Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Violation of Handicapped Parking Laws in a Rural, Southern Town

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Violation of Handicapped Parking Laws in a Rural, Southern Town

Article excerpt

The use of handicapped parking spaces is a controversial and emotionally laden issue owing to the high incidence of illegal use. Consistently high handicapped parking violation rates have been reported for the past 20 years ranging from 20% to 76.6% (Cope & Allred, 1990; Cope & Allred, 1991; Cope, Allred & Morsell, 1991; Fletcher, 1995; Jason & Jung, 1984; Matthews, 1981; Suarez deBalcazar, Fawcett & Balcazar, 1988; Taylor, 1998). While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates provisions for adequate accessible reserved parking spaces, the frequent illegal use of these spaces negates the intent of the ADA, prevents independent functioning of people with disabilities, and promotes their social isolation (Burgdorf as cited in Fletcher, 1996). Suarez de Balcazar, Bradford and Fawcett (1993) reported that 8,607 of 13,000 persons with disabilities surveyed across 319 communities in 10 states identified enforcement of handicapped parking as a major problem. Fletcher (1996) noted that the widespread use of citizen patrols for enforcement of handicapped parking regulations provides solid evidence that the present system needs improvement. Taylor (1998) found violation rates were still very high, ranging from 44.0% in a smaller community to 76.6% in an urban area. This evidence indicates that, in spite of better signage, increased enforcement, and greater social awareness, a problem still exists (Fletcher, 2001).

Additional research on the illegal use of reserved handicapped parking spaces is needed to provide up-to-date information about this problem. While a number of studies have documented violation rates and tested methods to reduce them, only two researchers have interviewed individuals using handicapped parking spaces (Cope & Allred, 1990; Matthews, 1981). Matthews (1981) was the first to develop a classification scheme that examined the presence or absence of a mobility impairment and the presence or absence of a handicapped parking permit. The purpose of the present study was to re-examine violation rates using a modified version of Matthews' (1981) classification scheme and an interview format in the same physical location as the majority of studies conducted in the 1990s. In order to establish a more stable violation rate, data were collected over a two-year period at a variety of locations in one rural southern town. Violation rates during rush hour were compared to violation rates during other times. Other conditions under which violations occurred were also examined. Recommendations for physicians, enforcement personnel, the general public and individuals with disabilities were made. These included suggestions to improve access to handicapped parking.


Differences in definitions across studies and in different states make comparisons difficult. Therefore, the following definitions were modified for use in the present study (General Statutes of North Carolina, 2002).

(1) Handicapped: a person with a mobility impairment who, as determined by a licensed physician, either

(a) Cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest;

(b) Cannot walk without the use of, or assistance from, a brace, cane, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair, or other assistive device;

(c) Is restricted by lung disease to such an extent that the person's forced (respiratory) expiratory volume of one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than 60 mm/hg on room air at rest;

(d) Uses portable oxygen;

(e) Has a cardiac condition to the extent that the person's functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or Class IV according to standards set by the American Heart Association;

(f) Is severely limited in their ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition; or

(g) Is totally blind or whose vision with glasses is so defective as to prevent the performance of ordinary activity for which eyesight is essential, as certified by a licensed ophthalmologist, optometrist, or the Division of Services for the Blind (p. …

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