Handicapped Parking: What’s Next?

Reprinted from PN March 2011

Access to handicapped parking spaces continues to present a number of issues.

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My husband and I went to see the new remake of the great old movie True Grit. When we arrived, all the accessible parking spots had been taken—and not a ramp van was among those vehicles. My husband stopped the car a few feet out of a regular parking space so he could deploy the ramp and get out of the van. I slid over into the driver’s seat and pulled the van into the regular parking space once he was out. He quickly moved his way clear of any oncoming traffic. He knows full well that drivers probably won’t see him while they are looking for a space and texting! It took “true grit” just to dodge the cars across the parking lot.

We then saw a parked police car and went over and filed a complaint about the parking problem. The officer said, “Sorry, ma’am, this is private property. I can’t write parking violation tickets.” Well, according to local ordinances, he can write parking tickets at the mall.

I am sure all of you live this scenario on a daily basis. Parking is a huge issue. When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, parking regulations were addressed in Part 36, Appendix A, Section 4.6. The law provides clear guidelines on where the spaces need to be placed, how they are to be striped, and who should use them.

The main reason the parking spaces are close to stores’ entrances and away from traffic areas is because people in wheelchairs are not readily visible to drivers. The accessible parking space should have access to the business without wheelchair users getting out into the traffic areas. George Relles, in an article for the Santa Barbara Independent, writes, “Dead pedestrians make poor shoppers.”

Chuck Karczewski is amazed and pleased, not only to merely find an accessible parking spot but also one that is code compliant.

The second reason is distance to the entrance. Someone with a disability may have trouble negotiating the distance from a parking place to the business’s entrance.

The third reason is ramp deployment. Parking places are to be striped so van and topper users can deploy their ramps or wheelchairs and get in and out of their vehicles.

Do you know that parking is Chuck Karczewski’s pet peeve? The picture is of Chuck sitting in a perfectly striped parking space, with the access aisle in the middle. This is a very rare picture for two reasons: (1) finding an accessible spot that is code compliant to the last stripe and (2) it was empty long enough to get the picture.

Karczewski served in the U.S. Army for two years at the end of the Korean War and was in the National Guard from 1951 until 1964, when he was injured at T10 in an accident on the job with Dow Chemical. Following that, he earned a degree in engineering so he could continue working for Dow. After several years of leaning over a drafting board, which was tough on his back, he accepted a position as a veterans’ service officer (VSO). (He says being a VSO was the most satisfying job he ever had.)

This kind of background lends itself well to advocating for parking for people with disabilities. Karczewski is disgusted with the way things are going. There are two issues, he says: the sheer number of people who are getting placards—and enforcement. 

Regarding the numbers, doctors need to be educated on placard distribution. Too many given out, and there aren’t enough parking spaces. People who are slow walkers or limited in walking distance receive placards and use spaces designed for ramp vans. Slow walkers have as much trouble getting out of the way of oncoming traffic as people who use wheelchairs. That’s one of the reasons they are trying to take your parking place!

The public also needs to be educated on the proper use of the placard and the parking spaces. A movement is underway to put these rules in driving manuals around the country and test on them.

Karczewski advocates placards of different colors, with corresponding parking areas—blue for ramp vans with access aisles and yellow for slow walkers with normal-size places close to the business entrance. Currently a red placard designates temporary disabilities.

This leads to Karczewski’s second issue, enforcement. People who park or use placards illegally need to be ticketed. Having enough officers to ticket violators is one of the problems. The officers need to be educated about ticketing parking violators.

We want to hear from you. What solutions are working in your community? You can be part of the parking solution.


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Handicapped Parking: What’s Next?


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