It’s pouring rain, the parking lot is packed with automobiles sandwiched as closely as possible to the entrance of the store. Then you see it – the perfect open space! You put on the blinker, begin to turn the wheelÃ¢Â?Â¦ and notice the bright blue wheelchair logo on the pavement. Admit it – it’s happened to us all – and we’ve all been tempted to take the handicapped parking space.
Handicapped parking is provided for individuals who, due to disability or inability, have a diminished level of mobility. If you’ve ever saw a handicapped person trying to make their way across a busy parking lot with a wheel chair, cane, or walker – you can’t help but understand their need for closer access. The core of the Americans with Disabilities Act is based on this need, and was passed to ensure handicapped individuals are provided with the easiest form of access possible. But people who are not handicapped are using counterfeit, fraudulently obtained (stolen), and in some cases borrowed, handicapped plates or placards to park in spaces reserved for the disabled. Cars with handicapped plates or placards can also park at meters without paying. The abuse is rampant, growing daily, and causing financial woes for almost every state in the Union.
The Americans with Disabilities Act’s unfunded mandate that businesses set aside spaces for handicapped parking doesn’t cost the states or local jurisdictions money. This cost is borne by the businesses, such as shopping malls or individual proprietorships. These are places that suffer the brunt of the abuse by non-handicapped individuals, but that’s not what bothers municipal tax collectors. They are justifiably concerned because as much as 50% of the automobiles parked at the pay-for-parking meters, are illegally doing so, with the use of handicapped plates or placards. This costs millions of dollars each year in lost revenue.
In an attempt to curb the illegal use of handicapped parking spaces and the free use of pay-to-park meters, some cities have stiffened the penalties for those caught in violation. Bradford G. Anderson of metro Denver pleaded guilty in March to seven misdemeanors related to the misuse of a handicapped parking tag in Topeka, Kansas, in exchange for a reduced sentence. He was socked with a $4,700 fine and two years probation, according to Shawnee County, Kansas, legal records. Judge Marla Luckert also warned Anderson that if he failed to pay the fine or violated his probation, he faced six months in jail for each offense, or three and a half years. This is of course, an extreme example of the penalties that can be imposed from the illegal use of handicapped parking spaces and pay-to-park meters, but most cities agree – it’s high time the violators understand this activity will no longer be tolerated.
Although there seems to be no clear method in place for reporting the abuse of handicapped parking spaces and pay-to-park meters, it’s currently recommended that if you witness such activity you should get the suspected driver’s license plate number, make and model of the automobile, and report this to your local Police or Sheriff’s Department. It is never recommended that you confront a suspected abuser!
If you are handicapped and wish to take steps in your area to increase access to public facilities and businesses and curb the abuse of handicapped privileges by non-handicapped individuals, there are several things you can consider doing.
1. Start an advocacy group for the handicapped if there isn’t one in your area.
2. Attend meetings such as city counsels, and local housing and zoning board commission meetings.
3. Write letters to the Editor of your local paper, expressing your concern of abuse and violations of the handicapped parking spaces and pay-to-park meters in your area.
4. Be persistent! Sometimes it seems as if people who are unaffected by this abuse of handicapped privileges feel as if it’s not their problem. Help them to understand that voluntary compliance to the letter and spirit of the disability access law makes the community better for all citizens.