As part of the mobility impaired community, there are lots of issues and policies that need to be addressed but I think the most common, day-to-day problems revolve around accessible parking, or as some of us lovingly say “rockstar” parking.
So let’s make a list of the common mistakes and then talk about some positive ways to educate our communities:
- The Access Aisle Abuser. No, the diagonal hatch marks do not mean “motor cycle” parking….or any type of parking for that matter.
- The Excuser. “Oops!” “Nobody uses those spots.” “It was just for a minute.” or “I’m waiting for someone”.
- The Borrower – the non-disabled person misusing the disabled parking placard.
- The Expired – using a temporary placard far longer than medically necessary.
- The Dumpster – the disabled parking spot that “no one uses” so the business, uses the space for snow, outdoor sales, garbage.
Disabled parking issues have been all over social media recently (i.e., a Starbucks’ customer was banned for life because he was “harassing” able-bodied folks who were parking in disabled parking spots) but there have been some interesting ways to educate and counteract those who abuse. Another recent example was a man in Brazil whose car was covered in Post-it notes.
There are many ways to educate our communities on how to avoid these common abuses. Some of them can potentially involve some embarrassment like an example given by Rick Hayden, one of our advocates from Southern California.
“Angels Stadium Police catch a guy parking in disabled parking. He said he had just dropped his wife (who he said was “disabled”) off at the curb and was parking. The policeman escorted him back over to his wife which shed light on the fact that his wife was not disabled. I took that spot, presented my placard, license and ID card to the policeman who thanked me and then wrote the other guy the ticket.”
With modern technology, we have other ways to report abusers, like the Parking Mobility App. It enables people to snap a photo of a vehicle parked in a spot without a disabled plate or placard and send it to city officials, who issue a ticket. Enforcement is an important part of addressing accessible parking abuse but to truly end accessible parking abuse it takes changing social behavior. Most people who park illegally in accessible spaces do so because they don’t realize how important the spaces are to disabled drivers. Every time someone receives a ticket, the program educates 10 people on the importance of accessible parking.
Rick had another suggestion for educating our law enforcers. “Several years ago I was approached by friends of mine who were policemen for our fine little city. Because it was the law and because we were friends they wanted to do a better job of enforcing the disabled parking. They were a bit unsure as to the regulations etc. and asked if I could help with their education. They then knew what was required of the driver to prove that in fact the placard was theirs and the person it belonged to was in the car.”
Many advocates are trying to get local and state laws changed. In Washington state, the Governor’s disabled citizen advocacy groups were consulted when updating their law. Changes included requiring a written prescription from a health care provider to obtain disabled parking privileges, requiring a new application for every renewal, inclusion of a new fraud warning on the application to remind applicants and healthcare providers it is a gross misdemeanor if they knowingly provide false information, and upgrading the penalty of illegally obtaining a disabled parking placard, license plate, tab, or identification card from a traffic infraction to a misdemeanor. South Carolina has had placards with the driver’s picture on it since 2010. New Jersey has a bar code on the license plate (lower right corner) providing police instant access to a database that can help them verify to whom the hanging permit was issued.
United Spinal Association has a great educational resource ––Parking Pad ––which can be left on a vehicles windshield notifying owners that illegally parking in accessible spaces “Just for a minute…is 60 seconds too long!” Download the Parking Pad here.
Other resources are:
The Advocacy Alliance will be launching a disabled parking educational campaign and we are looking for ideas – Join us! Sign up here for messages or e-mail me directly with your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, there are a lot of creative people out there…parking spot abusers beware!