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Accessible Parking Spots are a Magnet for Selfish Drivers

As soon as Christmas shopping begins, parking spaces become scarce. That sometimes leaves people who need those spots travelling long distances as able-bodied people take their accessible parking spaces.

Self-entitled drivers continue to use and abuse specially designated parking spots By Lorraine Sommerfeld
December 8, 2014

When I recently did a Top Ten parking violations column, I was taken to task for leaving out the most grievous one. That was intentional, because it deserves a column of its own. And I saved it till now, probably the best time of year to find the festive season bringing out the worst of the worst.

Accessible parking zones are those big, handy, clearly marked spaces right near the doors of every building. You may have even noticed more of them lately, as accommodating an aging population while encouraging a more inclusive society allows more people to participate in more activities. This is a very good thing; this is an encouraging thing; this is a vital thing.

Read more: 10 parking offences that need to stop right now at the link below

What is less good, less encouraging and less vital is some selfish ass deciding his or her immediate concerns trump all of those real reasons.

There was a time when users had actual licence plates with a wheelchair logo on them. Those designated areas were called handicapped parking spots. As time evolved, it became clear that some nuance was useful: a person with mobility issues might not always be riding in one specific car, thus a portable sign made more sense. It also became clear that while some disabilities were permanent, many were not; a medical professional could issue a temporary permit, usually valid for two to 12 months, and all of these would be reviewed and renewed at certain intervals.

A funny thing happened on the way to the parking lot. People realized that those portable signs meant you could use grandma as a placeholder, leaving her in the car while you went shopping. Or you could lend, borrow, lose, steal or counterfeit those portable signs. What a wonderful cross section we are, those who follow the rules and those who thumb their noses at them.
There are also those who believe they are merely bending or extending the rules: sure, the person who requires this pass isn’t technically with me, but I’m doing errands on their behalf, so close enough, right?

Angle parked, disabled spot
Disabled or not, there’s really no excuse for this bad parking job. Flickr Creative Commons photo. IceBone, Flickr

In most jurisdictions, a valid accessible parking pass allows you to park in many areas for free and in many no parking/no stopping zones for a period of time. It’s like a get out of jail free card, and for those with mobility issues, it’s a freedom they deserve. Consider the eligibility guidelines laid out by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario:

  • you can’t walk without assistance of another person, brace, cane, crutch, a lower limb prosthetic device or similar assistive device or require the assistance of a wheelchair
  • you suffer from lung disease to such an extent that forced expiratory volume in 1 second is less than 1 litre
  • a portable oxygen is a medical necessity
  • your cardiovascular disease impairment classified as class 3 or class 4 to standards accepted by the American heart association or Class 3 or 4 according to the Canadian cardiovascular standard
  • you are severely limited in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological, musculoskeletal or orthopaedic condition
  • your vision is 20/200 or poorer in the better eye with or without corrective lenses or the greatest diameter of the field of vision in both eyes is 20 degrees or less
  • you have a condition or functional impairment that severely limits your mobility

Provinces vary, but all eligibility requirements hinge on an ailment or injury that compromises the holder’s mobility. Not all of these issues may be obvious to a casual observer, though blatant abuse of this system has turned many of us into fuming vigilantes. Believe me: someone is always watching, and many of us wish it were someone who could slap you with fines that can go up to $5,000.

Police in handicapped spot
A new app would allow users to nab drivers who park their cars illegally like, say, this police officer who parked his cruiser in a handicapped spot. File photo, Calgary Herald

The CBC recently reported permit issues have risen 64% in Ontario over the past five years. 179,632 permits were issued in 2013, about 1.3% of the population. If I’ve deciphered the Ontario building code correctly, the mall nearest me with 2,861 parking spots should have 39 marked as accessible. It has 97, or about 3.4%. As I waited to pick up a kid from work there last week, I watched two of the four accessible spots I could see repeatedly filled by people either waiting like I was, or running to the Starbucks located by that exit. My terribly unscientific observance can’t relay how many people who had a legal right to those spots were inconvenienced, only that none of them should have been at a facility that is providing nearly three times the accommodation the law requires.

Also read: The seven deadly sins of driving you must stop committing at link below

I take issue with other designated parking spots. Being pregnant is not a handicap; temporary permits can be issued by your doctor should you require one. Having small children is not a handicap (though, yes, there are many times I might have argued that one differently).

Unlike designated accessible parking spots, those pink placarded ones are not protected by law. They’re a courtesy of the mall where you’re shopping, but if that’s the case, I’d like to see them extend the courtesy a little further. I’d like designated spots for people who take up two spots, and I’d like a section for people who can’t open their car doors without an almighty boof that dings up the car next to them. I’d like an area for people who get in their car, start it, and proceed to do their makeup, talk on their phone or read their owner’s manual, all while a chain of people are waiting for a spot. These areas could all be in the back 40 of the lot.

The list of requirements to have a valid accessibility permit is clear. Designated spots should be and usually are clearly marked. Don’t use someone else’s permit; don’t continue to use a permit you no longer need; and maybe more importantly, don’t think your sense of entitlement outbids someone else’s rights.

Reproduced from