By Helen Sullivan

When it comes to life in general, I’m a big believer in coloring outside the lines, thinking outside the box, departing from the text. When it comes to parking—not so much. You all know parking lines are meant to guide drivers to park between them. That is never more important than next to an accessible parking spot. When IPMI’s Accessible Parking Coalition reported on its national survey among people with disabilities in 2018, a key finding was that 82 percent said “other vehicles parked too close” was the most likely obstacle that prevented them from exiting their vehicle. APC spokesperson Chris Hinds recounts the time he rushed his beloved Labrador retriever to the emergency vet only to lose precious minutes in the parking lot because someone had parked over the line so he couldn’t exit his van.

As parking and mobility professionals, we can do something about it. Police and public information officer Brad Uptmore of South Lake, Texas, has a creative idea. In his department, the mission is to “humanize the badge,” as he explains. When a police officer in South Lakes finds a car parked over the lines, they leave behind a memorable coloring book page that gently educates: “We noticed you had a little trouble staying in the lines when you parked next to a handicapped space. Maybe if you practice coloring our patch and staying in the lines here, it could help you avoid citations in the future.”

Here’s a segment about Uptmore’s creative campaign on the NBC-TV affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth.

Now that I am super sensitive to accessible parking issues, those cross-hatched aisles drive me crazy—they’re often compromised by cars parked over the lines, abandoned shopping carts, or motorcyclists who think that area is for them!  Many drivers simply don’t realize the importance of keeping that area clear for the 30 million Americans with mobility disabilities.

What can our folks do to solve this? How about painting words on those cross hatchings? “Against the Law to Block this Area,” “Keep this Area Clear,” “Oops, Big Trouble If You Block This Area,” “Block this Area and Risk $XXX Fine.”

What can you do or what have you done to help educate people to park between the lines? Write to me at I would love to hear your ideas.

Helen Sullivan is IPMI’s communications counsel.