Legality Of Side-lift Van Sign Drawn Into Question

WATCHDOG

November 01, 2009|By Liz F. Kay

The problem:: A handicapped parking sign restricts parking to only side-lift vans.

The backstory:: Robert Brent of Millersville contacted Watchdog for help sorting out where he was allowed to park on the University of Baltimore's campus.

Brent, a 24-year-old junior, has been disabled since he hurt his back in basic training, he said. His girlfriend drives him to classes in a car with a hangtag that allows them to park in spaces for disabled drivers.

This semester, Brent's classes are scheduled at the Academic Resource Center on Charles Street just north of Mount Royal Avenue. But UB has labeled two of the three disabled spots on Morton Street, the alley behind that building, as "side lift van only."

Brent said he was asked by campus security officers to move the vehicle after a staff member complained. However, the language on the UB signs is not permitted under state accessibility code, he said.

"The Maryland code specifically shows pictures of four different signs," he said, including a sign reading "van accessible." It doesn't, however, include any signs that restrict spaces to vehicles of a specific type of accommodation, such as side-lift vans.

According to the state Motor Vehicle Administration, motorists with a disability placard who do not drive a van with a lift or ramp should park in regular disabled spaces first and use other spaces only if all others are filled.

A University of Baltimore spokesman said that the spaces were designated solely for side-lift vans "to accommodate the special needs of some members of the UB community" who can't use other spaces on campus.

University staff members have contacted the state Department of Housing and Community Development for assistance in interpreting the Maryland Accessibility Code and "ensuring that we accommodate the needs of everyone in our community while maintaining compliance with applicable laws and regulations," the spokesman said in a statement. State officials could not make an assessment until they visit the site, a trip they are planning, said spokesman Andy DeVilbiss.

Who can fix this?:: People should report possible problems with handicapped signs to local code enforcement agencies. Baltimore residents can call 311.

- Liz F. Kay

Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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