By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall
If there is any access issue that is problematic for almost every person with a disability it is the issue of accessible parking spaces (or “blue spaces” as I like to call them). Generally complaints fall into one of several categories.
1. Accessible parking spots are taken by people without a placard or license plate. We’ve all seen it, and it can be infuriating. The general responses of “nobody was using it”, “I was just running in for a minute” and “I forgot my placard” don’t typically sit well with people with disabilities. It is illegal without the proper identification, period. Unfortunately, too often there is a lack of enforcement of the law, making it an issue that some people don’t take seriously.
2. People with invisible disabilities are harassed even with the proper identification. It is easy to jump to conclusions when a person doesn’t “look” disabled. Yet, there are many conditions that are invisible that make walking long distances just as hard as if I were walking in my walker. Fibromyalgia and Lupus are two disabilities that come to mind, but there are many more. People with invisible disabilities are subjected to judgement and assumed to be violators of the law just because their disability doesn’t fit society’s model of what a disability should look like.
3. Parking on the cross-hatches or striped zones. The striped areas next to blue spaces are not for decoration, nor are they additional spaces for other vehicles, snow or grocery carts. They are for vans with lifts that generally need eight additional feet to deploy and allow a person in a wheelchair to exit the vehicle safely. Whether a person is a passenger or the driver, other cars parked in the striped zone blocks access for that person to return to or exit their van. This can be particularly frustrating for disabled drivers, who cannot get into their vehicle to move it. Some lift vans (such as mine) don’t have a driver’s seat (I drive from my wheelchair using an EZ-Lock) so I cannot simply ask someone to move the vehicle for me. On more than one occasion I have been stuck waiting in a parking lot for a person to move from the striped zone, or have to wait for that vehicle to be towed (if I cannot find the owner or they refuse to move).
4. General lack of accessible parking. Yes the Americans with Disabilities Act has standards related to this, but it doesn’t mean that all businesses comply. Also even if a business has the minimum required number of spaces, they simply might not be enough. At large grocery chains it is not uncommon to see all accessible spaces filled.
Shining Light on the Issue
In Russia, it is estimated that 30% of drivers park in accessible spaces illegally. Dislife, a nonprofit organization came up with a powerful campaign to raise awareness and stop violators in their tracks. In one mall, they installed special scanners, that, once a car pulls in the space, scans for the appropriate sticker in their windshield. If the driver does not have the sticker, holograms of real people with disabilities appear explaining their need for the space, and powerfully stating, “I am more than just a sign”. Check out this video to see how the campaign works.
What is your experience with accessible parking? Do you think a campaign like Russia’s would work in the United States? Is education the key? Enforcement? Let us know what you think!