WARNING You Are Parked Illegally
This artifact is a pad of parking tickets used previously in Fitchburg for illegally parking either in a handicap parking spot or from blocking an access aisle or ramp used by people with disabilities. The tickets were given out by volunteers with the permission of the Massachusetts Office on Disability, the state advocacy agency that serves people with disabilities of all ages. In 1981 the agency was created with the main goal “to ensure the full and equal participation of all people with disabilities in all aspects of life by working to advance legal rights, maximum opportunities, supportive services, accommodations and accessibility” (“Massachusetts Office on Disability”).
Handicap parking passes allow a person to park their vehicle in designated parking spaces that are close to the building or venue they are attending. They also ensure that there is enough space for the person with a disability to enter and exit the vehicle comfortably and with ease. They can save time and energy for people with major disabilities and minor ones as well. These passes can be obtained through the state’s Registry of Motor vehicles. Each state has their own requirements and criteria for handicap parking permits (Ambardekar). Many of these requirements are alike and some common conditions that qualify one for handicap parking include:
- Lung Disease
- Heart Disease
- Substantially impaired movement like the use of a wheelchair, brace or cane
- A disease that significantly limits your ability walk or to use your legs
- Documented vision problems including low-vision or partial sightedness
- Loss of one or both legs or loss of both hands, or limited use of these parts
A person may feel like their disability is too minor but even minor disabilities can make one eligible for handicap parking.
If you feel you have a disability that may qualify you for a handicap parking permit, ask your doctor about your eligibility for a handicap parking permit. You can then get an application from your state’s Registry of Motor vehicles, fill it out with a signature from your health-care provider that certifies your disability and submit your application via email or in person (Ambardekar). These permits are not limited to only people with permanent disabilities, as people with temporary disabilities can obtain temporary handicap parking permits. For example, if a person were to have surgery that will temporarily impair their ability to walk for a few weeks, then they would be eligible for a temporary permit. These passes are only to be used on the vehicle where the driver or passenger in the vehicle has a disability. If used improperly you will receive a ticket for violating the handicap parking criteria.
These parking spots are misused by people who do not have a disability. Before illegally parking in a handicap space because you don’t want the longer walk to your destination, think about the consequences. Not the consequence of you getting a ticket, but the effect it could have on a person with a disability who needs that spot a lot more than you. Even if you are only staying for a few minutes, that spot could be needed the next minute by someone in a wheelchair or with crutches. By parking in that spot you could force them to find a spot that is a lot further or that has limited space, making it more difficult than it already is to get to their destination, while you, who are completely able, are taking advantage. For this reason it is very inconsiderate to park in handicap spots.
In addition to the pad of handicap parking tickets, there is also a parking lot complaint form used by the Architectural Barriers Board. They changed the name of the board in the 1980's to the Architectural Access Board, but they still carry the same purpose: to develop and enforce regulations designed to make public buildings accessible to, functional for, and safe for use by people with disabilities. These regulations first originated in the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and have been updated since. The regulations are listed as Section 521 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations and apply to all buildings and facilities in the Commonwealth that are open to members of the public ("AAB Rules and Regulations"). On this form there is a small list of some handicap parking requirements and regulations that a facility must follow when owning a public parking lot. These requirements include:
- Handicapped spaces must be the closest spaces in the lot to the entrance.
- Handicapped spaces must be at least 12 feet wide or 8 feet wide with a 4 foot center aisle painted or striped yellow.
- The sidewalk must provide a curb cut.
- Handicapped spaces must be identifiable by a sign 5 feet to 8 feet above the ground to the top of the sign.
- The total number of handicapped spaces must be sufficient to the lot size.
On the form there is a formula to calculate how many handicap spaces are required in a parking lot based on the amount of spaces that are in that lot. If a parking lot does not meet the required number of handicap parking spaces or the spaces themselves do not meet the criteria, then a complaint form can be filled out detailing the requirement that the parking lot fails to meet, so the issue can be addressed and fixed for the better. These simple improvements can better the everyday life of people with disabilities.
“AAB Rules and Regulations.” Mass.gov, www.mass.gov/aab-rules-and-regulations.
Ambardekar, Nayana. “Handicap Parking Permits: Who Is Eligible and How to Get a Handicapped Parking Permit.” WebMD, 21 Jan. 2020, www.webmd.com/pain-management/handicap-parking.
“Massachusetts Office on Disability.” Mass Legal Services, www.masslegalservices.org/content/massachusetts-office-disability.