Disabled Parking Awareness Program Kicks Off June 8th
Parking here for "just a minute" is 60 seconds too long!
(Bel Air, MD) People with disabilities face challenges every day, not the least of which is finding adequate parking when they need it. For those with disabilities, the use of handicapped parking spaces, correctly known as accessible parking spaces, is not a luxury; it's a necessity. Yet every day, motorists with disabilities can't find parking spaces when they need them because their non-disabled counterparts use these spaces as a means of convenience.
The Harford County Sheriff's Office, the primary law enforcement agency of Harford County, along with the Department of Community Services' Commission on Disabilities, are working to create awareness of this ongoing issue for people with disabilities throughout Harford County. What resulted from joint work sessions was a partnership between the two agencies to identify and ticket individuals parking illegally in accessible parking spaces, while promoting accessible parking awareness.
Beginning in June 2009, the Sheriff's Office and the Commission will undertake a month-long Disabled Parking Awareness campaign. Beginning June 8 and running through July 4, increased emphasis will be placed on patrolling parking spots for people with disabilities.
During the Disabled Parking Awareness Campaign, deputies with the Sheriff's Office will check to make sure that vehicles either display the parking placard or designated license plate. Failing to display the parking placard and license may result in a $120.00 fine. It is important to note, in addition to the placard or license plate, drivers are also required to produce their handicap issued ID.
"This awareness campaign is designed to educate people about why these parking spots are necessary and should be used only by people with proper permits," said Sheriff L. Jesse Bane. "Unfortunately, there are people who refuse to follow the rules; therefore, our deputies will be there to seek greater compliance, so that people with disabilities can enjoy equal access to Harford County's fine facilities."
According to Commissioner Reverend Alvin Ellison, "For a person who uses a wheelchair, the availability of an accessible parking space can determine when and if they will shop, dine and keep appointments. For many more individuals with what we call invisible disabilities, such as heart or breathing problems, or difficulty walking a distance, an accessible parking space located near the entrance to a business establishment is essential."
Problems arise when non-disabled motorists park in accessible parking spaces. These motorists often think that doing so won't cause a problem, because they'll "only be a minute." Or they may be using a family member's "handicapped" parking placard when that person is not with them. What they don't realize is that a motorist who uses a wheelchair, transports a person who uses a wheelchair, or has some other mobility-limiting disability doesn't have a choice to park elsewhere. They need the accessible parking place to park their vehicle and exit safely.
Non-disabled motorists can help by never parking illegally in an accessible parking space, never blocking access aisles or curb ramps, and using an accessible parking placard only when the person with a disability is with them.
The business community can also help by making sure that their parking lots have accessible parking, in compliance with the specifications of the Maryland Accessibility Code, and that curb ramps and access aisles are available and not blocked.
Reverend Ellison reminds Harford County business owners that "Accessibility is Good Business." According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, there are more than 27,000 citizens with disabilities in Harford County. "Local businesses can take advantage of this market by ensuring that they are disability-friendly and accessible," he adds. Efforts to increase accessibility directly benefit customers with disabilities, but typically improve accessibility for all.
The Harford County Commission on Disabilities and Harford County Sheriff's Office urge Harford County citizens to leave designated parking spots for those who truly need them. They encourage all drivers to be considerate when parking and to remember that parking for "just a minute" is 60 seconds too long!
For information about the Maryland Accessibility Code and specifications on accessible parking spaces and signage, and for copies of the Code, contact the Maryland Codes Administration Office at 410-514-7220.