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New Brunswick Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

Don’t Be A Parking Police – All Is Not As it Appears!

Don’t Be A Parking Police – All Is Not As it Appears!

Text by Murielle Pitre

Photo of a designated parking space for people with disabilities
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Let’s face it, Vigilante Justice is not a good look. And this stands true in all forms of “policing” from the general public. This includes deciding to take it upon yourself to right a (perceived) wrong when you see someone you believe should not be parking in a parking spot reserved for those with disabilities. Given the fact that these parking spots are mostly identified by the very recognizable International Symbol of Access consisting of a wheelchair stick figure on a bright blue background, it may not come as a surprise that many people think (wrongly) that these spaces are reserved only for people who use wheelchairs or, at the very least, some type of mobility aid. However, this could not be further from the truth! There are MANY conditions that will qualify you for a parking placard, and they are not all visible! For example, Fibromyalgia is not (always) visible but can be very limiting – especially after having spent two hours in a huge store, hunting down your purchases. Or imagine having COPD, or you have to go to the grocery store despite the fact that you have just gone through chemo and you are so exhausted you can barely put one foot in front of the other. And now, you can ad Long-Covid into that mix. In other words, seeing is not always believing. As much as you may want to be a well-meaning ally and advocate, it is best that you trust the judgement of the professional who assessed the person in obtaining the parking placard. Do not forget that if the person has the placard, they have been assessed by a doctor or another type of health practitioner. Even if the person doesn’t have a placard, making assumptions might not be a good idea. With so many challenges in the medical system – including so many not having an assigned family doctor – the person might be waiting to see someone about getting the parking permit application approved. Causing them more stress by approaching them about the parking may not be the kindest thing you can do to a person who is already facing many challenges. We just don’t know.

Different Provinces, Different Approaches

Per Transport Canada web page “…parking badge policies and programs for persons with disabilities come under provincial and territorial government authority. These governments then delegate the responsibility for enacting and enforcing their own bylaws on parking permits and the use of designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities, to cities and municipalities. As a result, parking badge policies for persons with disabilities may vary from one jurisdiction to another.

This explains why the bylaws will vary from one province to another. For example, some provinces’ (Ontario as an example) regulations have two different types of parking spaces; Type A and Type B. Type A is wider and described as “Van Accessible”; Type B would be everything else. Here in New Brunswick, no distinction is made.

Follow this link from Transport Canada to access a description of how provinces differ or what they all have in common, along a link to each province’s application process (including New Brunswick).

This following document is long, and doing a Ctrl-F keyword search with the word “parking” is advisable.

I want to Help… What Can I Do?

The key to solving the problem of unauthorized persons using parking spaces designated for persons with disabilities is, quite simply, to raise awareness. Raising awareness can be done in many forms, but should be done respectfully as doing so in a confrontational way will very seldom lead to nothing but trouble. After all, do you really know who you are approaching? And my goodness, lead by example. Never say “Oh, I’m just here for a second to drop something off“. That very second could be the second where someone needing the space drives up and ends up having to leave because there is no parking spot accessible to them.

Raising Awareness

The following was taken directly (word for word) from and we LOVE IT! Please follow the link to read the article in its entirety.

1.    Awareness. We need to increase awareness of why people with disabilities need accessible parking. You can read more about this here.
2.    Enforcement. Accessible parking should be strictly enforced strictly at large venues such as malls and movie theatres by security staff. There should also be a way to easily report abusers to security staff without having to confront them ourselves, which could be dangerous.
3.    Remember, and heed, the law. Just because the vehicle you’re in has an accessible placard doesn’t mean you should use an accessible spot if you don’t have a disability.
4.    Understand the diverse types of accessible needs. The growing need for different parking needs like pregnancy moms or new parent spots, and accessible spots that are wide enough to accommodate all types of chairs/assistive mobility devices.
5.    Rethink the symbol. Instead of using the traditional image of a static wheelchair to represent accessible parking, maybe we need to come up with a more modern and broad take on what it means to have an accessibility need. ** (Note from NBCPD : ** We soooo agree with this! It’s time!!)

Take our Poll! Do YOU think the International Disability Symbol is now outdated? Let us know!

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