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Thread: Handicapped parking system failing badly

  1. #1

    Handicapped parking system failing badly

    Handicapped parking system failing badly
    State doesn't know how many tags issued. Change may cut misuse.
    October 06, 2002
    By Jennifer Jacobs Staff writer

    Although she isn't disabled, Frannie Golden regularly parks her Geo Prizm, for convenience, in spaces reserved for people with disabilities.

    The special tag she hangs from her rear view mirror was issued to her husband, who died in 1999.

    The expiration date on the tag was painted over and changed to 2003.

    "I'm ashamed," the 60-year-old DeWitt resident said when confronted. "I was always like, 'Should I or shouldn't I?' If people ask me about it, I'm going to say I was wrong. I'm going to throw it away."

    Abuse is rampant and few violators are ticketed, according to state officials, local law enforcement officials and advocates for people with disabilities.

    "The whole system for the state is flawed, very flawed," said Earl Smith, an Onondaga County Sheriff's sergeant who says handicapped parking violations is a pet peeve.

    To reduce fraud, the state redesigned the hang tags. Shipments of new tags began arriving in September.

    That will help, law enforcement officials said, but more is needed - including a central database for checking whose name the permit is registered in, which doctor approved it and for what reason, and which tags have been reported stolen or missing.

    Fighting fraud

    The old state-issued hang tag is prone to forgery, swapping for use by nondisabled drivers, and theft, Smith said.

    The new version has a hole-punched expiration date, plus a written expiration code that includes three digits of the permit-holder's driver's license number or non-driver ID number, said Matthew Burns, spokesman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

    Police can require hang tag users to produce a license or ID, then see if it matches the permit. By law, people with a disability can use a hang tag in any vehicle they ride in, but no one can use it when they're not riding in the car.

    The new hang tags don't solve all the problems, said police and advocates for people with disabilities. More than 1,100 municipalities are authorized to issue hang tags.

    Without a central registry, an officer writing 10 tickets might have to telephone 10 municipal clerks to track down more information about a hang tag - and he or she can check only during business hours, said Syracuse Police Lt.
    Shannon Trice.

    Telephone calls to clerks in Onondaga, Cayuga, Madison and Oswego counties proved there is no standardized record system, and most can't readily say how many permits they've issued.

    New York state officials have no idea how many parking passes are in circulation, to whom they are issued, or how many have been revoked for misuse.

    Seeking premium parking

    Tuesday at Carousel Center mall, Mike Washington, a Liverpool resident, parked a Ford Expedition in a reserved spot nearest the main entrance.

    Asked about the car's hang tag, Washington said he's disabled with back troubles. A record check showed the tag belongs to his mother-in-law, Lula Mae Bufford, 67, of Syracuse, who has arthritis. She was not in the vehicle.

    It's this sort of thing that really annoys Richard Warrender, State Advocate For Persons With Disabilities.

    "It's people's selfish attitude or laziness - or I have other words," said Warrender, who uses a motorized scooter. "I see it all the time."

    Warrender's office took 1,000 complaints about misuse last year - about people climbing out of cars with no permit, a clerk issuing a permit without medical documentation and police not enforcing the law.

    Kathryn Meehan parked her black Mercedes near Lord & Taylor's entrance Wednesday in a space marked with blue pavement paint and a tall sign with a wheelchair symbol on it.

    "I didn't know it was a handicapped spot," said Meehan of Binghamton. "There were plenty of other spaces, I just didn't know."

    Even people with a valid pass, such as Richard A. Sheer, don't always follow the rules. He squeezed his Cadillac Seville onto the painted yellow lines, an area reserved for wheelchair ramps or lifts.

    "I know I shouldn't be using this - I think it's illegal - but I don't think there's enough spots here," said Sheer, a Syracuse man who has a foot ailment.

    "I'm just running in to the ATM machine."

    Two rows away, four spaces marked for people with disabilities were empty.

    "Oh God, I get so frustrated with that. It makes my life so terrible," said Syracuse resident Sally Johnston, who ends up stuck in her car if the access aisle for her wheelchair ramp is blocked. "To me it's a big issue."

    Hidden disabilities

    Jeffrey Battelle Sr., who is blind, has a degenerative disease in his spine, and nerve damage in his legs from diabetes, said it's frustrating when his girlfriend can't find a parking spot because they're all taken - sometimes by drivers who don't look disabled.

    Disabilities can be hidden, pointed out Mike Von Hendy, an advocate for people with disabilities, who has a disorder that causes excessive swelling in his legs.

    "If I'm wearing long slacks, you don't see it," said Von Hendy, of Syracuse.
    Doctors hand out passes too freely, Trice and other police officers said.

    The law states only a "severely disabled person" should get a permit.

    Dr. Andrew Merritt, president of the Onondaga County Medical Society, agreed physicians should save permits for people with advanced heart disease, arthritis or disease so significant that the person can't walk 200 feet without assistance, or other severe problems.

    Two years ago, the state added a notice to the permit application form, warning that wrongfully certifying someone for a pass is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000.

    "It's the last thing they see before they sign," said Greg Jones, of the state advocacy office, "and it's supposed to scare them into reconsidering." Lax enforcement

    Ticketing is light, according to a survey of 15 police agencies in the four-county area.

    The Onondaga County Sheriff's Department is one of a few police agencies statewide that takes advantage of the law empowering deputized volunteers to issue tickets for violations of parking for people with disabilities.

    Several of the 10 citizens in the Sheriff's Handicapped Ambulatory Parking Enforcement team have disabilities themselves. Despite their efforts, the cases of abuse don't seem to lessen.

    "You can write tickets all day long and they're still going to abuse it," Smith said. "People get really angry. They're nasty to me, and I'm in uniform. But we've got to do it. I feel like we're defending the rights of the handicapped."

    © 2002 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.

  2. #2


    Guy, quite athletic looking, parks his Hummer near my van and sticks a blue placard up!

    UGH!!! UGH!! UGH!!

  3. #3

    Your not kidding it's failing

    I once was sitting in front of my lawyers office, in a hc parking space. I was inside my car. A car swooped in behind me and they took a picture of my car in the space. Then a person in a "rent a cop" uniform walked up and issued me a ticket for parking in the space. My wc was in the back seat in plain sight, my hand controls were on the steering column. I was sitting in it. Needles to say I fought the ticket and won. That company was replaced as the contractor. Go figure.

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