Disability parking: Know the rules

Hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities in the State of Minnesota have valid disability parking certificates; far fewer have disability license plates. The vast majority of people using disability parking certificates and plates are older individuals; as our society ages, the number of users is expected to grow dramatically. It’s more important than ever to park and drive responsibly, and know the rules. We as a community need to be considerate, responsible and legal when using disability parking.

• Disability parking spaces must be kept clear of snow and ice. According to Minnesota Statute 169.346, Disability Parking Areas. Subd. 2a. “Parking space free of obstruction; penalty. The owner or manager of the property on which the designated parking space is located shall ensure that the parking space and associated access aisle are kept free of obstruction. If the owner or manager does not have the parking space properly posted or allows the parking space or access aisle to be blocked by snow, merchandise, or similar obstructions for 24 hours after receiving a warning from a peace officer, the owner or manager is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $500.”

• If you are not driving a lift or ramp-equipped van and there are other disability parking spaces available, please do not park in the van-accessible space. The van-accessible space has an 8-foot access aisle and when you deploy a ramp or lift off the side of a van, you need the space. Get into the practice of looking for the van-accessible spaces and if you don’t need the extra space, leave it for someone who does!

On a related note, the building code was amended in 2007 to require all new and reconfigured or redesigned disability parking spaces to have an 8 foot wide access aisle. It will take some time for all the disability parking in the state to be redesigned, so be patient.

• Do not park on the striped access aisles in between the parking spaces. The access aisles are used by individuals who use mobility devices, such as walkers and wheelchairs. Individuals need that space to be unobstructed so that they can get into and out of their vehicles. When someone parks incorrectly, and parks on the striped area, they need to know that not only is it inconsiderate, but that person could get a ticket for obstructing disability parking for someone else.

• Do not drive with the disability parking certificate hanging from your rear view mirror. It is against the law to drive with the certificate obstructing your view. Look closely; it states this directly on the certificate and yet every day I see people doing it. Last summer I received a call from a motorcycle rider who was almost killed when another driver pulled his car out in front of the oncoming motorbike. When asked, the driver of the car simply said he didn’t see the motorbike; the certificate was obstructing his view. It does happen. Get into the habit of taking the certificate off the rear view mirror when you’re driving and putting it up when you park.

If we practice being responsible and follow the guidelines above, disability parking will be more available to the drivers with disabilities who need these spaces. For more information on laws regarding disability parking, please feel free to contact Margot Imdieke Cross at 651-361-7800 (v/tty), 1-800-945-8913 (v/tty) or margot.imdieke@state.mn.us

-Minnesota State Council on Disability