Most successful companies understand that abundant and well-designed parking is one of the first impressions their firm makes on current and prospective customers. A well-designed parking lot often is the first impression provided to clients and creates a compelling reason for consumers to shop at their firm. There is another, and often overlooked, reason for having a professional parking lot: complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
To ensure your parking area meets federal requirements, do a search of the ADA website for “parking”. www.ada.gov. This will cover items from changes in rules and enforcement to technical definitions regarding dimensions, signage and all other aspects of accessible parking.
But be aware! These are just minimum federal standards, be sure to ensure you are in compliance with state and local ordinances that may add additional requirements and penalties for non-compliance.
And it’s not just the construction of new parking lots – maintenance is explicitly required as part of the ADA. Accessible spaces must be kept well-surfaced and in good repair, so that there are no rough edges or broken places that could constitute a hazard to someone with a handicap.
And even though a flat, asphalt covered piece of land may look maintenance free, it can begin to fall apart from any number of different factors, including:
- Weather: The range of temperatures from summer heat to winter freezes takes its toll on an asphalt surface. Cracks and porous spots allow water to penetrate through the top layers, while ultraviolet radiation causes oxidation of the asphalt’s chemical makeup, speeding up its deterioration.
- Chemicals: Vehicles can leave a variety of corrosive chemicals behind, including battery acid, antifreeze, and engine oil, which all interact with asphalt and cause chemical breakdown.
- Poor drainage: Many parking lots are installed without proper drainage, and ponded water gradually seeps through the asphalt into the substrate, often causing swelling of the paved surface. Drainage problems worsen over time and can result in full-scale reclamation and repair job.
And while some of this may seem trivial or even silly, it CANNOT be taken lightly! Even if no customer is ever harmed, ADA violations can be costly—up to $55,000 for the first offense and above $100,000 for further violations. Civil penalties also can be assessed by courts in cases brought by the Department of Justice. Individuals and advocacy organizations can also bring suit, and subsequent enforcement action can seek large sums in compensatory damages.
Overall, keeping a well-maintained, ADA-compliant parking lot is essential to protecting business assets. Moreover, providing safe, convenient parking enhances a business reputation and enables it to maintain the best possible relationship with customers and the community.