November is Accessible Parking Awareness Month!
Accessible parking is a frequent topic of discussion in our outreach, Accessible Community Forums (ACFs), and our affiliated societies’ regular programming. This November for Accessible Parking Awareness Month, we are excited to have partnered with the Social Planning and Resource Council of BC (SPARC BC) to help raise awareness on common barriers to parking encountered by our community.
Join us this month in sharing your lived experiences with accessible parking on social media with the hashtag #SpotTaken, discuss possible improvements with a group of panelists in December 3rd’s Accessible Parking Community Forum, and help better the understanding of this important and often misunderstood need for over 100,000 people living with disabilities in British Columbia.
Why is accessible parking important?
What is accessible parking?
Designated accessible parking spaces enable people with mobility limitations, health conditions, or other challenges to have safe access to buildings and services in the community. These parking spaces are larger in size, near the entrance of the building, and painted with an accessibility symbol.
Accessible parking is governed by theMotor Vehicle Act which defines a person with a disability as a person whose mobility is limited as a result of a permanent or temporary disability that makes it impossible or difficult to walk. Acquired through SPARC BC’s Parking Permit Program for People with Disabilities*, valid permit holders can park in a designated accessible parking space anywhere in BC, elsewhere in Canada or even outside of Canada. Learn more about accessible parking permits in BC.
*Around British Columbia, some communities have organizations that operate parking permit programs independently from SPARC BC.
- Disability Resource Center – Victoria
- Independent Living – Vernon
- Nanaimo Disability Resource Centre – Nanaimo
- People in Motion – Kamloops
- Richmond Centre for Disability – Richmond
- Seniors Advocacy Service – Quesnel
SPARC BC also has point of service partnerships with local government in Powell River, City of West Kelowna, and District of Lake Country.
Why are accessible parking spaces needed?
Accessible communities are inclusive communities.
People who qualify for accessible parking permits may need these designated spaces for;
- Extra space for getting in and out of the vehicle
- Need to park close to a building entrance if health conditions prevent an individual from walking very far
- Space for crutch, a cane or other forms of mobility aids
Not only are these spaces needed to help many reach day-to-day businesses and services, well designed accessible parking spaces provide accommodations for independence and active participation in the community. Safe and equitable access to parking can make the difference for someone choosing to leave their home, learn to drive, or even where to live.
Our mission and how it applies
The Disability Foundation’s mission is, through our six affiliated societies, to provide accessible and meaningful opportunities for people with disabilities to enable their individual journeys. In order to join many of those opportunities, accessible parking is necessary but often unavailable or unsuitable for our clients, staff, and volunteers. We believe equitable access to infrastructure such as accessible parking is crucial to a truly inclusive society.
By participating in our Accessible Parking Awareness Month campaign, you can help us with our vision to empower and inspire people with disabilities to re-imagine what’s possible.
What barriers are BC permit holders encountering?
Whether it’s the availability of properly designed spots, the misuse of those spots by non-permit holding drivers, or the stigma surrounding the need of these spaces – there are many areas where parking improvements are needed in British Columbia.
One of the key issues regularly encountered by permit holders is the availability of appropriately designed accessible spaces. Unfortunately, of the few parking spaces labelled as being accessible, many do not provide enough space for ramps or other mobility devices to exit the vehicle or have obstacles blocking the path of travel to the door. The spot itself is not the only consideration; parking meters and pay stations may be inaccessibly placed or require prohibitive levels of manual dexterity to operate.
Not only this, there are reported instances of accessible parking spots being converted to family parking, electric car charging, or V.I.P. spaces. We have even heard of businesses using their accessible parking to store plowed snow in the winter!
SPARC BC has an excellent video to show what proper accessible parking should have.
The current regulations for accessible parking in British Columbia have been repeatedly shown to be inadequate. SPARC BC is currently working with several local government partners in the province to address these concerns. Read our section on how you can help below for more information on getting involved.
Misuse of accessible parking spaces is a common and frustrating issue for permit holders. Drivers without permits, with expired permits, or who are using another person’s permit illegally park in accessible spaces, taking them away from someone with a valid permit.
It is not uncommon for our community members to report someone telling them “I’ll only be a minute,” leaving them to wait for the space to become available or park at the far end of the lot where there is often more room. Not only is this behaviour obnoxious (and illegal!), it can put someone in an unsafe situation where they may need to traverse a parking lot in a wheelchair, where they are much less visible to other drivers.
Many permit holders report that poor enforcement of the law is the main reason for instances of misuse and suggest that increasing fines may help prevent it. There is also a lot of confusion over who is responsible for enforcing parking violations of this nature, since public and private lots operate under different regulations.
SPARC BC is working with municipalities throughout the province to help address concerns related to accessible parking misuse, but this issue can be difficult to fight. If you are interested in getting involved, read our “How can I help” section below to learn how to build increased public education and awareness around the needs of people with disabilities in your community.
