The parking battle never seems to end. It has been over 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
was passed and implemented, and many businesses have yet to use a gallon of paint and a couple of signs to mark off parking spaces that are accessible to those who need them due to the presence of a disability. It has taken enough years that I sometimes wonder if we will ever see some universal success in this arena. Even then, the battle will not be over.
Yesterday provided a prime example. I was fishing for trout at a local lake, the first trip of the year, and had some limited success. When done, I headed back to my van which was parked in a beautiful accessible van parking space in the County Park's parking lot. My van, when I parked it two hours earlier, did not have a companion vehicle of any type sitting in the vacant space across the striped access aisle from where I parked. Even if there had been someone parked there, the wider striped van parking aisle-way would provide easy access to my wheelchair lift--or so I thought.
When I returned to the parking lot, things had changed. The vehicle parked opposite me, which was not lift- or ramp-equipped, had parked fully two feet over the far edge of the access aisle and it prevented me from rolling onto my lift.
I admit to being very sensitive about this issue, for a couple of reasons. Not long after I had purchased and modified the "van from hell" in 2007, another person had decided to park on such parking lot access stripes which kept me from reloading into my van. The security guard who volunteered to move it for me lost control, did over $20,000 damage and cost me the use of my vehicle for over three months.
Another reason is that the same agency that operates that park where I was parked yesterday has other similar facilities that are not in compliance with the ADA when it comes to adequate marked parking spaces.
The van accessible spaces are especially necessary for those of us who need something besides those narrow little "regular" parking spaces where no one can unload from a side door or lift if using any type of mobility device. Those of us who use wheelchair lifts or ramps on our wheelchair vans usually need to use every bit of that eight-foot wide access aisle to load and unload safely, and spaces that are even wider are especially welcome.
This would probably be a good point for me to mention what I consider one of the inadequacies of the current ADA parking requirements. The regulations allow access aisles to be only five (5)! feet in width instead of the standard eight feet wide regular van accessible access aisle, provided that the adjacent van accessible parking space is 11 feet wide. That could be fine under some circumstances; in the real world, it doesn't work.
Inevitably, the van accessible spaces end up being occupied by people who do not need them, and the striped access aisles act like a magnet which seems to result in cars parked in adjacent spaces ending up flush with or actually overlapping the stripes.
One obvious solution, which has even been codified by some municipalities, is to allow vans to park diagonally across two vacant "regular" parking spaces elsewhere in the lot when no van accessible spaces are available at the time. That is all well and good, until some miscreant thinks you are being a parking hog and decides to use a key to put some permanent striping on your vehicle that requires repainting by your insurance company afterwards. My friend Glenn can attest to that, as they did that to his new van last year shortly after he had finally graduated to a ramp-equipped vehicle. What a lousy introduction to the sport of trying to find a van-accessible parking spot!
In order to control some of the fraud and abuse that reduces our abilities to park legally, many jurisdictions have established significant fines for those who break the laws that govern accessible parking. These fines can be levied for lack of proper documentation to park, such as windshield placards, fraudulent or similar misuse of a placard that is not issued to the driver, and even for parking on the access aisle stripes. That's where yesterday's story begins again.
When I returned to my van I decided to take the friendly action of doing whatever possible to simply get back on my lift without having to search for another driver or notify the police. Unfortunately, there was not even enough space to do that and I ended up being stuck--sideways--on my lift. While a friend searched through the park to find a driver, I called 911 and asked for an officer to check it out and to arrange for a ticket good for one ride on a tow truck.
The other vehicle's driver showed up at about the same time as the police officer, and even though he was able to move his vehicle so that I could get loaded he could not move fast enough to get away from the ticket that was already being written for him. Hopefully he will receive enough of a fine to remind him to read the signs and the stripes on the pavement in the future. If not, I'm sure that we will meet again.
© 2013 Michael Collins