As shoppers enter the hectic Christmas season, it’s time to give a little thought for those unable to jump out of their vehicle and run into a store or business.
In recognition of these valued customers and clients, public and private parking areas have set aside disabled parking spots close to entry ways. Even if you believe you’ll only be briefly stopping at a given location, using the disabled parking spot prevents a deserving person access to these vital spots.
Alison Duddy has been confined to a wheelchair for several years and knows the challenges presented to disabled people during the winter months.
“Snow and slush are very difficult to navigate,” she said.
“That’s why close parking spots are more important than ever in the winter.”
She added in summer she usually finds a central parking spot and can accomplish most of her errands from there, but in winter that isn’t always possible.
“In winter crossing streets is one of the biggest challenges,” she said,
“Snow accumulates in intersections.”
She was quick to add that Quesnel isn’t any better or worse than other communities, however it is a problem everywhere.
Duddy also said that misuse of the disabled parking spots also happens within the disabled community.
Either through improper use of the a permit or not acquiring the proper permit.
“These parking spaces are for persons with a disability, entering and exiting the vehicle,” she said.
“The permit is attached to the person, not the vehicle. The permit holder can use the display sign and access the spaces from any vehicle.”
Duddy explained that often an able-bodied person parks in the spot, with a permit holder in the car, but it’s the able-bodied person who exits and enters the vehicle and that is a violation of the permit. The parking spaces can only be used when the disabled person is getting in and out of the vehicle.
“We have gentle reminders we leave on windshields to remind non-permit holding drivers to please use the many other spaces available to them,” she said.
“There’s various groups working on comprehensive programs for reporting and enforcement of proper permitted parking spaces but I’m not interested in regularly monitoring or reporting violations, I’d rather just leave a reminder should I happen to see a violation.
Many people aren’t even aware its an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act to park in a designated parking space without a valid permit.
Duddy said parking close to the entrance is also a safety issue for those with disabilities, especially if they are in a wheelchair.
“Wheeling through a parking lot is dangerous,” she said.
“We’re lower to the ground and difficult to see from behind a vehicle.”
She also said wider parking spots are crucial for anyone exiting their vehicle and trying to get into a wheelchair.
Not only are designated parking spots being taken by able-bodied drivers, Duddy said with Quesnel’s growth rate, the community is likely to require more accessible parking spots.
“I’ve often had difficulty finding an accessible parking spot,” she said.
“We need more.”
Having been in a wheelchair for 25 years, Duddy said she’s seen huge strides forward in accessibility, but it still needs improvement.
“I remember at first there were very few cut downs (slope from sidewalk to roadway) and virtually no accessible parking,” she said.
“And I’m confident we’ll bridge the awareness gap between able-bodied and disabled. Together with Lynne Turner, who’s also in a wheelchair, we’ve had so much good feedback during our October awareness campaign.”
Duddy said accessible awareness is going to be ongoing and they are looking for a comprehensive northern awareness campaign.
“We travel just like everyone else,” she said.
So as you are hurrying from one store to another, running into offices and facilities, remember, unless you are disabled, stay out of the designated spots. The majority of public spots have upright signs but sometimes private spots are limited to surface signs which can’t be seen when snow-covered. However, until all designated spots have upright, forward-facing signs, remember where the spots are and stay out of them.
“People shouldn’t have limited mobility because they can’t find accessible parking, it’s an exclusion issue,” Duddy said.
“People should be able to access their community for as much as they want.”
She also encourages speaking out, whether disabled or able-bodied when they notice misuse.
“In a tactful way of course, this will help with awareness.”
Those requiring a
valid parking permit
can contact www.spacbc.ca/parking-permit or contact Seniors Advocacy Service, 250-991-98664 for details and requirements.