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Why don't handicapped people have to feed the parking meters?

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    Why don't handicapped people have to feed the parking meters?

    There is a column in our local newspaper, that in a Question and Answer (Q&A) format deals with questions about roadway conditions, vehicle code, public transportation. This question and answer appeared today.
    Queen of the Road
    Should disabled people have to pay to park?
    Contra Costa Times
    Posted: 07/27/2011 12:00:00 AM PDT

    COMMUTER: Why do drivers with handicapped placards not have to pay at parking meters?

    Like the rest of us, if they can afford a car, they can certainly pay the price to park as we do. And, they are all pretty low and reachable. Let's face it: At least half of the people you see emerge out of car placing a handicapped placard in its place jump out and seem to walk fine.
    Marika Reisinger, San Francisco

    QUEEN: Marika, you pose an interesting question, and pursuing the answer unearthed some unexpected facts. The first iteration of the law that governs disabled parking in California went into effect in 1959 and has been amended something like 20 times since then. The original wording was very narrow and specific. It granted an exemption for payment and time limits specifically for veterans who had lost their legs and the use of their hands.

    The payment provision now appears in California Vehicle Code section 22511.5(a)(1)(A)(2). Because it was enacted so long ago, it's hard to find the rationale. The Queen spoke with an scholar who has studied the law closely and thinks that while providing close-in parking for disabled people is a good idea that works well, eliminating payment is not.

    "The California DMV estimates that one-third of the people using placards are not disabled," said Michael Manville, a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies. "The law has so much corruption that everybody suffers from it, including those with real disabilities who can't find a space because someone who is not disabled is misusing a placard and parking there all day."

    Manville thinks the part of the Vehicle Code exempting placard holders from payment should be rolled back and the rest retained. He thinks it's not the close-in parking but the exemption from payment that makes fraud so tempting. Loyal Subjects, what do you think?

    California DMV is in the midst of a study to figure out a way to verify that the placards are getting to and being used by people who legally need them, and then creating a mechanism for revoking or invalidating the placard when it is no longer needed or the owner of the placard has moved out of the state or died.

    My first response to this Q & A is that you don't revoke a reasonable law (not requiring placard holders/users to pay for parking) to deal with the problem, you fix the problem with placard abuse. My second response is that I believe, unlike Michael Manville (the postdoctoral scholar at UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies consulted in this Q&A) that the part of the code that relieves placard holders from paying for public parking comes out of the fact that for people with disabilities (not immediately perceivable disabilities and those who use canes, walkers, crutches, wheelchairs) it takes extra time (in some cases lots of extra time) to get in and out of their vehicles and to run errands, get to and from class, etc.

    I'd like to hear from all of you about this situation and incorporate your responses in a follow up letter to this column. Maybe some of you know the rationale behind the parameter of the law. Look forward to hearing from you.

    All the best,

    "...jump out and seem to walk fine"

    This bit vexes me, some can walk but only short distances, just because they look 'fine' then doesn't mean they can walk infinitely.

    I have a car because I don't have the privilege of being able to walk to the shop, it is too far and too many inclines/declines to wheel it. Plus how would I get my shopping home? Public transport around here is diabolical and I like to come and go as I please, not in adherence to some timetable.


      Since most of the public transport in Boston is inaccessible to wheelers and the same stale arguement is given each year about it "being the oldest city in the country, and hard to make accessible" (believed that a lot less after being in Amsterdam and seeing what real access is possible) it is more than fair someone like me does not have to wheel back to the damn meter every hour to drop more coins. My tax money helps support a transit system that I can not mostly use, so free parking is the least they can offer.


        How many quads can handle coins and where do they keep them and who is going to give all the dropped coins back? Most people have no clue of the challenges involved!


          There are at least 3 reasons for the parking meter exemption. The meters are often inaccessible. some people cannot put coins in or operate the nmeters, and people using wheelchairs often travel more slowly and need more parking time than ABs. Consequently, they would receive more ticekets because of time expiring.
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            First the biggest issue is the abuse I don't live in California but can say that abuse is everywhere.

