Updated: December 6, 2019
Accessible parking spots aren’t a nice-to-have thing for Jeff Preston, they’re a must-have.
“It’s so frustrating,” he said of the times when able-bodied people without permits park in the spots designed for those who have similar needs as he does.
Preston, a professor of disability studies at King’s University College, uses a wheelchair to get around because he was born with muscular dystrophy, which made him a quadriplegic. He drives a customized van using a joystick.
“I have some pretty specific needs in terms of where I’m going to park,” Preston says. “No other spots are going to function for me.”
City bylaw officers will continue a crackdown this weekend that has been going on since the beginning of the week. They are targeting motorists who often tell enforcement personnel they were “only going to be a few minutes” who don’t have the appropriate permit.
The head of parking enforcement for London, Stephen Miller, says a one-week crackdown like the current one will typically result in 220 parking tickets being issued. “These spaces are intended for people with accessibility needs,” Miller said.
“When the parking space is used by someone who hasn’t been assigned a valid permit, it creates a barrier for someone else,” the city said in a statement issued late Friday afternoon.
Accessible spots usually are found near building entrances and are wider than others. Someone like Preston needs the extra space so he can deploy the side ramp of his Dodge Grand Caravan.
Preston believes people are getting the message. Better public education would help, he said, plus bigger signs that include contact information for Service Ontario, for those who would likely be approved if they applied for a permit. The permits are issued provincially and enforced by municipalities.
Miller and his team typically do such crackdowns annually at different times of the year. They are visiting public and private parking lots.
Courtesy spots for expectant mothers, veterans, dialysis patients and others have no legal status, Miller said.
“We don’t have the ability to enforce those spots at this time,” Miller said. Preston has nothing against them, but worries sometimes they are “watering down” the idea behind accessible spots. “I think it does blur the lines a little bit,” he said of the proliferation of courtesy spots for different groups, adding city crackdowns are “a good reminder.”
The blitz also is targeting people with expired permits, as well as those who don’t display them properly. Preston thinks time and demographics are on his side. Things are going to change as the boomer generation starts having mobility issues.
“I’m ready of the boomer energy to come through on this,” he said. “They’re not just going to accept that there’s only a few spots.”