“Voices of the Community” Gina Schuh: Solutions to Misuse of Handicapped Parking

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Woman in a wheelchair going shopping with her accessible van.

Gina is C 5/6 quadriplegic from a diving accident on October 11, 2003. She graduated with a BS from Arizona State University and the Phoenix School of Law.

Gina is a California farm girl who moved to Arizona to go to culinary school at age 18 yet, broke her neck shortly after diving into a shallow pool.

She saw firsthand how disabled parking was severely misused and abused shortly after her accident when she was left stuck in a vehicle because someone decided to pull into disabled parking before she could get out to run inside while it was raining. Ever since, she has worked continuously to share with people why disabled parking is needed, and should be respected.

As Ms. Wheelchair Arizona 2008, her platform was the misuse and abuse of disabled parking, as she worked with local news and police departments to help spread awareness. In 2009, she fought for the City of Gilbert to update its disabled parking codes, and was rewarded with a much more effective city code that blocks anyone from parking on the access aisle.

She  completed her Advanced Writing Requirement, titled “Disabled Parking: Stale Legislation and Lack of Enforcement”, and it examines the deficiencies in disabled parking while offering practical solutions.

Gina is also very passionate about food, and recently designed a fully wheelchair accessible kitchen. She has a fabulous food blog that she has had to put on hold, but plans on getting back to in the future (culinaryquad.com).

Gina hopes to practice in both Arizona and California with a focus on SCIs, and offer services in personal injury, ADA compliance issues, estate planning, and other issues related to disabilities.


 

Handicap Parking? Disabled Parking? I say HandiCRAP Parking

By Gina Campbell

Recently there was a discussion among people with spinal cord injuries, and not surprisingly the topic of disabled parking arose. One person expressed there’s nothing that can be done about disabled parking misuse and abuse. While I agree with other SCIs on many things regarding disabled parking, I do NOT agree that you can’t do anything! There are so many things that would help clean up disabled parking, and here are a few of the many ways it could be done.  We need to stop abuse and complacency at every level; legislative, medical professionals approving it, issuing at motor vehicle divisions, and enforcement by the judicial system.

Legislation

The legislation and laws are completely out of date because they do not meet current needs. The laws change from city to city, and are not all consistent by any means. In addition, the standards for the amount of disabled parking spaces required do not meet the current demand. Despite approximately 20% of the population being disabled, in some circumstances the law requires 0.5% of the parking spaces to be disabled parking. Yes, that is one half of one percent.

Doctor Who?

If disabled parking applications were randomly audited at the DMV by the medical board, and for fraud on the part of the doctors, they could face penalties for abuse of discretion. Speaking at medical conferences to inform doctors why it is so important to not approve anyone who asks helps put that emotional tie to the form. Seriously, find someone disabled with a heart wrenching story and have them work it! Also, we need to keep track if a doctor is issuing more than average and open an investigation into the reasons. Yeah, yeah. HIPPA you say? There is a way to block out the name of the patient. Also, you can write a disclaimer at the bottom how the document isn’t private and subject to auditing and review…blah blah blah.

DMV, MVD, or Whatever Your State Calls it…The Place you wait in Line for HOURS to Take a Horribly Unflattering Driver’s License Photo

Next, require people receiving the disabled parking to sit through a video or take a test regarding how to use and how to NOT use the placard and spaces. An argument against that is that not all people receiving disabled parking have the ability to do so because of cognitive disabilities, but my response is that someone is driving them. Their main driver would sit in for them, and to avoid lazy people who just didn’t want to spend the time, require a doctor to check a box that states the person receiving it is unable to complete the class. Next a follow up with a medical team or doctor at the DMV if the purpose is outside the scope listed to get a follow-up. The last thing is they leave with a pamphlet that has pictures and explanations of the do’s and don’ts.  If “resources” are a complaint, they could easily fund all of the extra needs with strict enforcement by police and fines for doctors abusing discretion.

