Introduction: Stencil for Disability Parking Space

Here's a step by step guide for creating and implementing your own stencil for parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities. I did all of this in one afternoon with my two kids and we had a blast. Also, we used the new Accessible Icon, adopted by NYC. So, what seems like a DIY project may also become a project of advocacy and awareness!

Step 1: Step 1: Acquire Materials


1 Gallon Rust-Oleum Safety Blue Pro Enamel
(or latex equivalent for parking lots)--$40. You likely will not find this color at national retail outlets . I found it at a local retail shop. You can order it through national retail chains, but it takes time and extra $ for shipping. It is also possible to order 6-pack cans of spray paint, but this paint does not have a long life and tends to show anything painted under it. However, it does dry much more quickly.

1 Can White Striping Paint--$10. These are readily available at both national retail and local shops. DO NOT GET "MARKING" PAINT.

1 Piece of Plywood, at least 32" x 48"--$10. I used some old 3/4" laying about. I also purchased some "Hardboard" or masonite just for kicks.

1 Print-out, at least 32" x 32" on an "engineering" printer--$10. Your local copy shop or any national retailer (Kinkos, Staples, etc.) will have the engineer printers. I asked for a 36" x 48" and it came out perfect! The image is downloadable here:

Pieces of scrap plywood or cardboard. This is to protect the surrounding areas from overspray. Note that newspaper usually just blows away.

Painter's Tape. This gives the blue background straight edges. Try to get the cheapest tape you can. I usually go for the 2" stuff because my little helpers get sloppy sometimes. 


Razor blades/Xacto knife/Scissors: for cutting out the paper stencil
Jigsaw: for cutting out the wood stencil.
Drill with 1/2 bit: for cutting out the wood stencil.
Paint Roller preferably with handle: for the blue background
Roller Cover preferably 1/2 nap: for the blue background
Safety Cone: to protect your job until it fully dries.
Drop Cloth: Don't leave a mess
Garbage Bags: Don't leave a mess

Step 2: Step 2: the Paper Stencil

After you print out the paper stencil, use the plywood/hardwood board that you will make the wood stencil to cut on. You can use scissors, but I find the need to use a razor blade with a straightedge to cut out the figure. I cut all the straight lines first with the edge as a guide and then freehand the rounded bits. I found a pan lid that matched the head size as a guide for cutting the head (lucky!). No need to be perfect here. Just do your best and relax.

Step 3: Step 3: Prepare Your Wood Stencil

Center the paper stencil on your plywood/hardboard in an area that can handle some overspray, like your lawn. Tape down some of the more fragile areas as the spray paint has a pretty powerful blast of air. Then, using your spraypaint, spray the edges of the figure onto your wood with confident and sure strokes, aiming your can downward, angled slightly toward the wood part of the edge. The point of this is just to get an outline of the figure as a guide for cutting the board with your jigsaw.

Step 4: Step 4: Cutting Wood Stencil

Begin by drilling your holes at every joint, in the head, and lower wheel. This gives your jigsaw access to cut out these areas. Make sure to drill your holes inside the figure.

Do not be a perfectionist about your cut. I try to follow the lines closely, going fast on the straight parts and slowly around the corners. If I find myself getting off the line, I just slowly move readjust. I do not stop and reset, as this would leave an eccentricity. Keep it smooth. Keep it cool. I let my son cut a bunch of the cuts as well…he did great!

Notice too that there will be weak parts to your wood stencil if, like me, the size of your plywood/hardwood is tight. Try to use a piece of wood that gives you lots of negative space.

Step 5: Step 5: Painting the Blue Background

Not all states require disability parking spots to have a blue background. It is fine to just paint your stencil directly onto the surface of the paint. However, if there is already a background, you need to repaint it.

Begin by sweeping the area, as any dust will just ruin your work. Then, using painter's tape, edge your background by stretching the tape with one full piece. This makes cleanup easy and provides a straight line. 

I then bring out my materials and put them on a kind of drop cloth (I use a garbage bag even!) Then, I just pour the safety blue paint directly onto the pavement inside the square. (I used a paint tray, because my little helpers just insisted on it for some reason.)  I first move it around the edges and then fill in the middle (or I let my helpers fill in the middle…) I use up about 1/5 of a gallon per spot; more if the pavement is old.

When complete but still wet, I pull off the tape and throw it in a garbage bag. I then put a cone in front and go on to other spots or skateboard in parking lot for about an hour until it dries. 

Step 6: Step 6: Painting the Accessible Icon

This is the fun part!

First center the stencil on the (now dry) blue background. Then, use scrap boards/cardboard along the edges for overspray. I first paint the areas of the stencil that are sensitive; I often hold down the armpit and leg-pit areas when spraying the edges. Then, I hit all of the edges. You can just hand over the paint to your helpers to finish the rest. It is fun to watch how excited they get. The paint dries very quickly, so you can usually lift the stencil immediately and witness the glory!

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