Local Parking Laws Tough For People With Disabilities

By Jack Douglas Jr., CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Rosario Jimenez knows that one day, maybe soon, she will depend nearly entirely on a wheelchair to get around.

“It can happen at any time,” said Jimenez, stricken by polio when she was 8 months old, leaving her with degenerative muscle problems that doctors say will only worsen.

So, with all of that going on, Jimenez said she was angered when she walked to her car – slowly, in a leg brace and with the help of a cane  – and found that she had been ticketed in downtown Dallas for being at a public parking meter too long.

“It was very frustrating,” said Jimenez, 33, a student at El Centro College in downtown Dallas.

She wouldn’t have gotten such a ticket in Houston …or San Antonio … or Austin.

In fact, CBS 11 News has learned that among the biggest cities in Texas, only Dallas and Fort Worth ticket people for staying too long at a public parking spot, even when they have a disabled parking permit clearly visible on their vehicle.

Most urban areas have passed ordinances that no longer allow motorists to “feed the meter” at public parking spaces. Before those laws were passed, officials say, a relatively few number of motorists could tie up spaces for the entire day, preventing others from finding a place to park.

But most cities, with the exception of Dallas and Fort Worth, exempt people with disabilities from having to move their vehicles once the meter reaches its maximum time limit, which usually is two hours.

On average, it takes Dallas lawyer Ken Carden about 20 minutes to get into his convertible sports car, after disassembling his wheelchair and placing it in the car. It takes an equal amount of time for him to get out.

Carden, whose disabilities stem from a motorcycle accident when he was a young man, isn’t complaining. “Getting in and out of the car is just something I’ve been doing for a long time,” he said.

But he gets his dander up, and has filed legal actions against the city of Dallas, when he sees what he considers to be federal violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those infractions can include too-narrow handicapped parking spaces, the absence of crosswalk ramps and doorknobs that can’t be reached from a wheelchair.

Requiring handicapped people to move their cars every two hours may be the final straw.  “It bothers me to have to get out of the car, go do something, get back and move my car because the city says I can’t park there for very long. That’s a lot of trouble,” said Carden.

Are the parking ordinances in Fort Worth and Dallas too tough for someone in a wheelchair?

“On the surface, it looks that way,” said Fort Worth City Councilman Danny Scarth, who has used a wheelchair since 1979 when he broke his neck in football.

Scarth added, however, there is logic behind the Fort Worth ordinance: It gives everyone a chance at a parking space, especially in the downtown area where shopkeepers rely on a steady turnover of customers that need a place to park. Besides, like other Texas cities, including Dallas, meter parking is free with a handicap sticker.

“We had free parking all day at meters for people with disabilities, with the proper plate and placards,” said Scarth. “(But) we found that they were most often being used by people who were commuting into downtown for work.”

The city of Dallas defended its ordinance as well, saying in a statement that it “has established parking regulations to ensure that city streets remain safe and accessible for the whole community … These regulations are tailored to accommodate the handicapped to allow free parking to anyone with the proper handicap authorization, up to a two-hour limit.”

For Rosario Jimenez, the El Centro College student, that is not good enough.

“I believe they should reconsider all the challenges for people with physical disabilities,” she said. “They must balance the situations.”


One Comment

  1. fightforyourrights says:

    I should point out that CITY GOVERNMENTS can be sued for violating the ADA too. ADA Is a FEDERAL law, and I am suprised that the “empty suits” being paid by the city don’t realize that municipal law does NOT trump FEDERAL law.

  2. J_Brady says:

    I don’t park at meters for that very reason – because even if you have a disabled parking permit, you have to move. A better option would be having adequate handicapped spaces – adequate in both number and size with proper access ramps. When you are in or pushing a wheelchair from a parking space on the street, to have to maneuver 20-30 feet to a curb cut while dodging debris, parked cars and moving traffic is lousy. Everyone who makes these rules or plans needs to spend a week in a wheelchair so they can learn how most of the world is too narrow, too high, uphill and poorly paved.

  3. L.O'Bayley says:

    I too depend on my powerchair for mobility and have found Fort Worth to be the most non-compliant city I’ve ever been in. I can’t even enjoy the Water Garden in Downtown because it has absolutely no ADA accessability! Sidewalks in neighborhoods are almost non-existent. Wake Up Fort Worth!!

  4. JP says:

    I live in Weatherford and several years ago I stopped going to downtown Ft. Worth for anything because there were so few handicapped parking places and ADA compliant facilities. I have encouraged others to stop spending money in downtown Ft. Worth too.

  5. Dean Corso says:

    I used to love going to Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth, I would go there two or three times a week until I was in an accident and now have to use a wheelchair. I went there once after my accident and it was a horrible experience and I’ve never gone back. I contacted the Mayor’s office and a few of the city Council members but they just blew me off. And just for the record, Arlington is no better.

  6. John says:

    If you are in a wheelchair, I agree you should have ADA accomodations. Where do all these people, who are not apparently handicapped, get these handicape stickers? If the driver is ok, they should drop the person off at front door and park in a regular parking spot.

    1. Randy says:

      To answer your question, some people who seem to have no problems, may have a pulmonary or cardiac disease, such as my wife. When going to the store, it takes all she has to go in, shop for a FEW things, and get back to her vehicle. If not for disabled parking, she could not shop at all. I’m not talking luxury, I’m talking groceries, toiletries, etc. Not everyone’s disability is visible, or apparent, at first. I used to ask myself the same question, and now that I experience it daily, I understand. Yes, I do most of the driving and shopping, and I agree about dropping off. But when I’m not with her, or if she’s driving we will use the disable parking spot. BTW, if you see a blue hanging placard, that means their primary vehicle has PERMANENT disabled license plates.

      1. RussP says:

        While I agree with the need for handicapped tags and placards, I feel there needs to be better control over them; perhaps a drivers license number or picture on the placard so that it is only usable when that person is in the vehicle. I know people who use the handicap privelege even when the handicapped person is not in the vehicle.

  7. Hopalong Cassidy says:

    I have degenerative joint disease… not your typical osteoarthritis type, but a genetic form that basically destroys my cartilage. It’s relatively early on right now, but it WILL get much worse, and will ultimately affect my spine, as well as my hips, legs and feet. I’ll probably wind up in a wheelchair at some point. But for right now, I’m reasonably well most days– though by night time after a full day of bustling about, I’m virtually unable to walk due to the aching and pain in my feet, ankles and knees. I can still cycle somewhat, and I can swim (which feels great), but walking can be excruciating due to the development of bone spurs and cartilage loss. I’m also a younger person, and outwardly I appear to be in top shape– and for the most part, I keep myself that way. But no one can see the pain that I’m in, no one can see how much every step just kills me on certain days. They have no idea of how much anti-inflammatory medicine I have to eat just to keep going. They haven’t seen the injections tha I take in my joints to try to slow the cartilage loss, in order to hold off on multiple joint replacements because I’m “too young” for that surgery. I get stares and rude remarks when I have to avail myself of a handicap space on my “severe-pain” days. But if they saw my X rays… the tune would change.

  8. robert mathies says:

    Being disabled in Dallas,Anywhere is a major pain. Most stores and malls are not handicap accessible. So you may have to go an extra distance just to find a ramp in the pavement to gain access. Public restrooms – People use the handicap toilet and make those of us who need it wait. When crossing with the light -drivers yell at you to move faster or get out of the way and or run you up on the curb. People see you coming and they will cut in line or leave nowhere for you to sit. People were not raised with consideration or care for the handicapped.

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