30 Million Americans Need That Disabled Parking Spot You’re Stealing This Christmas

(Alexandria, Va. – December 10)Are you a grinch or a good driver when it comes to parking during the holidays?

In the harried competition for close-in spots in busy shopping areas, normally courteous drivers engage in all kinds of parking taboos—many involving the use of parking spaces designated for more than 30 million Americans with mobility impairing disabilities.

In a landmark national survey conducted by the Accessible Parking Coalition (APC) about parking among people with disabilities, more than 90 percent of the respondents said parking availability is important to their ability to lead an independent life, yet they have trouble finding parking nearly 70 percent of the time. More than 80 percent agreed that accessible parking fraud is widespread. More than half said they had decided not to make a trip because of concerns about finding parking.

The nonprofit APC, established by the International Parking & Mobility Institute to eliminate disabled placard abuse and make accessible parking more accessible, offers five reminders for all drivers this season:

  1. Unless authorized, never park in an accessible parking space—not even for a minute.
  2. Never infringe on van-accessible parking spaces, which are designed for ramp- or lift-equipped vehicles. They are marked by signs that say, “Van Accessible” with the international sign for accessibility. Many drivers using wheelchairs have nightmarish examples of waiting hours for the owners of a car parked too close to return so they could go home!
  3. Never park, block, or leave a shopping cart in the cross-hatched, access aisles next to van-accessible parking spots.
  4. Don’t borrow others’ disabled parking placards or use yours after it has expired or is no longer truly needed.
  5. Follow the rules, but don’t be a parking vigilante. If you suspect illegal use of a spot, take a photo of the license plate and contact local law enforcement. Not all disabilities that affect mobility are apparent. Don’t assume someone is parking in a disabled spot illegally. A person with a respiratory or other ailment that makes walking difficult may be entitled to a disabled placard.

Disabled placard abuse and illegal use of accessible parking spaces is a crime that carries a penalty. Many jurisdictions are cracking down, increasing fines, and setting up sting operations to catch offenders.

“Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, obey the laws related to accessible parking and remember the spirit of the holiday is about kindness and generosity,” says Helen Sullivan, director of the APC. “Don’t be a grinch on the ground or in the garage.”

# # # #