(Update: Adding video, information from Bend PD)
For people with disabilities, finding adequate parking spots can be challenge
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After experiencing multiple incidents with people unlawfully parking in ADA access aisles, a Bend family wanted to spread awareness about what the white-striped spaces next to parking spots mean for people with disabilities
Bend parents Jessica and Mark Beare told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday they have experienced similar situations at least twice a month.
“Another car had parked about 6 inches over the white striped lines and Bella was not able to get into the vehicle because we needed a bit of extra space,” Jessica Beare said.
She said she and her husband enjoy taking their 6-year-old daughter, Bella, with them on errands, but sometimes it can be challenging to find an adequate parking space.
Bella was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Merosin Deficient Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, also known as MDC1A or LAMA2. This means her muscles do not form properly and she has very low strength.
Because of her condition, Bella uses a powered wheelchair to get around.
The Beares said she often has to wait in a parking lot so her parents can find a van-accessible parking spot that would allow them to deploy their ramp for Bella to get back inside the vehicle.
According to the ADA, a van-accessible parking space requires three additional features, in addition to a standard ADA parking space.
They must include a wider access aisle of at least 96 inches to accommodate a wheelchair lift, a vertical clearance to accommodate van height and an adjacent access aisle, and an additional sign that identifies the space as “van-accessible.”
The family said having to wait outside while her parents find adequate parking has been the norm for Bella since she was 3, and she's not alone.
Dianna Hansen, executive director of the Central Oregon Disability Support Network in Bend, said other common challenges for people with disabilities include cars blocking the sidewalk in driveways, or not leaving enough space for people to open their car door wide enough for them to get out in standard ADA parking spaces.
“It’s not just extra space. It’s not a place to park real quick if you need to run into the store,” Hansen said. “It’s not only disrespectful or not courteous, it is against the law.”
Oregon law states parking in a space designated for people with disabilities is a Class A traffic violation. It also states people who violate the law could face a minimum fine of $190 for the first offense.
The Bend Police Department said in the past year, it has issued citations to 208 people who have illegally parked in a parking space for people with disabilities. It has also given out five warnings.
“We see it all the time, every day,” Hansen said. “You can be in town, and if you pay attention, you’ll see people parked there unlawfully.”
Hansen said people must have a parking permit designated for people with disabilities to use the ADA spaces.
However, she said she has heard judgment on both sides.
“We also see people commenting about people who get out of their cars who do have those placards and appear to be walking just fine,” she said. “Oftentimes, some of those people do have things like multiple sclerosis or things that don’t allow them to walk very far.”
Bella’s parents said they just want more people to be aware of what the white stripes mean.
“We just try to remain positive,” Beare said. “We just say, ‘You know what? These people probably didn’t understand how important it was to us.’”
To learn more about Bella’s story, visit the Facebook page, Beare It For Bella.