            Second I pay for my parking if I can also we are not exempt where I am from, if a meter is not accessible then I don't pay and if I get a ticket then I fight it, traveling slower is not and excuse to not pay for parking we are not that slow, I so agree with problems paying with coins but we can pay by credit card and cell phones here so that is also not an excuse.
            Blog of Me



              Originally posted by swimcrankpush View Post
              First the biggest issue is the abuse I don't live in California but can say that abuse is everywhere.

              Second I pay for my parking if I can also we are not exempt where I am from, if a meter is not accessible then I don't pay and if I get a ticket then I fight it, traveling slower is not and excuse to not pay for parking we are not that slow, I so agree with problems paying with coins but we can pay by credit card and cell phones here so that is also not an excuse.
              Not to put too fine of a point on it, but you may use a push chair with great ease or you may use a power chair, but have you seen how slooooowwwww and labored mobility is for some people who use a cane, crutches or walker or just have a mobility impairment that only allows them to shuffle at a very slow pace. Just sayin'....this is a problem. I don't know where you live or what your disability is (your curriculum vitae (CV) on this forum isn't well rounded), having to fight a ticket every time you go down town to do business and run errands isn't the answer.

              Looking forward to more input from the rest of you CCCers.

              All the best,


                There are no meters where I live, so had not thought about it.


                  as already stated, i can't handle coins. i can't do parking garages if unattended because i can't pull ticket out. it's very, very frustrating. so, tell that "expert" it's NOT about free parking if truly disabled. it's about enforcement of illegally using placards.


                    There was so much snow in Boston last winter that perfectly able bodied people could not climb over the "snow mountains" to put money in meters. Clearly the disabled would never be able to do so.


                      Not to mention traveling all the way down the street to the curb cut, coming all the way back up the sidewalk to the meter to put the coins in. It is not like we can squeeze between the car and jump on the curb to pay like anyone else.
                      If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.

                      Sometimes it is easier to widen doors than it is to open minds.


                        Free parking for those who have a placard exists in Belgium, too. The reason, I think, is the same reason wheelchair users get a discount at my local theater: it is perfectly possible for us to go see a movie (as it is perfectly possible for us to own and drive a car), but we are limited in what we can do with a movie ticket (or a car), except where special arrangements have been made.

                        At my cinema, not all of the theaters are wheelchair-accessible: some require one to take the stairs. And in those that are accessible, wheelers always sit in the front row, getting a sore neck from looking up all the time. Given all that, I think few people would argue that we need to pay full price.

                        In a way, it's the same with parking. It's not always possible for us to park wherever we want. If an AB finds no parking anywhere close to where he needs to be, he can drive around the block until he finds a spot, even if that means he has to walk a little further. When a wheelchair user finds no accessible parking, then that person is simply doomed to stay in the car. He often doesn't have the option of parking further down the road, even if there *are* accessible spaces there, because for some of us, outdoor mobility is very nearly an insurmountable hurdle. This is doubly true for the mobility-impaired who do not use a wheelchair.

                        Public transport might be a viable alternative for AB's who think parking is too expensive, but for gimps like us, figuring out how much of our local public transit system
                        will be accessible is often a Herculean task all by itself. Public transport companies seldom provide clear information on this issue, either in print or online, and when you ask the staff, they usually don't know.

                        Maybe there is an argument to be made for the notion that not all wheelchair users (or people who are otherwise impaired in their mobility) are equally unable to park in regular spots in a pinch, or equally unable to use parking meters. But this is a very difficult distinction to make, and it depends on payment options existing state-wide, even for those who can't reach conventional parking meters that are too high off the ground to be used by any wheeler.

                        To the original writer of this letter, I would say: try life with epidural anesthesia at around T8 for a few days, or with limbs that almost never immediately obey you (although that is harder to emulate). After that, let's talk about parking again.


                          Have to pay here in Ontario as far as I've experienced - wheelchair or not.
                          Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

                          T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12


                            We only pay to the private parking companies so more than half of the places are free. I think that is fair as long as we can't use public transport and have to drive.
                            TH 12, 43 years post


                              Thanks everyone for your input. It will be interesting to see if this letter gets responses from local readers. I'll keep you posted.

                              All the best,