Law cracks down on accessible-parking violators

January 2, 2011 8:57:57 AM PST
A new year means new laws are implemented, and 2011 brings a law for people who abuse accessible parking spaces.

Issues related to the abuse of accessible parking spaces continue to grow.

With a stronger enforcement policy for parking lots, customers with disabilities may have more reasons to support businesses.

"Under this new law, local police departments and local municipalities will have the ability to fine business owners that leave obstructions in the access aisles in accessible parking spaces," said Bill Bogdan, the disability liaison to Ill. Secretary of State Jesse White. "There'll be shopping carts. In the wintertime, if we have a large snowfall, they'll turn around and leave snow piled into the access aisles, or they'll turn around in the springtime, put out their large flower displays and what have you, and it impedes the access for individuals with disabilities."

Under this new regulation, anyone can make a complaint.

"Contact their local police department, and then it'll be the responsibility of the police department or their building code official to notify the local business. And if the business fails to remove that obstruction within 24 hours after being notified, they can face a penalty for failure to remove that obstruction," said Bogdan.

Maureen Linchan Howard is an advocate from the Illinois National Multiple Sclerosis Society, one of the groups that worked on this legislation. She says they got the idea from another state.

"We found out that our New Hampshire chapter had passed a law that designated a fine for property owners that obstructed the parking spaces," said Linchan Howard.

Educating property owners is important.

"They understand that people with disabilities rely on those parking spaces to enjoy things in the community, to go to their job, to go to shop for groceries -- all the things that other people do, they need to have that spot to get in and out. And if someone parks there illegally or there's snow there, then they can't participate," said Linchan Howard.

"As a person with a disability, you're the number-one stopper of the abuse, and if we have your cooperation with this program, we can ensure that these spaces remain open to those that truly need them," Bogdan said.

There's a fine of $250 if a person violates this new law. vb