Please leave handicapped parking stalls to those who need them

There are some things that bother me more than they do others; I’m sure, this is one of those issues.

There are some things that bother me more than they do others; I’m sure, this is one of those issues.

The other day, I arrived at a local bank to do business. As I entered the bank, I noticed a vehicle pulling into the handicapped-designated parking stall without having the required handicap permit. As I entered the bank, a second vehicle parked in the remaining handicapped stall — also without the required blue sign. The driver of the second vehicle joined the line behind me, at which point I asked, (stepping out of my comfort zone) “Do you realize that you have parked in a handicapped parking?” To which she responded, “So?” I continued: “Doesn’t it bother you that a handicapped person will have to park someplace else where they will struggle to get out?”

“No,” she replied with a calm expression. I again commented: “Perhaps you don’t know there is a fine that you’ll get if you continue to park there.” This time there was no comment, to which I responded: “Lady, just go move your car!’’

Was I obnoxious, or reasonably challenging? After a few seconds, she muttered a few words under her breath, went out to her car and drove away.

This kind of apathy bothers me, but this time I decided to push the issue, inquiring how the RCMP, Red Deer city, local mall/plaza owners, local businesses, the province of Alberta, our local MLAs and the Canadian Paraplegic Association of Red Deer feel towards and handle these sorts of situations.

I found that the RCMP will issue a $150 fine if called upon by the business owner in accordance with local bylaws (it’s $500 in Fort McMurray). Also in accordance to these bylaws, the City of Red Deer issued 438 citations in 2011, mostly issuing the penalty to violators within city-monitored areas. Large shopping malls have established security where handicapped zones are monitored with offenders being issued tickets, but as to the majority of occurrences within Red Deer, these lawbreakers go unchallenged, without consequence.

Most plazas/business owners do not have a specific policy or practice in hand that deals with this impacting issue. I do applaud our provincial government for implementing legislation to deal with housing issues for the handicapped. Restructuring of sidewalk curbs for handicapped pedestrians . . . no longer an issue!

To my amazement, I found that the Alberta government has only a complementary authority to issue the required placards for restricted handicapped parking, because there is no specific legislation that deals with this issue, other than managing it through local municipal bylaws.

Confronted with this discovery, I wondered if perhaps the mayor and council should consider a revision to the bylaws to include a more comprehensive monitoring and increased punitive action to help remedy this problem. The physically handicapped with whom I spoke said that they would heartily approve of this reaction.

Other communities have challenged vehicle idling bylaws and smoking prohibitions in public areas. All of these being valid concerns. Yet, even more so is the immediate issue of handicapped parking and accessibility to those who truly need it. David Manderville of the Canadian Paraplegic Association of Red Deer, himself a quadriplegic, suggested that it really is an issue of “social courtesy vs. personal apathy.” I like that statement, it’s one that challenges me to become a better person by considering the simple needs of others around me — such as those who struggle with physical handicaps.

Is it bigger and better signage for handicapped parking stalls that is needed? How about increased monitoring and stiffer penalties to violators, maybe? To the lady at the bank: Thank you for moving your car! There are people like David Manderville who are ever so grateful to drivers who leave the handicapped zones to those who truly need it.

From myself, to others in the bank line . . . make the challenge for fairness on behalf of those who are struggling with their physical handicap. It’s not an obnoxious statement, but one of concern for the rights of others.

Just to let you know, I am a reasonably fit and healthy oilfield worker; it is my sister who has become physically handicapped and is in need of designated parking zones, which help her in her daily struggle to exist.

Daniel Peter Cramer

Red Deer