The Losers using it that are just Lazy and Selfish

Like stated above, in that random audit at the DMV, examine the people using placards and the medical reasons necessary (those “other” reason people), if suspicious have them resubmit or follow-up at the DMV. Then, if there is someone other than the disabled person using it, the placard would be confiscated and they would have to go through all of the steps again to get disabled parking. Greater enforcement and change in laws would instantly change the abuse too. Most importantly, EDUCATION!! The people who receive it, but do not need the space for a ramp or access aisle should be told to park in regular parking spaces ANY time there is parking that is a similar distance to their destination. Why? Because it may be hard for them to imagine there are people who NEED that spot for the extra space other than to park on it. Sure, most people don’t have a conscience and only think of themselves when they abuse disabled parking, but some people actually feel bad. If the public is informed, it will lead to less abuse and more scrutiny by society. I want someone who knowingly abuses disabled parking to be looked at like a embezzler. Can’t you just see it? Channel 3 News Headline, “Jeff Bleak, 29, Ticketed for using Disabled Parking. Neighbors are Shocked, and Say They Thought He was an Average Guy.” Then you scroll down and see a picture of a guy trying to block his face with the ticket paper. A girl can dream can’t she?

Enforcement by Police; the Magical Unicorn in the World of Wheelchair Users

Here’s an idea, the police actually respond to a call regarding disabled parking abuse! I know, those genius ideas are why I’m about to graduate from law school. We’ve most likely all heard from the dispatcher, “It could take up to few hours for an officer to arrive; it’s not a high priority.” At that point I want to jump through the phone and roundhouse kick them, Chuck Norris-style, and then quote some Incredible Hulk or Arnold Schwartzenegger line. Luckily for them I can’t kick or go through a phone. So how do you remedy it? Education and incentives. Education is easy to implement, just cover it when they go to the academy and continuing education training. Now for incentives, not like bonuses, but incentives for officers who have higher numbers of disabled parking tickets issued monthly get a nod or some type of reward from the department or city. The benefits of enforcing disabled parking are not just that it discourages misuse and abuse, but also that it raises funds for the city because most of the tickets have a fine of $200-$500. In addition, for many disabilities, being blocked from their vehicle in certain weather conditions can result in serious health problems. For example, some people with Spinal Cord Injury do not sweat below their line of injury, so regulating heat can be difficult; being stuck in hot weather can lead to autonomic dysreflexia that, in the worst case, can then lead to death. So let’s talk about priority now, yeah, it should be a priority.

Power to the People

Give people methods of empowering themselves. Create a website where you can type in the placard card number and it lists sex and age to compare to see if people are using it who shouldn’t. Most people can be pretty sure someone is abusing disabled parking, but then you have those mortifying rare situations and the person will pull up their pant leg and BOOM; prosthetic. CRAP! Sure, much more often than not, that isn’t the case, but it makes some people a little trigger shy to call on people. Everyone warns you of the “invisible disability”, and I will tell you this; that’s total crap! I know that’s going to make some people mad at first, but keep reading. Sure, there are invisible disabilities, but not for disabled parking. Disabled parking has very stringent guidelines, and they are for mobility problems. So that means they might look ok at first, but after following them you should notice mobility impairments. For those people that say they have an invisible disability, it is often that they are just self-absorbed and feel entitled because an enabling doctor said ok. In Arizona, the reasons are very clear and all of them are severe difficulty walking (not that you get tired), use an assistive device, or portable oxygen. One more way to empower the people is to have programs like they do in Phoenix, Arizona called “Save our Space”, where citizens go through training to be able to issue disabled parking tickets. Awesome, right?

My rant could go on and on, because more times than I can count I have had issues with disabled parking. Whether it be waiting and circling forever to get a space, getting blocked from entering my vehicle, not being able to use an open space because someone is encroaching in it, carts in the hash, and whole other bevy of problems, it never gets easier to deal with. Please, do what you can to stop misuse and abuse.

Gina Schuh, Editor, Law and Advocacy

Gina, a C-5/6 quadriplegic, describes herself as a “politically incorrect foodie who is an equal opportunity offender.” Beyond that, Gina is a law school graduate who grew up on a farm in California. Gina’s true passion is food, and you’ll often find her posting food pictures on her Instagram under Culinary.Quad . Raised by a strong mother who had an insatiable appetite for any educational psychology materials, Gina swears she was raised by an unlicensed psychologist which led to her being so introspective. After people observed her success in dating, they asked for tips, which eventually led to her regular contribution here at Push Living on issues of dating, disability parking, and medical supply reimbursement, leading to the role of Editor of Law and Advocacy.

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