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  • Carrie Leljedal

The Rise of Curbside Pickup: A Threat to Handicap Accessible Parking

By: Carrie Leljedal, GPNYC Vice President


The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) marked a groundbreaking step in civil rights, ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to public spaces. A significant part of this law mandates accessible parking to facilitate ease of access for the 18+ million Americans living with mobility issues. These provisions allow individuals to navigate public spaces like hospitals, restaurants, and retail establishments with the same freedom as anyone else.


However, despite the ADA's requirements, accessible parking remains a major hurdle. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that 70% of people with disabilities limit their daily travels due to inadequate accessible parking. This barrier significantly impacts their quality of life, restricting their ability to perform everyday activities and participate fully in society.


The COVID-19 pandemic introduced curbside pickup as a necessary measure for social distancing and business continuity. This service quickly became popular, as it allowed customers to receive goods and services without entering stores, thereby minimizing physical contact. Businesses, recognizing the ongoing benefits of curbside pickup, have since integrated it into their regular operations.


Yet, this shift has led to unintended consequences. Many businesses have reconfigured their parking lots to accommodate curbside pickup, often at the expense of accessible parking. It's common now to see prime parking spots near entrances reserved for curbside services, while accessible spots are moved further away or reduced in number.


According to federal law, accessible parking must be as close as possible to building entrances without barriers. Unfortunately, compliance is not always observed. For instance, one business I recently visited moved its ADA parking spots to the side of the building, making way for curbside pickup right by the door. This forced customers with disabilities to navigate a more complex and hazardous route to reach the entrance.


This reallocation is not only illegal but also perilous. Mobility device users, whether in wheelchairs, using walkers, or riding scooters, require the safest possible pathways through parking lots to avoid traffic hazards. Shifting accessible parking to less convenient locations increases the risk of accidents and adds to the daily challenges faced by people with disabilities.


Businesses must recognize that the convenience of curbside pickup for some should not compromise the safety and accessibility of others. While curbside services benefit customers and streamline operations, they should not infringe upon the rights and needs of those with disabilities. Maintaining a balance is crucial: businesses can still offer curbside pickup without sacrificing accessible parking.


While curbside pickup has become an integral part of modern commerce, it should not come at the expense of accessibility. Businesses need to ensure they adhere to ADA regulations and prioritize the safety and convenience of all their customers. Accessibility and convenience can coexist, but it requires thoughtful planning and a commitment to inclusivity.


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