MS and Disabled Parking

disabled parking abuse

Speaking Out About Handicap Parking Abuse

I was speaking with my father the other day when he mentioned that he had to break down and get a Disabled Parking Tag. He is in his 80’s and has been in otherwise good health most of his life until the past couple of years. My dad started having trouble walking due to severe pain in his hips and some balance issues so for him to do this, he really must be needing it. While speaking with him about this issue, he mentioned that even though he has this tag, finding a handicap parking spot is really a large problem.  Evidently he has experienced some problems with people parking in these spots who do not have a tag or decal stating that they have a disability.

While we were discussing this, I mentioned to him that he needed to check with the store’s customer service to see if they could assist him with having these individuals move their cars, having them towed, or call the police. He indicated that he did do that but that he was told the police would not respond because the parking lot was private property and they did not have security to help him with the other requests. I too have a handicap parking decal but it stays in my glove compartment until the MS is acting ugly. I told my dad that I had noticed that problem as well but that the one and only time I spoke up to a person who parked there and asked them if they were disabled, I was told to mind my own business.  In this day and time, we all need to be careful when calling someone out on something negative due to possible retribution. After completing my call to my father, I decided to look up on line the rules of Handicap Parking and fines/punishments associated with abusing this.

What I found was that the Federal Law is pretty generic, telling you what to do to get a tag or decal and that fines are given to those who park there illegally. It mentions how many parking places need to be designated for disabled parking according to how many total parking spots are there. Example is if there are 400 parking places, 8 need to be Disabled Parking with 2 of those spots labeled Van Accessible. The Federal Law leaves fines and punishments up to each State. The State of Tennessee set their fines for $200 dollars and not up to 5 days of working community service with some type of disability agency. This is considered a Class B Misdemeanor. If a person violates the law by falsely pretending they are disabled, or reproduces a decal or sells there tag/decal it is a Class A Misdemeanor with a fine of $1000 and imprisonment for a period of time.

Each disabled parking sign is supposed to indicate the amount of the fine along with the name and phone number of the company who is responsible for towing their vehicle.  I can say that I have never seen the towing sign attached to any of these signs. According to the law, it doesn’t matter whether a parking lot is privately owned or public. The police are supposed to respond to all calls that are made making them aware of violators and giving out tickets of their fines. What TN law doesn’t indicate, and what I feel the ADA Laws need to update pertaining to this law is if someone is a habitual abuser of parking illegally in these handicap parking spaces. If it were up to me, more than 3 occurrences would constitute an individual to having their driving license’s taken away for a period of time. The laws truly need to be stiffer with fines, community service, and even time served. The last law update on this for my state was back in 2010. Honestly, just thinking about it maybe that wouldn’t even need to be done if our police took more initiative for handing out tickets to those who are parking there now. I can say without reservation, NEVER have I ever seen a policeman five a ticket to someone parked in these spots that shouldn’t be.  It is going to be up to each one of us to pick up the phone and call police when we see this problem happening. If you find that your local police isn’t helping to reduce the problem even after notification; we need to stand up and notify the American Disability Agency and voice our concern. Calling our State Representatives and Congress needs to fall in step number 2.

This problem is only going to become worse as more and more people apply for Disability Parking Permits. I am urging you to make your voice heard! It doesn’t just affect the MS community but many individuals with health issues. You can believe, this isn’t going away on its own.

MS Blogger and Multiple Sclerosis Activist shares her journey living with MS, tips for others living MS and her husband, Steve, offers his insight as a caregiver for MS.