Heather Crites has received many objections to parking issues for wheelchair-enabled vans around the Comox Valley.
As the chair of the Comox Valley Accessibility Committee — a group working to raise awareness around disability issues and make the area a barrier-free community — she explained many members note handicap parking spots are generally not wide enough if a side ramp is installed in a vehicle.
“Partially, it’s because there’s not enough space, or if there’s not enough spots — especially if it’s an older part of town,” she noted.
But Crites said to her knowledge, she has never heard of anyone complaining to the committee about accessible parking or accessible vehicles taking up too much space.
She noted if a stall doesn’t have enough space or clearance for a ramp, many people will choose to take two spaces in order to get more room.
That’s exactly what Royston resident Tammy Garrett did last week during a visit to the Courtenay Airpark.
When she returned to her vehicle, she found an anonymous note posted on her windshield which attacked her parking skills.
Garrett, who has battled cancer for more than 10 years, uses a wheelchair and her ramp-enabled van to get around the Valley. Her specially-designed ramp, which is on the right side of her car, is generally too big to manoeuvre even in a handicap parking stall, she explained.
According to 2011 statistics, 22.2 per cent of people in the Comox Valley have some form of disability, and Crites encourages anyone who has issues around accessibility in the community to contact their local government.
Comox Valley RCMP Const. Don Sinclair added unless there is a motor vehicle incident, police generally do not get involved with incidents in parking lots.
City of Courtenay bylaw officer Gary Usher said while one individual may have considered Garrett’s parking as inconsiderate, there is nothing illegal about taking up two spots in a parking lot.
“I can’t think of a situation where we would give that person a ticket,” he noted.
“With a handicap sticker and it’s obvious the van has a ramp, common sense comes into play. We look at each situation on its own merit, and we are aware of the requirements of handicap parking.”
Usher explained sometimes they will issue a $50 ticket if a vehicle is parked in a handicap spot without a sticker, but generally there is an explanation as to why.
“Sometimes it’s an expired decal, and if a person comes to show us the right one, we will tear up the ticket. We want compliance, and not for it to be punitive.”
For more information on the Comox Valley Accessibility Committee or to attend one of their meetings, visit cvaccess.ca.