Everyone that works in the realm of disabled parking knows that we have a problem…there are too many placards out there –7 for each legitimate user at latest estimate. People often assume that the abuse is due to everyone wanting the “good spaces” that are close to the building. That may be a desirable feature, but a much more desirable feature is that in some jurisdictions, people with a placard or disability plates do not need to pay for parking. As parking becomes more expensive and harder to find, the temptation to use a disability placard inappropriately grows.
Why is disabled parking free? It stems from the fact that often governments and parking lot owners do not make the payment system accessible to all. To be accessible it must be something that one can reach even if one uses a wheelchair or is of short stature. It also has to be accessible to someone without use of fingers or hands. Lowered meters with phone payment options are available in other cities but Colorado has not widely adopted this requirement. The ideal situation would be accessible meters so people with disabilities can park where everyone else parks and pay like anyone else. Equality means doing what everyone else does….even paying for parking. However, until the method of payment is accessible, payment cannot be required.
Only a small subset of people that require accessible parking actually have a problem using a meter. People that use wheelchairs and are unable to stand at all cannot use a meter. People with no hand use or finger coordination cannot use most meters. People of short stature cannot reach meters. Most others with disabilities can use meters. Anyone who simply cannot walk a long distance, people that use wheelchairs but can stand, and people with one good hand can all use a meter.
HB 18-1285 Remuneration-Exempt Disability Parking Placard was an attempt to create a second specialized placard to distinguish individuals who truly cannot use a meter so only those individuals would be eligible for free parking in accessible spaces. Others would still be able to park close, use the wide spaces, etc., but would be expected to pay in metered zones.
Individuals will be qualified for the new placard for the following reasons
Unfortunately this definition excludes one group of people unable to reach a meter. CCDC lobbied for a modification of the 3rd qualifier above to read “Ability to reach or access a parking meter due to disability”. However our proposed amendment to make the bill accomplish the goal was rejected.
This law is permissive meaning that local governments are free to enact it or not. CCDC believes that it would be discriminatory to give free parking to only some people that cannot reach a meter based not on function but on whether or not they use a wheelchair. Some people that use wheelchairs can stand. Some people have wheelchairs that elevate their seats. On the other hand others walk but due to small size are not able to reach a meter or pay slots. Because the Americans’ with Disabilities Act requires state and local governments to avoid discrimination, even though this is a state law, local governments could be at risk for litigation if they implement the law as written. The ADA is a federal law and federal law supersedes state law.
We do not know at this time if any municipalities are planning to use this new provision. Below are some frequently asked questions about the law:
When will the Law go into effect? January 1st 2019
Will the new law cover the entire State? Yes, each municipality will decide whether or not they will change their rules to match the new law.
How can I get a new placard? You do not need a new placard, but an additional placard. There is no application for this additional placard at this time. Information on obtaining and renewing a placard or plate is here.
That is likely the same place the new applications will be when they are ready.
What are the rules about disabled parking? The state has a brochure outlining the rules.
If you have strong feelings about whether or not your local government should implement this law reach out to your city council or county commission. CCDC believes the idea is right but that it must apply to ALL disability types that cannot reach or use a meter. As a cross-disability organization we cannot support leaving out one disability type. We also believe there should be an “other” category to account for some condition that no one has thought of that might not fit on any list. The exemption from payment should be based on disability related function-the inability to use meters or pay structures.
CCDC also has concerns about education and outreach to the disability community. The bill was silent on this matter and we are concerned that if this is implemented in a community the people that are used to free parking would not know that they need to get a new placard. There must be adequate outreach to affected individuals with adequate time for them to obtain the secondary placard. We are also concerned about how people that use plates and do not use (and cannot use) placards will be accommodated in this process.
CCDC agrees that there is a problem with abuse, and believes that the free parking is a major culprit of the abuse. CCDC would rather see enforcement of pay structures including but not limited to meters that are simply accessible to all drivers and that allows all drivers to take responsibility for payment.