When handicapped parking is illegal

| June 12, 2013

Denver has taken to towing cars with valid handicapped parking permits, parked in accessible parking spots.

Denver’s fine for a handicapped parking violation is now between $100 – $150 dollars. A person using a genuine disability permit can park without paying at a meter for up to four hours (when parking is allowed). Thanks to either morality or lack of enforcement, the amount of parking tickets given for this violation has been reduced by 34 percent within the past five years.

The punishment is a fine. So why was a car with a legal disabled parking tag recently towed from an accessible parking space in Aurora?

Handicapped parking sign

View sign here

9news interviewed the alleged criminal.

Ted Gent, a resident of Aurora, parked in what he believed to be disability parking when he took his friend Robert Tooke grocery shopping. Earlier that year, Tooke had his lower left leg amputated to stop a staph infection and possessed a valid accessible parking permit. Gent had been helping his friend out with whatever he needed, only using the accessible parking permit when Tooke was in the car.

Gent’s car was towed for a “reserved space violation,” and he was fined $307.24.

Reserved parking sign with permit number

The mislabeled reserved parking sign (image via 9news).

It turns out that the parking spot in question had a mislabeled sign. Terrace Park Apartments management argued that the parking space is reserved for a handicapped resident.

“The tow was illegal and should not have occurred,” Kevin Williams, Legal Program Director for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition said. The parking sign had an accessibility symbol, which tells any driver with a valid parking permit to park there. Williams went on to explain that the proper way to reserve a space for a handicapped person is with a sign that says “assigned parking only” and displays a permit number, but no accessibility (wheelchair) symbol.

Reserved parking sign

A proper sign to reserve a parking spot (see this sign here).

If the space had been labeled properly, the incident wouldn’t have occurred.

Mislabeled or confusing signs are not uncommon, and many drivers are fined due to misinterpreting a sign. Luckily, a few cities are taking the initiative to fix the problem.

Though swift action is commendable, some are too quick to act when someone encroaches on their private property. Before towing the car, Terrace Park management should have evaluated the situation and made sure that the towing would be legal.

Terrace Park Apartments management agreed to pay Gent’s bill.

The ambiguity with handicapped parking laws makes it difficult for those labeling private property. Many don’t realize that an ADA symbol implicitly authorizes anyone with a handicap to park in that space.  Before labeling any space that could be misinterpreted as public property, the laws should be reviewed to avoid issues such as the incident with Gent.

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Category: Enforcement, Handicapped parking

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