Interesting article from the Baraboo News Republic on disabled parking challenges and the community response:
Pull into the parking space, get out of the car and walk inside the store.
Sounds easy. Right?
For someone with a disability – especially one that requires a wheelchair to be loaded and unloaded from a vehicle – it’s no simple task.
And when those who don’t park in handicap stalls aren’t mindful of those who do, the task becomes even more difficult.
“What we’re finding is that people are being extremely lazy,” said Steve Pribbenow, director of the Sauk County Disabled Parking Enforcement Assistance Council.
The council consists of seven members from throughout Sauk County who are trained and empowered by state law to enforce the proper use of handicap stalls, plates and identification cards. Members can compel businesses to comply with the law, as well.
Pribbenow said abuse of disabled parking rules is not simply limited to vehicles parking in disabled parking spaces without a pass.
One of the most frequent problems is that vehicles encroach on a handicap space or the striped area next to one, he said. Those access aisles are a “no man’s land” used by vehicles with ramps to load and unload wheelchairs.
Too often, people with disabilities are forced to squeeze themselves in and out of their vehicles because other cars have parked too close, Pribbenow said.
“These people are of the age where if they break a hip, they aren’t going to live much longer,” he said.
While people without a disability can squirm in and out of a vehicle if others are parked too close, that’s not always possible for a person with a disability.
“A driver using a mobility aid whose vehicle allows her to get in and out through the use of a side lift or ramp needs the entire width of an access aisle, along with the van-accessible stall, simply to gain access to a building,” Sauk County Mobility Manager Ashley Nedeau-Owen said.
He said he notices disabled parking violations every day, even in the parking lot outside his office at the county’s West Square Building in Baraboo. And he’s concerned about the general public’s lack of knowledge about handicap parking rules.
Although Nedeau-Owen regularly sees Baraboo Police Department officers writing warnings and citations, he said many violations go unenforced.
Some people use the “I’ll be back in a minute” excuse to temporarily park in a handicap space while they load or unload cargo from their vehicles, Nedeau-Owen said.
Baraboo Police Department Lt. Rob Sinden said it’s important for the public to understand how valuable the marked spaces are to the daily lives of people with disabilities.
While the most frequent handicap parking citation written by police officers is for vehicles that park in marked stalls without a pass, Sinden said officers also have noticed a number of disabled parking permits improperly displayed.
“(State law) mandates the permit be hung from the rear view mirror unless one is not available,” Sinden said. “All too often we see authorized disabled persons placing them on a sun visor or somewhere else far too difficult for an officer to see.”
Common handicap parking violations• Encroachment on access aisles (striped lines) next to handicap spaces
• Use of a disabled parking pass by someone who is not disabled
• Improper display of a handicap parking pass
• Unloading a disabled person near a building and then unnecessarily parking in a handicap stall, even with a proper tag
• Blocking access to a handicap stall
• Using an access aisle to park a motorcycle
• Temporarily using handicap stall or access aisle to load or unload cargo