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caption: Disability rights advocates worry that businesses will use disability parking for outdoor dining or retail space.
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Disability rights advocates worry that businesses will use disability parking for outdoor dining or retail space.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

Outdoor space for dining and retail might help businesses, but may impede people with disabilities, advocates worry

Businesses can now temporarily use sidewalks and private parking spaces for outdoor seating and retail. This change comes after King County loosened some regulations to help businesses during the pandemic.

Disability rights advocates like Conrad Reynoldson worry the temporary legislation could lead to lost space for people with disabilities—like parking.

“And unfortunately a lot of business do that already so I just don’t want to further encourage that,” he said. “That’s a frequent problem that we deal with—businesses thinking that they can just put things in those spaces.”

Reynoldson is founder of the nonprofit Washington Civil and Disability Advocate. He said he supports efforts to help customers practice social distancing. While the legislation notes that changes need to comply with ADA access regulations, it doesn’t give specific guidance for doing that.

Reynoldson said the good news is that there are resources that businesses can consult. “ADA.gov, which is the federal website on Americans with Disabilities Act which provides a lot of great information on the requirements, and there are organizations here like the Northwest ADA Center.”

Reynoldson said when people attempt to be ADA compliant on their own, without guidance, it may lead to more problems.

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