Private and Public Policy Reviews for the Disabled

Parking Space Abuse

By Stephen Rex Goode, BSW

I went to the pharmacy today to pick up a prescription. I’ve been suffering from cellulitis after a leg injury. That on top of my usual osteoarthritis has made me need the parking spaces reserved for disabled people with mobility issues.

badparkI had to make a phone call before I went in. While I was talking on the phone, the white car in this photo drove up. It had the permit hanging from the mirror as required.

The doors opened and out poured three young people who showed no signs of having any mobility issues. They walked into the store and were quick and agile about it. It’s a scene I’ve seen a hundred times.

There is virtually no enforcement of the laws that reserve these spaces for qualifying disabled people. I have never seen a police officer looking at the windows. It is usually left up to private security forces associated with the establishments where the spaces exist.

At one large store in my area, disabled people do the policing. One man in a scooter would park behind a vehicle being driving by someone without a permit. When the driver tried to back up, he would call the police and charge the driver with assault.

I’ve thought about the idea of having a web page of shame for pictures of people who abuse these parking spaces. I don’t know much about the legalities involved. I doubt, however, that it would be much of a deterrent.

In Oregon, our highways and city streets are burgeoning with police officers writing tickets for speeding and other traffic violations. Municipalities are setting up cameras all over to catch people running red lights or going too fast The fines are low compared to the $450 maximum for illegally parking. I’m one who believes that enforcement of speed limits is based more on generating revenue than making the streets safer. I would bet that Oregon localities could make a lot more money writing citations for vehicles using disabled spaces illegally than they do setting speed traps.

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3 Responses to “Parking Space Abuse”

  1. Heidi said:

    I would be careful of assuming someone is not disabled based on their seemingly agile movements for the few seconds that you see them. Several disabilities are “invisible” and may not be obvious when viewing someone for just a few seconds. I myself have multiple sclerosis and use the handicap accessible parking spaces on a regular basis. I’m sure many people have seen me getting out of my car and thought I was parked illegally. However, were I to park in a “regular” spot (perhaps several hundred feet further from the store entrance), the spasticity in my legs and continuous foot-drop (both of these symptoms are not visible but can be extremely debilitating) would have exhausted me to the point that I would be too fatigued to actually do my shopping. I understand the frustration of not being able to find a disabled parking spot when one is needed. However, I choose to assume that anyone with the handicap accessible parking decal has some issue that may or may not be visible, and they are just as entitled to that spot as I am.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Heidi, Thanks for your comment. I don’t disagree, mostly. I consider myself to have a hidden disability. My arthritis pain comes and goes. Some days it’s bad. Some days I don’t even notice it.

    In the incident I described, one of the three young people may have been disabled. I only use them as an example of what I believe to be a problem with abuse and the police’s lack of interest in solving it.

    Not long ago, I pulled up into a disabled space at a grocery store and was greeted by a man in an orange vest that said Portland Police on it. He asked me if the tag hanging from my mirror belonged to me. He asked to see it. It satisfied him. He was out there awhile checking every car that parked in a disabled space. I watched for about thirty minutes while I leaned on a shopping cart. He wrote several tickets. Obviously, people are abusing it.

    I know that this story goes against my original assertion that the police don’t care. This man was not a regular officer. I talked to him for a few minutes. He’s more or less a volunteer. I asked him if there was a similar program in my city, which neighbors Portland. He said that there is when there is a volunteer, which isn’t that often. Enforcement happens, but not a lot.

  3. Disability Reviews » California Travel Advice said:

    […] So, I spied an open disabled space that was big enough for my vehicle and fairly close to the door. I parked there and hung my permit from the rearview mirror. I got lucky, because I didn’t get cited. I think that is probably because enforcement in California is probably no better than in Oregon. […]

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