A needs-only approach for handicapped spots


May 14, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE DEBATE over the possible misuse of parking spaces designated to drivers who are disabled just won't go away. But finally, I've heard from folks who can legally use them.

Deena White-Bedish of Ellicott City has a strict, needs-only approach to the spots. "I too get upset when I see people using the space when the disabled person is not getting out of the car," she said.

White-Bedish has a disability and can legally use the handicapped spots. "I do not use the spaces all of the time. If I feel good and I do not need to carry heavy packages, I will park in regular parking. I also will park in regular spaces if they are close, even if disabled spaces are available. I have found even with myself that I tend to pull in sometimes without asking if I truly need the space today."

M.J. Howard of Washington disagrees with the readers who believe that parking in handicapped-marked spaces is justified if a bunch are empty.

"I have been with my aunt, who does not have an outwardly noticeable disability, when she has tried to park in marked spots, but can't because non-handicapped people have parked there," she said. "Some people become downright belligerent when asked to move so she can park there."

Howard, who needed a temporary handicapped permit a few years ago when she lived in Columbia, notes one particular spot where this type of offense happens often: "One place that comes to mind is the Friendly's ... at Dobbin Center, where people park in the handicapped spots while they get ice cream from the carry-out," she said.

I'm amazed by the selfishness. If you're too lazy to walk an extra 20 feet, eat your ice cream at home.

Columbia's Don Oliver relates something that happened in April at his office in Silver Spring:

"An employee who has a handicapped parking hanger and who was legally parked in a handicapped space had her car scraped by an inconsiderate driver who parked in the hash marked spaces between vehicles. The driver of the offending vehicle simply left her car in place and went to work," he said, adding that police came because of the incident.

"Although she [the second driver] also had a legitimate handicapped hanger, police ticketed and towed her for parking illegally in the handicapped area," he said.

According to Oliver, the officer also checked the other vehicles parked in the handicapped spaces, and issued seven warning tickets for the 15 spaces. None lacked some sort of handicapped indicator, so why were they ticketed?

"People were using expired handicapped hangers," he said. "At least one other offender was towed before word got out and people started moving their cars."

Oliver asks, "Why doesn't the DMV require a hanger be returned upon expiration like they do tags?"

The MVA does require hangers and permits to be returned, according to Cheron Wicker, MVA spokeswoman. "We do ask for the permits to be returned," she said. "But we don't know how many actually return them."

Oliver found the incident revealing. "It was very interesting to note that there were available parking spaces all day in the handicapped parking area after the officer visited," he said.

The final word on the topic comes from Howard.

"The people who resent those empty spaces - and illegally use them - should thank their lucky stars that they don't need to use handicapped parking. If they did, their attitude would change greatly," she said.

Unwritten rules

I want to hear from you! We've all driven behind - or in front of - drivers who have broken the rules of common sense and courtesy. So let's spell out these unwritten rules of the road for them. What unwritten rules of the road would you like to see all drivers follow?

What's your driving dilemma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or fax 410-715-2816.

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