Along with the goods and services of a public accommodation needing to be accessible to both people with and without disabilities, the buildings and parking lots of these public accommodations also need to be accessible.

Accessible spaces that are required in parking lots:

Total Number of Parking Spaces in Lot or Garage

Minimum Number of Accessible Spaces Required




















2% of total

1001 and over

20, plus 1 for each 100 or fraction thereof, over 1000

In addition to the chart above, the 2010 Accessibility Standards require that at least one of every six accessible parking spaces be van-accessible. If a parking facility serves multiple buildings or accessible entrances, accessible parking spaces should be dispersed throughout the facility.

Accessible parking spaces are at least eight-feet wide. Van-accessible spaces are at least eleven-feet wide. Access aisles must be at least five-feet wide, and can be shared in between two parking spaces. The access aisles are important because they provide room for vehicle-mounted wheelchair lifts, as well as a place to unload and use mobility devices like wheelchairs and walkers. If the access aisle is at least eight-feet wide, then a van-accessible space may be eight-feet wide. The access aisles must be marked so that other vehicles won’t mistake the access aisle for a parking space. Signs have to have the International Symbol of Accessibility, which is a line drawing of a person in a wheelchair. If the space is van-accessible, the sign must include the phrase “van-accessible.” The signs must be mounted so that other vehicles won’t mistake the access aisle for a parking space.

Building Standards for Accessibility

If a facility was built or altered during the last 20 years in compliance with the 1991 Standards, or barriers were removed to specific elements in compliance with those Standards, then the facility is in compliance, even if the newer 2010 Standards have different requirements for them. This provision is applied on an element-by-element basis and is referred to as the “safe harbor.”

If a business chooses to alter elements that were in compliance with the 1991 Standards, the safe harbor no longer applies to those elements. For example, if a parking lot is restriped, this would be considered an alteration. Therefore, it would then have to meet the ratio of van-accessible spaces in the 2010 Standards.

The revised ADA rules and the 2010 Standards contain new requirements for elements in existing facilities that were not addressed in the original 1991 Standards. These include recreation elements such as play areas, exercise machines, miniature golf facilities, and bowling alleys. Because these elements were not included in the 1991 Standards, they are not subject to safe harbor.

The ADA requires that all businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is “readily achievable” to do so. Readily achievable means “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.” This requirement is based on the size and resources of the business. So, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, businesses with more resources are expected to do more than businesses with fewer resources. Readily achievable barrier removal may include providing an accessible route from a parking lot to the business’ entrance, installing an entrance ramp, widening a doorway, installing accessible door hardware, repositioning shelves, or moving tables, chairs, display racks, vending machines, or other furniture. When removing barriers, businesses are required to comply with the Standards to the extent possible. For example, when there is not enough space to install a ramp with a slope that complies with the Standards, a business may install a ramp with a slightly steeper slope. However, any deviation from the Standards must not pose a significant safety risk.

It is understood that a business may not be able to afford to do everything at once in terms of barrier removal. The ADA regulations recommend the following priorities for barrier removal:

  • Providing access to the business from public sidewalks, parking areas, and public transportation;
  • Providing access to the goods and services the business offers;
  • Providing access to public restrooms;
  • Removing barriers to other amenities offered to the public, such as drinking fountains

Barriers in Retail Stores

The obligation to remove barriers also applies to merchandise shelves, sales and service counters, and check-out aisles. Shelves and counters must be on an accessible route with enough spaces to allow customers using mobility devices to access merchandise. Shelves may be of any height since they are not subject to the ADA’s reach range requirements. When barriers prevent access to these areas, they must be removed if readily achievable. However, businesses are not required to take any steps that would result in a significant loss of selling space. At least one check-out aisle must be usable by people with mobility disabilities, though more are required in larger stores. When it is not readily achievable to make a sales or service counter accessible, businesses should provide a folding shelf or nearby accessible counter. If these changes are not readily achievable, businesses may provide a clipboard or lap board until more permanent changes can be made.

Barriers in Restaurants

People with disabilities need to be able to get to tables, food service lines, and condiment and beverage bard in restaurants, bars, or other places where food or drink are sold. There has to be an accessible route to all dining areas, including raised or sunken dining areas and outdoor dining areas, as well as to food service lines, service counters, and public restrooms. In a dining area, tables should be far enough apart so a person using a wheelchair can maneuver between the tables when patrons are sitting at them. Some accessible tables must be provided and must be dispersed throughout the dining area rather than clustered in a single location. If people with disabilities cannot access a raised, sunken, or outdoor dining area, then barriers must be removed if readily achievable. In restaurants or bars with only standing tables, some accessible dining tables must be provided.