Spring has sprung, at least for this week. Everyone is dying to get outside and breathe in the nice fresh air. Downtown sidewalks are becoming busy again, and soon parking spaces will be few and far between.
If you're looking for accessible parking places, you may be lucky enough to find one, but the trouble is, will it really be "accessible"? Slapping up the blue sign with the white wheelchair symbol does not an accessible parking place make. Generally speaking, most businesses designate the parking place closest to the door as the "reserved" or "accessible" space. Fantastic job Mr. or Ms. Business Person - great day's work, and you should be commended for doing as little as possible, all under the guise of following the law.
Now, we've talked in the past about the Americans with Disabilities Act and its requirement for "readily achievable" barrier removal requirement. When you get down to it, readily achievable means cheap. The U.S. Department of Justice looks at restriping parking lots to be mostly readily achievable. You need two things. Paint and a measuring tape. Paint should be a no brainer but the measuring tape might be a bit of a stumper.
Accessible parking spaces require not only a parking space, but also an access aisle. You know that striped out space right next to the designated accessible parking place? That's where the person inside the vehicle is able to open the door and let a ramp down in order to get in or out of the vehicle. If someone who uses a wheelchair parks in an accessible spot chances are they are going to need to get out of their vehicle.
The chances are also pretty darn good that they also expect to get back into their vehicle. The DOJ receives regular complaints regarding inaccessible parking and through the DOJ's mediation process the appropriate changes are made before the issue becomes a matter of litigation. Parking lots are only one segment of the accessible parking issues that people with disabilities face.
I have a perfect example of another all too familiar issue right in front of TLCIL's office. Outside our office on Broadway, there is a designated accessible parking space. It was here when we got here; we had nothing to do with its creation.
Street parking has different legal requirements but one thing does remain consistent - people need to be able to get out of their vehicles. There are two things really wrong about this spot. First, there's a pole in the way so if you park in the center of the spot you can't put your ramp down. Second, there is no curb cut. You know that little dip in the sidewalk? That is actually there so that a ramp can fully extend. There isn't one.
In order for someone to actually use that spot they must park in such a way as to avoid the ramp hitting the light pole. (I just looked out and guess what? There's a trash can right smack up against the light pole, too) and they need to not pull up too close to the sidewalk in order to allow the ramp to fully extend.
Basically, they're taking up a portion of two parking spots and the driver's side is sticking out into traffic. Multiply this scenario by a thousand when you factor in snow. Snow also covers up the striped access aisles in parking lots, making that space a veritable free-for-all. Please note that I'm not going to waste my time addressing people who park in that spot for "just a minute" while they run into the bank or Post Office. If TLCIL were authorized to give out parking tickets we would make some real money for the municipality.
I see inaccessible accessible parking spaces everywhere.
If you'd like more info on how to properly designate accessible spaces or info on how to bring inaccessible parking issues to the attention of a business in our area, the Tri Lakes Center for Independent Living would be thrilled to work with you.