There are only about 15 to 20 posted handicapped parking stalls available at NAIT for students with disabilities to park their vehicles. Some able-bodied students, however, are using the handicapped stalls for their own personal needs. These students are probably trying to save some time by parking in these stalls or maybe they just don’t feel like walking from a far distance. Either way, they are breaking a law and, more important, creating a huge inconvenience for students who are really in need of those parking spaces. These people are most likely not ignorant people or jerks, for that matter. I assume the majority of them just don’t realize how much not being able to park in a handicap stall can affect a person with a disability. Each stall is visibly marked with a sign and/or spray painted with the universal handicap symbol – a blue stick-figure wheelchair. That being said, there are no excuses for using a stall without the proper credentials.
In some cases people may be given a special licence plate. The downfall to using the plate is that is it only good for one vehicle and cannot be interchanged and used elsewhere if the disabled person is travelling with someone else. In comparison, the benefit to having a placard is that the user can take that placard with them in another person’s vehicle. A person who owns a placard can use it for up to five years before renewing it. One student directly affected by the abuse of handicapped parking on campus is Cayla Ellsworth. “When you can actually do it yourself, you don’t need to park there!” said Cayla. The penalty for anyone who is caught misusing the handicapped stalls is a ticket of anywhere from $100 to $250. Tickets can also be issued if the person with a disability is not travelling with the permit holder when parking in a marked stall. And when I spoke with Cayla about the penalties, she commented that “the fine is a couple hundred bucks … wouldn’t you rather put that towards something that is more constructive than a parking ticket?”
A person using a handicapped stall is typically assumed to be a person in a wheelchair. The handicapped licence plate or placard does not actually mean that the person inside the vehicle uses a wheelchair. People with other medical conditions such as a difficulty walking more than 200 feet without resting, cardiac problems, someone using crutches, a cane or some kind of brace to assist them with their walking or even a person with a prosthetic limb or an oxygen tank may also use the designated parking spaces. “It would be helpful if people were more aware of how difficult it can be to get around outside,” Cayla said. “It’s hard enough without having equipment to help me … most of the time, I have to ask other people for help to get around… so the few accommodations that I do have are really important! I’m not using them just because I feel like it, I’m using them because I really need them! “Just because it’s convenient for a person who is not disabled to jump into these parking stalls, I feel it’s a very insensitive thing to do.” We all know that parking on campus is an extremely limited commodity, but handicapped parking is even more limited. These parking spaces were intended to be used by those who truly need them and not by those who simply can’t be bothered to walk a couple extra feet every day. Maybe some people need to be reminded to respect the needs of others and realize that convenience isn’t everything.
By: Brett Bohl