doors to open wide, which can be important for people with a variety of disabilities

It’s connected to the nearest accessible path and entrance. Someone can get to the building or place without finding curbs or steps blocking their way. (This is also why accessible parking is, occasionally, not the closest parking to the main or front entrance. If the accessible path to the accessible entrance happens to be along a slightly longer route, that’s where the accessible parking goes.)

It’s level, firm, stable, and slip resistant. Which is safer for people with all kinds of disabilities. This video shows what can happen if spaces are too sloped.

It has a tall, visible sign. People can find it while they’re still in their vehicle. They can know that it is there, but full, when another vehicle is parked there. And it is clear that a permit is required to park there.

Who can use accessible parking?

Accessible parking can be used by anyone with a valid Disabled Person Parking Permit  for themselves or a passenger in the vehicle.  This permit requires that a health care professional verifies an individual’s need for accessible parking.

It is important to remember that:

  • It’s estimated that between 85-94 percent of disabilities are invisible (depending on the stats you use). Someone may have any range of disabilities impacting how they travel from a vehicle to a building, and we cannot judge based on how someone looks if they should be using an accessible parking spot.  Note: These blogs use some old language (“handicapped…incapacitated…special needs”) that is no longer considered respectful in disability communities.
  • Accessible parking can be for a driver or passenger in a vehicle.
  • If you believe a vehicle is parked illegally in an accessible space, you can report the vehicle to the local police or Portland’s Volunteer Disability Parking Enforcement Program at 503-823-2221.
  • Confronting the vehicle owner or leaving a note is not recommended. Besides being potentially dangerous, this is someone making a judgment without having all the information. A surprise confrontation by an angry stranger helps no one.

Remember, we cannot guess if someone has a disability by looking at them.

How can YOU support accessible parking?

Speak up. If you notice a lot that has no accessible parking, or parking that needs a fresh coat of paint, speak with the facility owner or management and let them know how important it is to you to visit places that are accessible for everyone.  Bonus points for following up with a letter or email! It can also be helpful to take photos if there are dumpsters or other objects blocking the parking. This way, you can show the owner and share them in your follow up email or letter as well.

Stop “just a minute” stealing the accessible parking. If you do not have a disability parking permit, and you decide use the accessible spot to run in “for just a minute” you are preventing other people from parking, and they may be forced to leave. Stop it.

If you are moving, or delivering the mail, or just feel  much busier and more important than the rest of us, doesn’t matter. This is true for the access aisle too. Remember, access aisles are there for a reason.

Clear the ice and snow. Ice and snow can make an accessible spot completely unusable. And an accessible pathway to the entrance is just as important. If you are in charge of a business or facility, make plans to clear your parking lot this winter. If you cannot do it yourself, make arrangements to pay someone to do it so that you and your business are ready when the first flakes and ice crystals arrive.

Of course, those of us who aren’t business owners can encourage our favorite stores, shops, and restaurants to clear their space.

And each of us can buy a shovel to make sure our neighborhoods stay as accessible as possible this winter. Check out PBOT’s Winter Weather FAQs to get prepared!

Strive for a clear, dry sidewalk. These are safest, most accessible, and easiest to keep cleared.

Nice work! Now, we can all be all part of keeping accessible parking usable and available

Laws, Guidelines, and Permits for Accessible Parking

Federal LawsState Laws and City of Portland Laws about accessible parking vary. Feel free to explore the links provided for more information.  It can help to know that cities can be stricter (make more requirements for accessibility, but not less)than states and states can be stricter than federal law. That’s how you can have different laws in different jurisdictions—the law with the strictest or most specific requirements for disability access is the law that applies.

There are no requirements for the size or number of accessible on-street parking spaces—Yet. Although there is case law that supports providing accessible parking when on-street parking is provided, specific rules about the number, location, size, or features of spaces apply only to parking lots and garages.

This will almost certainly be changing. The US Access board has developed Pubic Right of Way Guidelines (PROWAG) that includes guidance for accessible on-street parking. This guidance will very likely become a rule (law) in the future.

Local laws on paying for parking and State requirements to have a disability parking permit still apply in on-street accessible parking.