By: Charlotte Smith
Over 17% of Bladen County citizens under 65 years of age are disabled, according to the 2017 United States Census Bureau QuickFacts. The facts do not describe what limitations the citizens with disabilities in the local communities face. However, handicap residents have reported issues with parking; especially in downtown Elizabethtown.
Bladen County citizen, Mr. Cecil Marsh appeared before Elizabethtown Council about a year ago to make some suggestions regarding handicapped parking downtown. Marsh also requested changes to make the benches in front of Town Hall more serviceable.
Ms. Samantha Phillips, another Bladen County resident, has voiced concerns about the handicap parking in the area as well. There are no handicap parking places on Poplar Street near the downtown shops, Phillips explained.
The handicap parking spaces on Broad Street in Elizabethtown only have striped aisles on the driver’s side of the vehicle, Phillips continued.
Having the handicap parking areas fully striped may be a solution for handicap parking safety. Striped aisles are used for wheelchair transfer, walker use and for ramps and lifts to operate safely. Van accessible spaces are usually next to access aisles.
The average space for disability parking is 60 inches wide while van accessible spaces are 96 inches wide, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The expanded parking provides enough room for ramps or lifts to allow wheelchairs to exit safely.
Any vehicle driver should always leave striped access aisles free for wheelchairs and walkers, according to NCDOT. It is not stated anywhere that a vehicle may park in the striped area to allow for wheelchair safety.
Town of Elizabethtown Mayor Sylvia Campbell said she and other Town officials met with representatives from the NCDOT, who regulates the handicap parking, before beginning the Downtown Revitalization Project.
“Our downtown is small and parking is limited,” Mayor Campbell admitted.
At times, throughout the day, there are no vacant parking spaces downtown including handicap parking, while at other times spaces are available.
“I hope it is meeting the needs,” Mayor Campbell said.
Campbell did say the downtown area is meeting all of the NCDOT handicap parking requirements.
According to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “The minimum number of accessible parking spaces required depends on the total number of parking spaces in the lot, as seen in the table below. Furthermore, one of every six accessible parking spaces, or fraction of six, must be “van-accessible.” For example: A parking lot with 400 total spaces needs eight accessible spaces, and two of those eight spaces must be van-accessible.”
Find out more about parking requirements at: https://adata.org/factsheet/parking
The North Carolina Department of Transportation states, “Disability parking may be used only when the person to whom the placard or plate was issued is in the vehicle. If that person is not in the vehicle, the driver may not use the disability placard/plate.
The department added, “Anyone else using a disability parking placard or plate for any reason may be subject to posted fines.”
Infraction of NC General Statue 20-37.6 carries a penalty of at least one hundred dollars ($100.00) but not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00). In addition to the fines, towing may be enforced of vehicles in violation of G.S. 20-37.6 at an additional cost according to the statue.
NC General Statue 20-37.6 Parking privileges for handicapped drivers and passengers statute states, “(d) It shall be unlawful to park or leave standing any vehicle in a space designated for physically handicapped persons when such vehicle does not display the distinguishing license plate or placard as provided in this section where appropriate aboveground signs or symbol and words giving notice thereof are erected marking the designated parking space. It shall be unlawful for any person not qualifying for the rights and privileges extended to handicapped persons under this section to exercise or attempt to exercise such rights or privileges by the unauthorized use of a distinguishing license plate or placard issued pursuant to the provisions of this section. The punishment for violation of this section shall not exceed a fine of ten dollars ($10.00) and the prima facie rule of evidence set forth in G.S. 20-162.1 shall apply.”
If you need a handicap parking permit visit the following site for more information: https://www.dmv.org/nc-north-carolina/disabled-drivers.php