A whole heap o' handicapped parking issues I've been saving up

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/12/02 10:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/12/02/6592705.aspx

It has been years since I first posted What's up with handicapped parking in WA state? and the time since then has been interesting.

First of all there were the comments to the post itself, of course.

Then, a few months later, I had someone in my management chain suggest to me (off the record) that I should not be so disrespectful to agency temps as I was (excerpt below, with the text in question emphasized in red):

One of those two spaces where the two cars used to park still has a car in it every day. It seems to be one of those same two cars (I guess they are fighting for "their" space). Maybe I should start posting license plates and descriptions. Or maybe I should consider the handicap of their lack of decency as one that entitles them to park there? I hope they are contingent staff and their contracts don't get renewed. Most people at Microsoft are a lot nicer.

I admit to being shocked, as no disrespect to contingent staff was intended. Hell, I was a vendor to Microsoft for the first half of my "career" in Redmond, and I have a ton of respect for both the v- and a- folk here.

I do have a lot of disrespect for the sort of people who use handicapped parking spaces when they are not, in fact, handicapped. And since doing so is not a fire-able offense even if you do it on Microsoft grounds (thus making it quite unlikely to happen for people who do it across the street in their apartments!), I was just hoping that they would soon end up being done with the job they are in and that some sort of handicapped space karma would step in and see that the contract was not renewed. Because honestly if it could made a fire-able offense to do this sort of thing with the parking spaces then I would do my best to make sure it was enforced as often as appropriate, whether someone was full-time, part-time, flex-time, vendor, contractor, or whoever.

If anyone who was or is a contractor read that I felt any negative feelings toward contractors in general then please accept my apology for not being clearer, and my assurance that my feelings for contractors are in no way negative based on their "status" -- that kind of nonsense, I dealt with for years before I went full-time and is in fact a great way to know the best groups to work in -- how they treat their non-full-time staff!

Then in later months the handicapped parking thing would come up a few more times, like in What's up with handicapped parking everywhere?, That handicapped placard, and so on.

A few months ago another employee brought up a slightly different issue, one that I have often been troubled by myself:

There’s a dude who parks everyday in a handicapped spot. He only recently started parking there after I (and others) left him notes on his car to stop parking in the vanpool/carpool spots without a permit. For the first time, today, I saw him walking the halls with no outward disability. I am fully aware that a disabled permit isn’t only for conditions that are “out in the open,” so I’m not specifically questioning whether he “deserves” to park in the spot or not. He displays a handicapped permit but he conveniently slid it to the front of his dash. The expiration date is hidden from view, so only the handicapped icon on the permit is visible.

It would seem to me that he is, by a strictly view of the law, parked illegally since his expiration date is not visible.

Basically… have you got any advice/guidance on how to handle the situation? I do not think it’s proper to say to him “Hey, you don’t look disabled!” or something foolish like that. But I am admittedly not convinced he should be parking there after having seen him park in the carpool spots repeatedly without a permit.

I figure there’s not much I could do about it. I don’t require a disabled permit, so it’s not like he’s taking a spot away from me, and there are usually many open disabled parking spots in our garage, so it’s not like he’s taking a spot away from someone who really needs it. It’s simply the principle that ya just don’t do that. With this person’s track record of parking wherever is most convenient, I’m just not trusting of his necessity for a disabled spot, ya know?

The legality question is grey area, of course. Ususlly one would be ticketed but one could go to the heasring and show that one has a valid pass -- whether this is done would depend probably on the competition for spaces in a given lot. Some parts of Microsoft will tow fairly quickly (it happened to me once when the pass actually fell on the floor of the car and I was in a different building for a week for a class) so I know whereof I speak here....

As someone who for years had just minimal signs of disability (the cane) and who has had to deal with being questioned occasionally, I have to admit that I never found myself too troubled by the people who were simply asking the question and not being rude about it. Because then I would point out my reason and explain about how I only had a "Sabbath day's walk" within me.

But there is a reason why a cop will pull over the person with a busted tail light and run their plates -- because anyone who can let one issue go un-addressed can let another one. And it is easy to imagine someone who would park in carpool/vanpool spots without a permit choosing to borrow someone else's handicapped permit or using an expired one with the date hidden or get a sympathetic MD to sign the application the same way they could get an inappropriate Valium script out of one.

But now we get to the tough part -- though I don't expect that someone genuinely handicapped showing no visible signs would be too offended by a polite question in a bad parking situation, it is pretty obvious that someone parking their illegally would be quite likely to quickly get defensive and take offense (since as they say the best defense is a good offense!).

Which makes it hard to do much of anything here, beyond perhaps inquiring politely through someone who knows them or through their manager, just pointing out that the situation was creating some discomfort -- and that perhaps suggest to the colleague or manager that by generating a little awareness of their situation they could avoid causing other people to feel uncomfortable.

It reminds me of a reverse situation -- I have a friend I go lunch off-campus with sometimes, and when she drives there is almost never a good space left when we come back after lunch. She always refuses my offer to let me lend her my handicapped pass, even though she is driving me and getting me closer to the door, because she knows people know her car and she does not want people thinking she is taking advantage of a handicapped parking permit not her own.

So one has to wonder what sort of person would want people to think that of them, ever. My friend is perhap over-cautious, but her heart is at least in the right place.

Is there convincing proof that the under-cautious person has a heart? Wouldn't some kind of clarification be a good idea, and in their best interests, just to not create bad feelings with others in the group?

I actually got a similar mail from someone who works at Google asking almost the very same question of a co-worker of theirs who was doing the same kind of thing. Which honestly seems even weirder to me since I thought they had valet parking too? Would it be that worthwhile to park in the handicapped spaces?