There are often instances where individuals with valid parking permits have disabilities that are hidden or invisible to those around them. In these cases, permit holders have reported being confronted in parking lots from those questioning their need for accessible parking. These negative experiences can be uncomfortable or even traumatic, lending to many in need of accommodation not using the designated spaces out of fear.
To help address the stigma surrounding the use of accessible parking, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Do not approach someone you believe is misusing a spot; it is not your responsibility to determine someone’s level of need
- Instead, report instances of suspected misuse by calling SPARC BC’s Accessibility and Enforcement line (604-718-7734) or by emailing them at email@example.com
- If you are worried about being confronted for your legal use of an accessible parking space, SPARC BC offers both gentle enforcement cards as well as cards that speak to the specific needs of people with invisible disabilities. Contact SPARC to get a card.
How can I help?
There are many ways you can help spread awareness and demonstrate the need for adequate accessible parking regulations. Here are some options:
Report accessible parking violations by calling SPARC BC’s Accessibility and Enforcement line (604-718-7734) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you do come across a situation where you face poorly designed or misused accessible parking, report your experience. With each call or email, SPARC can direct you to the right enforcement service, collect data on frequent violations, and work with government partners to address your concern. Learn more about accessibility and enforcement.
You can learn more about what SPARC BC does to advocate and enforce accessible parking by watching their ConnecTogether presentation on November 1st.
Take ConnecTra and SPARC BC’s Accessible Parking Survey and attend the virtual forum on December 3rd
For International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD) on December 3rd, the ConnecTra Society will be co-hosting an Accessible Community Forum on the topic of Accessible Parking in British Columbia with SPARC BC. Join members of the disability community online as they share opinions, questions, and concerns with a panel of representatives responsible for parking advocacy, design and legislation. Start the conversation by completing the Accessible Parking survey by November 26, 2021.
Take the Accessible Parking in BC Survey. The survey closes November 26th at 11:59pm
Register to join the virtual Accessible Parking Community Forum on December 3rd. Tickets will be available starting November 8th.
Share your experience on social media using the hashtag #SpotTaken
One of the best ways to demonstrate the everyday impact of poor accessible parking is by sharing your personal experience on social media. Throughout November, we will be re-sharing a selection of posts from our community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that use the hashtag #SpotTaken. Don’t forget to tag the Disability Foundation and SPARC BC!
Note: when sharing your experience, please do not mention specific businesses or people. This campaign is meant to demonstrate the widespread nature of accessible parking concerns – NOT shaming.
Follow us on social media for campaign updates:
|The Disability Foundation:||SPARC BC:|
|@The Disability Foundation||@socialplanningresearchbc|
|Disability Foundation||SPARC BC|
Write to your local government through their bylaw and enforcement or accessibility committee
Writing to your local government’s bylaw and enforcement or accessibility committee is an effective way to build attention towards legislative matters like proper accessible parking codes. These letters, especially when received from multiple citizens, can help government officials determine what issues are most important to address.
The more personal you make your letter, the better impact it may have. To help make the process of writing this letter easy, we have drafted a template you can fill in with your information and lived experiences to mail or email your local representative.
Download our Letter to Local Government Template
Not sure where to send the letter or to whom it should be addressed? You can find the contact information for your local government representatives on the Civic Info BC website.
Make a donation or get involved
Many non-profit organizations in British Columbia are working to advocate for the needs of people with disabilities in the areas surrounding accessible parking. Consider supporting them in the form of a donation or by joining their advocacy efforts.
Some of these organizations include;
The Social Planning and Resource Council of BC (SPARC BC): Established in 1966, SPARC BC’s mission is to work with communities to build a more just and healthy society for all. For over 50 years, they have worked in partnership with individuals, organizations and all levels of government to meet the social development needs of people and communities to promote positive social policy change. Learn more about SPARC BC’s impact or make a donation.
The ConnecTra Society: In hosting ConnecTogether events and Accessible Community Forums, the ConnecTra Society (an affiliated society of the Disability Foundation) connects British Columbians with disabilities with a variety of governmental, organizational, and advocacy representatives. Join their forum on Accessible Parking on December 3rd to voice your experiences with accessible parking barriers in BC. Donate to ConnecTra.
SCI-BC’s South Fraser Active Living Group (SFALG): The South Fraser Active Living Group started as a Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI-BC) Peer coffee group but has evolved into so much more. Join this friendly and dedicated team of people with disabilities to get involved with advocacy efforts to help bring accessible recreation and fitness opportunities to those living in Surrey, North Delta and the Fraser Valley. Join the SFAL group on Facebook or donate to SCI-BC.
Accessible Parking BC: The Accessible Parking in BC group, founded by David Willows in 2018, works to promote good design and provision of accessible parking in British Columbia; educating and supporting its lawful use and enforcement. Follow the Accessible Parking BC Facebook page.
The Disability Foundation: Although the Disability Foundation is focused on providing opportunities for people with disabilities through six affiliated societies, we release awareness campaigns (like this one!) to support the voices and needs of our community. You can help us with this by making a donation or becoming a volunteer with one or more of our societies.