New city policy leaves the disabled in the lurch [Letter]

July 16, 2014

So I come to find out today that in a stroke of brilliance, our fine city of Baltimore has decided that in an effort to stop criminals from breaking into the cars and vans of people with disability placards, they will completely eliminate the free parking privilege for all the disabled ("New rules require disabled drivers to pay for handicap spots," July 10).

You see, up until July 10th, people with disabilities who had a placard could park at a meter within the city for free. This is due to a number of reasons. If you are disabled, running to feed a parking meter simply is not feasible. It takes often 10 times longer for someone with a disability to get in and out of their vehicle, and to get to where they need to go. Depending upon where your vehicle has its wheelchair lift, you can't park in most parking spots within the city. The free parking "privilege" was meant to be a way of getting the city off the hook for not having enough wheelchair accessible parking spots.

Now, rather than go after the criminals who have started to break into the vehicles of the disabled to sell the placards on the black market, the city is putting in supposedly Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking meters in an effort to, as their website explains, create more available parking (for the non-disabled, no doubt). So now the disabled, who are already the highest number of people living in poverty, have to be able to race back to feed meters in the city where most streets still have no curb cuts and no accessible parking. On a positive note, the placards are less likely to be stolen as they will be completely worthless. As the city's website says:

"By removing the free parking associated with disability placards, the incentive to steal and abuse them will be eliminated. Faced with the prospect of paying full price for parking at a metered location, those who use disability placards but don't need the accessibility will look for cheaper parking elsewhere or not drive. This will free up hundreds of on-street parking spaces when meters are in effect. Moreover, requiring payment from everyone will remove the incentive for people without disabilities to steal or abuse disability placards."

I was also reminded that most parking garages in the city do not accept vans. The hi-top vans to accommodate passengers are too high for the height requirements that normal cars fit into. So for someone in a wheelchair who must use a van for transportation, they are forced to park on city streets.

Eric Ovelgone

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