Give Wheelchair Vans Some Space, Damnit

Those 'van accessible' parking spaces have all that extra space around them for good reasons.

Living with a disability
Cole Burston—Toronto Star via Getty Images

An image is going viral on Twitter about the importance of parking properly in handicap parking spaces. We all know that parking in one without the proper tag or license plate is wrong and will banish you to the very special hell with people who talk in the theater. Even if you're fully authorized to park in such a space, it's important to park between the lines properly, or people like Rachelle Chapman may not even be able to enter their vehicles.

The photo shows Chapman, in a wheelchair, properly parked in her space, and the wheelchair ramp extended from the side of her Ford Explorer. A Honda Pilot has parked at least a foot or two over the line of its space, encroaching far into the striped area that is supposed to remain clear of cars. This incursion has left Chapman unable to make the turn onto her wheelchair ramp to get into her car.

In a past life career, I used to inspect subcontractors' wheelchair vans for a local transit authority to ensure compliance with state rules and regulations. Though I'm fortunate to have never been confined to a wheelchair myself, I learned a great deal about transportation needs for those who are. The biggest one, literally and figuratively, is the ramp extending from their vehicles that allow them to roll in and out. These ramps take up a great deal of space either next to or behind the vehicle, depending on how they are set up. These ramps are longer than a wheelchair, front to back. I've even considered keeping a wheelchair ramp in a future bug-out van project in order to roll a Honda Grom or other small motorcycle in and out of the van like an escape pod.

Additionally, there must be room at the end of the ramp for the wheelchair to turn to roll on and off the ramp. Between the ramp itself and the wheelchair on the end, a good six feet or so is required on the side of the vehicle for the occupant to get in and out. Parking spaces marked "van accessible" have this much space crossed out next to them to create the necessary room for the ramp. People parking across these lines can, and do, make it impossible for people in wheelchairs to get in and out of their cars.

We shouldn't have to ask you to park between the lines, regardless of where you're parking. But this is a more significant problem because it looks like there's still plenty of space between vehicles when, in fact, there isn't. So if you park next to a car in a van accessible spot, please be sure to stay out of the striped area. Even though the minivan or SUV in the space may not look like it has a ramp, it very well may.