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The Van Accessible Parking Space – What Does It Need?

parking accessibility

Janis Kent, FAIA, Architect, CASp ©  May, 2019. Updated February 2020

The technical requirements for parking are straight-forward, yet according to annual statistics provided by the California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA), items related to parking make up 5 of the top 10 accessibility related lawsuits in the state. This can be due to non-compliant construction, incorrect or lack of maintenance, or missing information on construction drawings. When any parking exists, one van accessible parking space is required, and depending on the overall number of parking spaces in a parking facility, the number of required accessible spaces also increases. Electric vehicle charging stations are not considered parking spaces and have differing requirements. Below is a summary of what is required for a compliant van accessible space. 

The Van Accessible Space Itself (note this no longer referred to as a stall)

In California, the space itself measures 18′ long minimum. Some cities may require it to be longer. The ADA does not set the length, so this could very well differ state by state. And this length is for angled or perpendicular parking, not parallel. The width of the space is 12′ in California and 11′ per ADA measured to the centerline of the stripe itself.

    • 18′ long x 12′ wide in CA 
    • measure to centerline of stripe


Van Access Aisle

The aisle is to be the same length as the space, at a minimum, and fully contiguous to it. The access aisle width is 5′ minimum, also measured to the centerline of the stripe. The aisle is always on the passenger side in California and if it is angled parking under ADA then it too would be required on the passenger side. There is an exception that if the access aisle is increased 3′ in width, the space itself can be made 3′ narrower. One other exception is, if there is no adjacent parking to the aisle or the space, then the full width of that stripe (line) can be included in the width, not just half.

    • 18′ long in CA x 5′ wide, fully contiguous to the space
    • located on passenger side of space in CA and per ADA if diagonal 
    • measure to centerline of stripe


On-Grade Markings in California

The ADA leaves the requirements for on-grade markings within the space and the aisle up to each state. In California, the space is required to have an International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) striped on-grade and aligned with the open end of the space. The ISA is to be 36″ x 36″ minimum in size and centered on the width of the space ± 6″. The ISA should be colored white on a blue square. As an alternate, the space can be outlined in blue or fully painted blue with the white ISA.

In California the access aisle is to have a blue border, which means on all 4 sides. There are diagonal lines striped within the border at a maximum spacing of 36″ on center. These lines are to contrast with the paving surface. Generally this would be a blue diagonal on concrete paving and a white diagonal on black asphalt. The words No Parking are located near the end of the aisle in 12″ minimum height white letters

    • 36″ x 36″ white ISA on a blue background aligned with end of space and centered ±6″
    • aisle has a blue border on all 4 sides with diagonal lines at 36″ on center maximum 
    • diagonal lines contrast with paving – preferably white on asphalt or blue on concrete
    • the words NO PARKING are striped at the end of the aisle in 12″ height white letters



There are several signs that are required which can be combined into one or kept as multiple signs. Signs are to be reflectorized in California and non-glare per ADA. The bottom of the signs are at 80″ minimum above grade in California and 60″ per ADA. If located on a wall or over a non-walkable surface they are also 60″ minimum. One required sign is an ISA – and in California it is to be a white figure on a blue background that is 70 square inches minimum. The second sign has the words Van Accessible. In California, there is another sign stating Minimum Fine $250. These signs need to be placed visible from each van accessible parking space. In California there is the towing sign that can either be placed visible from each accessible space or at each vehicular entry. This sign has specific text along with the towing address and towing phone number as a permanent part of the sign.

    • bottom of signs located at 80″ minimum above grade or 60″ minimum per ADA 
    • if located on wall or over a non-walkable surface mount 60″ minimum
    • signs are reflectorized in CA and non-glare per ADA
    • provide the words VAN ACCESSIBLE with an ISA – in CA it is white on a blue background
    • provide a MINIMUM FINE $250 sign and a Tow-Away sign in CA



The accessible space and access aisle are to both be on the same level with no height changes. This would mean that truncated domes which are .2″ in height can not be located within the space or aisle. The slope is to be 2.083% maximum in any direction, so no ramps can be placed within the space or aisle either. If the area is being leveled then the slope should be feathered gradually outside of the space/aisle so there is no abrupt drop. I would also suggest, as a design consideration, that the 2.083% slope be continued beyond the end of the space about 3′ to 4′ since a person is allowed to go behind their own vehicle and it would be dangerous for this area to have excessive slope. 

    • slopes are 2.083% maximum within the space and aisle
    • there are no height changes within the space or aisle


The above summarizes most, but not all, of the technical requirements. It does not include the scoping for the actual number of accessible spaces required which may differ depending upon building use. If more than one accessible space is required, then the next space is a standard accessible space and the space itself is 3′ narrower than the van space. The Van Accessible sign is not required nor is any other wording (except for the California Tow Away and the Minimum Fine signs). The access aisle can be placed on either side of a standard space. Be aware If you have diagonal parking, the space and aisle create one rectangle, not two that slip by each other since the required length of the aisle and space are to be fully contiguous. Under ADA, but not in California, if there are a total of 4 or less parking spaces provided, you would still provide an accessible van space but signage demarcating and reserving it as accessible only is not provided nor required. 

Accessible spaces should be located as close as feasible to the entry with an accessible route or path of travel connecting to both. Providing compliant accessible spaces are required as a barrier removal task even if there is no construction. Providing accessible parking also counts towards proportional spending for alterations. And the owner needs to be aware that maintenance of these features is an ongoing obligation including re-striping when the paint fades, re-topping if the surface deteriorates, replacing signs if graffiti defaces them or if the reflectorization is worn off, and this may include cutting tree limbs to maintain 98″ minimum clear height above the space, its access aisle, and the full vehicular route. So maybe these requirements are a bit more involved than originally thought.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.

Janis Kent, FAIA, Architect, CASp ©  May, 2019. Updated February 2020

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