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City should park new decal program

Disabled access to city spots meant to be more inclusive

A new parking decal program for the disabled may be making it harder for them to find a spot in city-controlled lots.

Thats the fear Michael Pan has for his 93-year-old father, Peter, who still drives, has a handicapped parking sign in his car, but was surprised to recently find a warning ticket stuck to his windshield.

Pan said his father was out for dinner and left his car in a city-owned parking spot roadside on Park Road and thought his handicapped sign was enough to allow him free parking.

While that used to be the case, since last October, Richmond has fallen in line with other cities doing away with that provision.

In its place in Richmond, the disabled can apply for the People With Disabilities (PWD) decal that allows parking free of charge for two hours in city-owned spaces. But, to qualify for the new decal, applicants need to demonstrate their inability to operate the pay parking machines.

Ella Huang, executive director of Richmond Centre for Disability, told the News the new program, open only to Richmond residents, is principally for those using wheelchairs who cannot properly access the parking ticket machines due to their height above the pavement.

Sometimes, when a (disabled) driver is by themselves and do not have any other help, they cannot see up high enough to operate the machines, Huang said.

The aim of the new program, which started signing up applicants in July, is to make the city more inclusive, Huang added. But in Pans mind, its the complete opposite.

He said his father who has been driving for close to 60 years has no problem being at the right height to access and operate the parking ticket machines. Where he runs into problems is traversing the distance from where he parks to the machine, since city-run lots have centralized ticket machines and not individual meters for each parking space.

He has a mobility issue and has to use a cane or a walker, Pan said. So, hes not always able to easily get to where the ticket machines are. If he can get a spot very close to the machine, not a problem.

Under the guidelines for the PWD decal, Pans father would not qualify for the program.

But RCDs Huang said all is not lost since those with mitigating circumstances can make that clear when applying and a panel can make a special ruling whether or not the decal is issued.

Still, Pan believes the need to apply and be tested in order to qualify for a second parking permit is humiliating. He also questioned the testing practice.

Usually, when you have to prove something, you go to a professional, for example, a family doctor, or a specialist to actually prove you have a motion problem, he said. This is something quite unreasonable.

If someone has already demonstrated they are handicapped, why put more pressure on them, because most handicapped people or people with disabilities are seniors, Pan said. They should be given some kind of leeway.