Accessible parking: Nearly 250 scofflaws fined in enforcement blitz – The London Free Press

They’re faking permits, changing expiry dates on the real thing and even photocopying the passes of deserving people.

Worse, others don’t even bother to pretend — they just barge in, taking the precious spaces reserved for those who can’t easily get around.

But more than 200 scofflaw parkers in London are now $375 poorer after a city hall blitz targeting illegal use of accessible parking spaces.

Enforcement officers swooped down on more than 500 public and private parking lots, dishing out 236 tickets in the one-week crackdown that ended Sunday. The officers fanned out to all corners of the city.

Annette Drost, the city’s parking enforcement manager, took the high road in describing how the crackdown played out, saying “a lot of the feedback we heard from Londoners during the enforcement blitz was positive.”

Posers caught red-handed abusing the spaces by other drivers often come under harsh criticism.

Jeff Preston, an accessibility advocate who uses a wheelchair and has had an accessibility permit his entire life, has seen the offenders himself — and heard their excuses.

“The thing I hear all the time is, ‘I’m just running in for a quick second, so I’m parking close (to the building),’” said Preston, an assistant professor of disability studies at King’s University College in London.

Preston said some drivers believe it’s no big deal if they occupy one of the reserved parking spots for only a few minutes, but they often don’t think through why a deserving person needs them.

“I need an end spot for me to drop my ramp,” he said. “There may be five spots available, but if you park in an end spot, I can’t park there.”

Jackie Madden, who chairs city hall’s accessibility advisory committee, said she’s not surprised by the flagrant abuse of accessible parking. Her son uses a wheelchair and she’s dealt with the issue for 25 years.

When she quizzes someone parking without a valid permit showing, she said she gets two distinct reactions.

“If it’s a legitimate user without their permit that day, they are usually very understanding,” she said.

Fraudsters, on the other hand, are usually aggressive and not nice, she said.

Madden suggested London could take a page from Austin, Tex., where an app allows people to report illegal use of accessible parking spaces by uploading photos of offending vehicles – without the permits – and their licence plate.

“People aren’t likely to park illegally in Austin because of this app,” she said.

During the London blitz, officers found deliberate attempts at deception, including photocopied and altered permits and ones with changed expiry dates.

Issued by the province, but strictly limited to people with a permanent or temporary disability, accessible parking permits must be prominently displayed on the dashboard or sun visor of a vehicle. Fines of up to $5,000 can be levied and the permit seized for misuse by another person, ServiceOntario says.

With Canada’s aging population, demand for accessible parking spaces is only expected to grow and with it standards that now vary widely across the country for the percentage of parking that must be reserved for those with disabilities.

“All too often, accessible parking spots are full,” Preston said. “It’s already fairly difficult to get an accessible spot at malls during the day.”

Madden said she agrees.

“One of the hardest things to do is go to a London Knights game downtown and park reasonably close, especially in the winter,” she said.

Even hospitals can be tough terrain for drivers needing accessible parking, Madden said. Every accessible spot at St. Joseph’s Health Care, for example, was taken when she arrived for a recent appointment at 8:40 a.m., she noted.

Preston said the spots are more important than just being close to the door.

“Accessible parking is not simply a convenience or a simple luxury,” he said. “This is critical accessibility infrastructure.”

— With files by Jennifer Bieman, Free Press reporter


500+: Locations inspected236: Tickets issued for violations$375: Fine for each ticket35: Permits seized7: Days the blitz ran