Snow Removal and Accessibility: Quick Tips for Small Businesses
Snow plow shoveling snow in parking lot.

Some of us love snow-others hate it. Regardless, it has to be shoveled, blown away, or plowed for people to get around. How a small business owner provides snow removal has a real impact on people with disabilities, either making it much easier to get into the business, or creating obstacles that can make access impossible.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when removing snow from your business facility.

Don't Push Snow into Accessible Parking Spots & Access Aisles
Snow piled into accessible parking spot.

All that plowed snow has to go somewhere, and all too often it ends up in the access aisle next to the accessible parking space (or even the parking space, as shown in the photo.)  Obviously, this makes it very difficult or impossible to get in and out of a car.  A completely clear aisle is critical for individuals who use a van with a lift, which must extend into the access aisle.  Make sure staff or contracted companies know that snow cannot be plowed or shoveled into the access aisles!

The Entire Accessible Route Should be Cleared of Ice and Snow
Accessible route leading to door is cleared of snow.

The route from the accessible parking space to the business interior should also be clear and free of snow and ice.  An accessible route should be a minimum of 36 inches wide.  This may not be completely possible after major snows and ice storms, but a fully cleared accessible route should be your goal. Doors should open to allow at least 32 inches clear-width for wheelchair users to enter.

Shovel the Ramp!
Ramp on side of restaurant that has been cleared of snow.

Don't forget to clear the ramp. In fact, shovel the ramp first.  Customers and employees can use the ramp, while the steps are being cleared. (Many customers may prefer to use a ramp with handrails when there is snow and ice on the ground.) Make sure the handrails aren’t ice covered so they can be easily grasped. And pay attention to where you put shoveled snow—it shouldn’t go into the accessible route.

Best practice: Outdoor non-slip, weather-proof mats on ramps can increase traction.

Don't Forget to Pretreat the Ramp for Ice and Snow.
Man pouring ice pretreatment into a wheelbarrow.

It’s easy to forget to pretreat ramps and focus only on steps and walkways. Make sure whomever has this responsibility knows to include ramps and landings.

Example of deep pile coir doormat that is difficult for wheelchairs to cross.

Extra deep pile doormats may be great at stopping snow puddles, but they are very difficult for wheelchairs users to wheel over. Doormats are necessary, but coir matting (coconut matting) and ribbed or metal matting are not good choices for accessibility.

Best Practice Tip
Dog with snow on its paw putting paw in person's hand.

Salt and some other types of pretreatments are hard on wheelchair tires and service dogs’ paws. Having some wipes and assistance available for patrons to remove excess pretreatments, ice and snow is helpful. 

This content was developed by the Great Plains ADA Center.

The Great Plains ADA Center provides information, training, and materials on the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Great Plains Region: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

The Great Plains ADA Center is part of the ADA National Network

[email protected]

Call 1-800-949-4232 to reach your regional ADA Center.