Obstructing Accessible Parking Spaces
A New Law for New Hampshire Property Owners
By Cheryl Killam, Code and Compliance Specialist
A new law requiring that accessible parking spaces be kept clear of obstructions became effective in New Hampshire on January 1, 2009. Under NHRSA 265:74-a, it is now a violation for a property owner to allow snow or ice to accumulate in parking spaces reserved for people with walking disabilities. The law does provide a window of 24 hours to remove obstructions that are a result of “adverse weather”, such as snow and ice. For the removal of debris or large objects, this law is less forgiving, requiring immediate response to a complaint.
Access aisles – the striped no-parking zones adjacent to accessible parking spaces – are also included in this law. Access aisles provide the space necessary for a person to fully open the car door and safely maneuver with crutches, a walker, or wheelchair.
For vans, these areas provide the space needed for a person who uses a wheelchair to deploy a ramp or lift and safely enter/exit the van. Without an access aisle, a parking space reserved for people with walking disabilities is not useable and not compliant with accessibility standards. Unfortunately it is all too common a practice to plow snow into the access aisle or to allow shopping carts to accumulate in the access aisle, rendering the accessible parking spaces useless.
What does this mean for your business? Property owners are ultimately responsible for the condition of parking lots. Agreements with snow removal contractors should be reviewed for timeliness of service and maintenance clauses. Training of staff to be aware of the conditions of the parking spaces for your business should ensure that accessible parking spaces are kept free and clear at all times. Violation of this law carries a fine of up to $250 for the property owner.
More importantly, by not properly clearing or maintaining accessible parking spaces and their access aisles, you will lose customers. It is estimated that over 20% of the national population has a disability, and, in 2006 the estimated discretionary spending power of these individuals was $175 billion. If a person with a walking disability is unable to access your business because of obstructed parking spaces or access aisles, you will lose that person as a customer, and possibly that individual’s personal network as well. As a person who uses a wheelchair and drives an adapted van, when I am unable to park because of snow, I either take my business elsewhere or choose not to pursue my shopping venture, and then I share my experience with my network of friends, family, and co-workers.
For most of us, the winter months prove to be more challenging when it comes to parking and exiting vehicles. It is much more difficult, if not impossible, for an individual who has a walking disability to do the same. Removing snow and ice from accessible parking spaces and the access aisles is crucial to being able to safely exit and enter vehicles. It’s also a best practice to ensure the return of customers of all abilities.
Questions on Accessibility? Contact our Accessibility Specialist, Cheryl Killam