Volunteers help crack down on disabled parking abuse

Parking sign reserved for disabled driver.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Getting around town for many of us isn’t a second thought. But for those who are disabled, the daily task of finding a parking spot can turn into an ordeal.

Laurie Allen is a self-proclaimed “baby quad,” meaning she has been living as a quadriplegic for just over two years. “I’m just now really getting out and about and being a lot more independent,” Allen says.

“Parking has presented a whole new set of challenges for me as I am getting out and about.” She says many times accessible parking spaces are either taken by drivers who shouldn’t be parked there. She says she often sees motorcyclists park within the white striped lines or even empty grocery carts sitting in an accessible parking spot.

Most Common Violators
Older/Middle-aged women
Caucasian
Upper-middle income

Allen says this is why it’s so important to better educate everyone about accessible parking. “For the most part, it’s not malice, people just don’t know.”

Parking Mobility is a nonprofit community education and enforcement program designed to efficiently address accessible parking abuse in the community.

Currently, both Hays and Travis counties work with Parking Mobility to have volunteer programs where citizens can report accessible parking violations by taking three photos and sending them to police thru the Parking Mobility app.  Police review the information and then decide if a ticket will be issued. Approximately 200 trained volunteers are able to issue citations to drivers who illegally park in an accessible spot, but anyone can use the app to report an issue they see. Project director with Parking Mobility, Mack Marsh, says they’re working on getting Williamson County on board.

People who receive citations through the Parking Mobility program can pay the fine ($500 minimum), request a court date if they believe they’re not guilty, or they can have the ticket dismissed if they complete an online class and pay an administrative fee. The organization says the vast majority of people receiving citations opt for the class.

“In five years running the program, we have 0 percent recidivism,” says Parking Mobility director Mack Marsh. “Contrast that with more than 80 percent recidivism before the education program.”

Parking Mobility takes the data it collects from citations to educate lawmakers, property managers and business owners to make places more accessible. “Get more people spending money on their businesses because they’re doing things the right way and being accessible to everybody,” says Marsh.

For Allen, she doesn’t want her condition to dictate where she can and cannot go. “I don’t want to be limited in where I can go and what I can do,” says Allen.

In areas where any parking is a premium, Parking Mobility is working to see if accessible parking spaces could be transitional throughout the day.

“So they’re accessible parking sometimes when the demand is there, and then they’re accessible to the general public the rest of the time,” explains Marsh.

On KXAN News at 6 p.m., Traffic Reporter Amanda Dugan shows you the most common mistakes people make when it comes to accessible parking.

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