SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) Imagine needing an accessible or handicapped parking space only to find a car that doesn’t belong there in the spot. Jodi Hansen and her son who uses a wheelchair don’t have to imagine – they say it happens all the time.
“They don’t have very many accessible parking spaces, so when people utilize them – when they don’t need them – were out of luck.”
The Hansen family needs access to the reserved spaces because Jacob has cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis. “It’s a hassle for us when we don’t have an accessible parking spot,” said the 19-year-old.
Jodi says they actually purchased a rear-entry van because when they had a side-entry van it was often hard to find spaces to park. When ABC4 checked with Salt Lake City’s parking enforcement, they said in 2017-18, officers issued 1,591 accessible parking citations.
And mind you, that is just the cars that they found. That doesn’t count the hundreds they say that they didn’t find in time to issue a ticket.
After hearing Jodi and Jacob’s story and hearing from other viewers about accessible parking violations, I decided to look into the issue a little more. So, in this week’s Behind the Badge report, we take a ride with a Salt Lake City parking enforcement officer.
“We’ve dealt with this vehicle on a couple occasions.” Instead of parking in the load and unload, a delivery van driver parked in an accessible spot in downtown Salt Lake City.
“The only handicapped stall on this entire stretch of South Temple is now occupied by a delivery van.”
Salt Lake City parking enforcement officer Hunter Richards says that could cause a problem for someone with a disability.
“So a handicapped van may have to choose a stall that is not ADA accessible.” Richards has been patrolling downtown for five months. “This one is fairly frequently violated.”
The 22-year-old says a lot of citations and warnings are for meter violations, unregistered vehicles, and unpaid tickets.
“They have three or more citations with the city that are unpaid, they owe a total of $675” But he doesn’t view his job as a ticket writer.
He sees himself as a city ambassador: there to educate and help. “You can contest my tickets and I will tell you how to contest my tickets.”
However, if you park in accessible spaces without having a handicapped placard or license plate, get ready for a $150 ticket.
“If you’re parking in a handicapped without a handicapped placard, I don’t really ever issue a warning – it’s pretty much a citation all the time, because its a violation, that I think, is important it has a more extreme measure to it than an expired meter or something.”
And he says, lately, it seems more and more people are abusing the spaces.
“It’s almost like the trend…that people are in a hurry and they are not looking at the bigger picture that the stall is built for somebody who needs it for a disability or an ADA access.”
He may be right. According to Salt Lake City Compliance, 1,591 tickets for violating accessible parking spaces were issued in 2017 and 2018.
And Hunter says that’s just the cars that were caught. That’s why accessible parking spots are a priority to him. And why he reminds everyone to leave the spots for those who really need them.
“Going through downtown – meters and things – I’ll check them and watch the freight zones, but whenever I get near a handicapped zone – I will always be diligent and check every one of our handicapped zones.”
There is much more to this story, including officer Richards explaining that parking enforcement is not the “Gotcha Squad” and they don’t have ticket quotas. To hear that bonus material – check it out in our WEB EXTRA video. And to nominate a first responder for a future Behind the Badge story go to https://www.abc4.com/badge
And for families that need help with disability resources – one of the great places to turn to is the Utah Parent Center. For more information go to https://utahparentcenter.org