Sunday, September 21, 2003

Handicapped parking spaces open up debate



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One of the best things about writing a column is the mail - and my recent column on handicapped parking generated plenty of it. Opinion regarding the use and abuse of such designated spaces runs the gamut, from the reader who writes "Screw the handicapped!" to those who are earnestly seeking ways to make the system work more effectively. Here are a few of the most interesting:

From a Sycamore reader (who "doesn't want the hate mail"):

"I agree there is abuse. I think I see it regularly. I would like to point out, however, that those who legitimately have placards also abuse the system. Apparently a placard makes them privileged characters. They cruise the lots, and if they do not find a handicapped space or can't find one close enough, they park anywhere they please - i.e., fire lanes, areas clearly marked "No Parking" and sometimes in traveled lanes.

"When confronted, they become very upset and sometimes abusive.

"I sympathize with the problems of disabled people, but not at the inconvenience of everyone else. This whole program needs some policing!"

From John Bange, Kennedy Heights:

"I thank the Lord that I am able to park farther away and walk. And most of us need the exercise, don't we?

"But I do have a question for you. When I see someone pull into a handicapped space, hop out and walk right into the store, I am always tempted to go over and ask what their handicap is. But I never have, thinking that perhaps they have one that is not obvious, such as a heart condition.

"Perhaps they are a family member of someone who is handicapped and just taking advantage of the placard. If they have the nerve to park there illegally, they would probably tell me to mind my own business - so I've just let it go. I have considered reporting it in the store, but chances are it would not be the store's responsibility, and calling the police is probably not the best solution, either.

"So what can we do to help? Is there a good way to challenge without getting into a confrontation?"

Yes, there is something you can do. Here it is, provided by another reader.

From Jessica Scully, Delhi:

"Thank you for your continuing concern for all those with disabilities. Since my daughter has been in a wheelchair for more than a quarter of a century, I am very interested in the mobility impaired and their need for parking spaces.

"I, too, continue to see those without a blue placard or license plate park in the spaces marked for handicapped parking. For several years I have carried a stack of green cards that explain the law and the possible fines as well as alerting the driver that he or she has parked illegally without a placard or plate that gives them permission to use the space. These cards can be left on the windshields of offenders and are meant to increase awareness."

The cards are available free from Cincinnati Recreation Commission in City Hall or from the Ohio Governor's council for People with Disabilities, (800) 282-4536.

From Richard Wuest, Bond Hill:

"I have two ideas that might help curb the abuse. First, when I received my card (which I truly need), I also applied for the license plates. I got them, but was also allowed to keep the card.

"Since I don't need both, a family member immediately asked if they could have the placard! This is probably one more way that placards fall into the hands of people who don't need them. If the DMV required that people turn in their placards before being issued the tags, it would eliminate some of the illegal cards getting into circulation.

"Secondly, at Kroger, Wal-Mart, and other large stores, I often see people with disabilities assisting with shopping carts, handing out flyers, or greeting customers. Perhaps these individuals could also monitor handicapped parking spots and issue some sort of warning to drivers who park illegally.

Contact Debra Kendrick by phone: 673-4474; fax: 321-6430; e-mail: dkkendrick@earthlink.net.




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KENDRICK: Handicapped parking spaces open up debate