Guest blog post by Bob Vogel
I manage New Mobility Magazine’s Facebook page and I’ve found that few things elicit more anger and comments than a post about accessible parking space violations — usually a photo of an expensive vehicle and/or a non-disabled celebrity illegally parked. Reading the many comments to these posts has provided helpful insight on ways to handle parking violators, as well as improving my own parking etiquette.
Accessible Parking Etiquette
One of the parking etiquette rules I learned is, when possible, leave van accessible spaces open for vehicles equipped with wheelchair lifts. Van accessible parking spots have eight foot wide lines on the passenger side of the parking space and are supposed to be marked with a van-accessible sign. As T10 para, I confess that I should have known this but didn’t until I read a comment from a powerchair user explaining on how frustrating it is to see the last van accessible spot taken by a car with a placard that is parked right next to an open standard accessible parking spot. DOH! I learned my lesson! Leave van accessible spots for vehicles with a side lift. If you have a placard it is still cool to park with the crosshatch marks on the drivers side of the vehicle.
The caveat to van-accessible parking is number of spaces in a lot — in a small parking lot, up to 25 cars, the ADA requires only one accessible spot, which must be van accessible. The bigger the lot, the more accessible spaces, and ADA regulations require one van accessible spot for every eight accessible parking places. When I park, I take a few extra moments to find a standard accessible spot, and leave van accessible spots open.
Parking etiquette also means not judging whether a person’s placard is legit based on how that person looks. I understand placard abuse is rampant, but there quite a few disabilities — like people with heart and lung, or orthopedic conditions — where a person doesn’t appear to have a physical disability. If, however, I later see the person with the placard jogging up and down store aisles, I’m open to suggestions on how to bust them.
When it comes to accessible parking, here is another lesson I learned the hard way — when you get a new placard, be sure to get rid of your old one. If the old one is left on the floor of the car it is easy to grab the wrong placard, hang it on the mirror and end up with a ticket — which is how I got one. Luckily, when I took my new placard along with the paperwork for the new one to the traffic court ticket counter, and politely explained my mistake and they cancelled the ticket.
Ideas for dealing with accessible parking abusers
When a car is parked in an accessible spot with no placard or accessible plates — we get angry, and for good reason. It is hard enough to find a space with enough room to open the car door and get a wheelchair out — even worse to come back and find there isn’t enough clearance to get back in. Worse yet, at wheelchair height in a parking lot we are invisible compared people that are walking — I know of several wheelers that have been hit in parking lots by drivers that never saw them.
Although, it is tempting to think of ways to “get even” when I see a car with no placard, I also know it is a bad idea. I don’t know about you, but every now and then I forget to put my placard up.
Cities and states are starting to recognize that accessible parking enforcement is a source of revenue, and many states have significantly raised fines. In California, fines for parking in an accessible spot without a placard (or plate) range from $250 to $1000. Fraudulent use of disabled plates or placards is costing states parking meter revenue — most state laws allow cars with placards to park in metered spots for free. Penalties for using a placard belonging to someone else or fraudulently obtaining one, vary from state to state. The fine in California recently increased from $100 to $1000, In Florida, it is a second-degree misdemeanor with a fine of $1000 or up to six months in jail!
I’m not into confrontation, when I see a car in an accessible spot with no placard, I will politely say, “Umm, you forgot your placard.” If I get the, “I’m just running into the store for a few moments” or, “I’m just waiting for somebody for a few moments,” line, I follow up with, “Wow, very uncool. The fines have gone up to $1000 and cops write a lot of tickets here but it’s up to you…”
If you have a smartphone, there are apps to bust accessible parking violators. An app called Parking Mobility http://www.parkingmobility.com by Coal Harbour Group sounds pretty cool. The site says you use your smartphone to take a photo of the rear of the vehicle (license plate, make/model), photo showing the vehicle, parking spot, and disabled parking signs, and a photo of the front windshield showing no placard. Hit submit and the company submits a report to issue a ticket. Unfortunately, reviews of this app on Care Cure Forums say that at the present time most cities are not following through on ticketing with this app—at least not yet. Austin, Texas, is looking at creating a program where people can use smartphones to write tickets after taking a 4-hour class and become sworn in, deputized meter maids and employ the program to write enforceable tickets.. If the smartphone ticket program catches on in Austin, it is likely that many more cities will adopt it as a way to stem parking violation and increase revenue.
Another way to make a difference in accessible parking violation is to become a Volunteer Disable Parking Enforcement Officer. A growing number of cities are offering 4–6-hour courses on Volunteer Disable Parking Enforcement. Graduates receive a police identification that allow them to write tickets. An example of one such program is the Disability Parking Enforcement Program in Denver, Colorado. If interested, contact your local police department to see if they have such a program.
Has anybody become a volunteer Parking Enforcement Officer or successfully used a smartphone app for parking violations? If so, please let us know.
Bob Vogel, 51, is a freelance writer for the ROHO Community blog. He is a dedicated dad, adventure athlete and journalist. Bob is in his 26th year as a T10 complete para. For the past two decades he has written for New Mobility magazine and is now their Senior Correspondent. He often seeks insight and perspective from his 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, and Schatzie, his 9-year-old German Shepherd service dog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of Bob Vogel and do not necessarily reflect the views of The ROHO Group. You can contact Bob Vogel by email at