And then even more recently there was someone with a totally different complaint:

I got a parking ticket for parking in the handicap parking in my apartment complex.

Guilty as charged. However, this was my first time I parked in the handicap parking and that too.. because all other parking spaces were full. The apartment does not provide assigned parking for the apartment, except for the carports.  I didn’t want to leave my car on the street and go to sleep. Knowing that no one in my building is handicap – I parked my car in the handicap parking spot --- only to get the parking ticket next day.

I am not sure whether it is a good idea to have mitigation hearing or pay the fine and sit quite. Any similar experience anybody?

Mitigation Hearing = I agree I have committed the infraction, but I want a hearing to explain the circumstances. Please send me a court date and I promise to appear on that date.

Now opinions on the question itself varied some, but the general trend warmed my heart a bit -- it was pay the damn ticket and just don't do it again (with some noting that handicapped people do go out in public and that they visit non-handicapped friends -- that is legal!).

Several people wondered how such a guest would feel, especially as "all other parking spaces were full".

Opinion was divided a bit on whether asking the question was relevant to a person's job, when one person suggested that they hoped the person's manager saw the question.

I tend to agree with the people who find it somewhat relevant under that same earlier theory about the cop pulling someone over even for minor infractions -- the whole where there's smoke, there's fire theory. One does have to wonder about

and whether such a tendency could spill over into one's decision making process at work.

Would they deserve for it come up in their review? Perhaps not. Though known cases os the spill-over into work SHOULD come up.

But either way, is it worth asking the question if one hppens to hear about it -- especially if the person asks the question rather widely at work?

Well, since I am record as saying that if I could I would fire the employees and end the contracts of the contractors who would abuse handicapped parking spaces on a regular basis, I think how I feel about the situation is clear -- pay the damn ticket and just don't do it again.

But I am not in charge of those kind of decisions, so in the end all I can say is that if you are doing that sort of thing then you know how I feel about you. And some others too, perhaps....


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# Dale on 2 Dec 2007 5:10 PM:

When I lived in Westport, CT, they had an interesting approach to parking in handicap spots.

When issusing the placard they also gave a polaroid camera, yes years ago, so if the holder of the placard found a spot filled they would snap a shot of the car showing  license plate and handicapped sign.

A bylaw had been passed so that this photo, which was date and time stamped, was enough for a fine to be sent.

Soon cut down on people abusing the spots

# Reader 29 on 2 Dec 2007 7:18 PM:

On a similar issue, how do you deal with handicapped stalls in the bathrooms?

I don't know how it is in Seattle, but here in Florida, the non-handicapped stalls are TINY, with no place to put a jacket or a motorcycle helmet (and NO, I'm NOT putting it on the nasty floor!)

I'm talking small enough that the door hits the commode, and you have to straddle it to open/close the door.

The handicapped stall is actually big enough for a human to use, and has jacket hooks and usually even a sink. I feel bad that I have to use it, but I also feel that the other stalls are just plain simply un-usable.

Now, in 40 years I've never run into a situation of having someone in a wheelchair or scooter waiting on me, but as you say, it's the thought that counts. Frankly it's a situation that irritates the hell out of me, and has become a pet peeve with all the new shopping mall development having smaller and smaller bathrooms.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 Dec 2007 11:51 PM:

I haven't spent too much time in Florida (mostly just conferences that were located there) and when I am traveling I tend to have the small scooter which I usually ride right into the bigger stall. I never mind waiting though (and seldom have to), so I never really mind. It's not like it is illegal to use it without a pass! :-)

But as I mention, I usually find that the non-handicapped get much more upset about these things than the handicapped, though in fairness I have to admit that perhaps I'd feel different if I had to go really bad....

# mdmhvonpa on 3 Dec 2007 12:14 PM:

Here is a good one.  I have HP tags on the car.  Hard Metal Plates.  Although I get to work at the crack of dawn and have an opportunity to park in any spot, I park in one of the 10 available HP spots.  I was once questioned because I "Did not look crippled enough".  You know, with MS we tend not to sluff off the limbs that don't work quite as well.  Well, I decided to be a sport and park the Crip-Mobile  in one of the regular spots closer to the building entrance.  I go no less than 2 questions about why I did not park in one of the 10 other spots instead of squatting in the valuable regular spots.  HAH!  

# Skip on 3 Dec 2007 9:12 PM:

My grandmother didn't have a driver's license, or a car, so she didn't have a handicapped parking permit.   When we would take her to the store we would park in one of the handicapped spots, but only for as long as it took to get her unloaded, and then we'd go park somewhere else, and then we'd usually do the same when picking her up.

There was one day that all of the handicapped spots were taken, at least one by a sports car with no handicapped tag.   So we stopped the car behind the spots, and she got out.  As she was using her walker, a young man ran out with some cigarettes, and realized he was blocked in.   My grandmother then proceeded to take three times as long as normal to get to the sidewalk, all the time with the guy in the sports car fuming.  She then said something loudly to the effect of "You know, I don't believe that young man is handicapped at all, do you?

I think things like that handle people who shouldn't be parking in the spots quite nicely.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 4 Dec 2007 12:01 AM:

Very practical lesson!

though for what it is worth, you can get a handicapped parking permit even if you do not drive, and the person who drives your grandmother places can use it when they are doing so. Just thought I'd mention that. :-)

# Mikkin on 5 Dec 2007 6:16 PM:

Three sorts of people park in handicap spaces:

1) Those who are physically handicapped and have a permit,

2) Those who are mentally handicapped and don't know better,

3) Those who are morally handicapped and don't care.

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