Availability of disabled parking is concerning

In the last fiscal year 147 citations were given to people for parking in a handicap parking spot without a placard. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

Some students with disabilities have made complaints regarding the lack of availability of handicap parking spaces on campus.  

It’s been clear throughout the semester that students have gripes about the parking situation at USF, but many fail to include how much of a struggle it is for students with disabilities to not find accessible parking close to their destination. 

Deborah McCarthy, director of Students with Disabilities Services (SDS), said there are concerns among some of the department’s students. 

“SDS is aware of a number of concerns regarding accessibility and parking at USF,” McCarthy said. “SDS works closely with Parking and Transportation, Facilities, and DIEO (Diversity, Inclusion & Equal Opportunity) to ensure that we address both individual concerns and the longer-term issues of accessible parking on campus.”

McCarthy said there are solutions for these concerned students and that her office ensures they are accommodated. 

“Parking and Transportation provides a number of solutions to limited parking spaces for those with disabilities,” McCarthy said. “If the disabled spots in a specific location are full, anyone with a USF permit and a state disability plate or tag can park in other open spaces.  Bull Runners are accessible and SDS, DIEO and Parking and Transportation work together to solve individual concerns.”

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a worrisome issue, especially to able-bodied students. According to Aaron Nichols, assistant director of administrative services, there was 147 citations given to people parking in disabled spaces or ramps issued during the last fiscal year — July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 — and 45 issued since. 

The low number of citations issued for this offense could be due to the fact that parking is only enforced during business hours Monday through Friday, according to Captain Meg Ross. Although the Parking and Transportation website says parking can be enforced 24/7.

Though, as many students know, late hours in class or weekend trips to the library are usually a must while getting a degree. This common practice becomes much more difficult when students with disabilities can’t find the adequate parking they need and with the limited hours of the Bull Runner over the weekend, this leaves them with limited options. 

According to the Parking and Transportation Services website, all Bull Runner routes end at 5:30 p.m. Friday and only routes C, D and F run 2:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Monday through Friday, all service stops at midnight. While this is convenient for most students, it affords little freedom to students with disabilities. 

According to David Baldwin, a recent USF alumnus who had to utilize disabled parking during his time here, parking over the weekend and at night posed more problems than parking during the day Monday through Friday. 

“Especially on the weekend, I would struggle to find a parking spot because the parking rules do not appear to be enforced during nights or weekends,” Baldwin said. “Many times, students would use disabled parking stalls as places to wait for their friends inside the dorm — without a proper handicap placard or license plate. During my three years at USF, I would say it happened almost every weekend.”

According to the handicap parking signs around campus, the fine imposed for people who choose to park in disabled spots without the proper placard can be charged up to $250. However, Parking and Transportation Services could not be reached to confirm.

Ross said the role of University Police (UP) in issuing parking tickets on campus is limited. 

“After hours, if a handicap person is having an issue, we could assist,” Ross said. “Typically, for us to write a ticket, we would need the driver present, so we can’t tow it, but we could write a ticket. Without parking services here, I don’t think currently we have the ability to write their parking tickets, but we have in the past. We would still go out and assist in any way we could.”

Since UP can only offer limited services to disabled students in this capacity, disabled students have limited options during off-hours. 

“Parking and Transportation Services could definitely do more to make sure parking rules are enforced during the nights and weekends,” Baldwin said. “As you can imagine, during these times, there really is no one other than USF Police that would be able to handle these types of violations. That seems a waste of resources to call USF Police.”