Advocacy group, government announce awareness campaign
Cecilia Carroll can manoeuvre around a sheet of ice with ease, but when it’s piled up in a blue zone the curling lead says she doesn’t bother to get out of her car.
© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Blue-zone parking is essential for people like Cecilia Carroll, lead on Team Newfoundland and Labrador in Canadian Wheelchair Curling. But when the parking zone is full of ice, if it’s not marked or maintained properly or if it’s being misused by someone who doesn’t have a disabled parking permit — then that’s a problem for Carroll and the hundreds of other people with disabilities who rely on the Blue Zones for parking. So the provincial government and advocacy groups are trying doing something about it.
“I don’t think people understand just how vital it is for me to be able to park here as opposed to all the way over there through all the ice and snow to get to the ramp,” she said, pointing across the parking lot.
Carroll, the 2014 lead on team Newfoundland and Labrador in the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship, was at the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities-Newfoundland and Labrador (COD-NL) Wednesday for the launch of an accessible parking education and awareness campaign.
“To maintain my independence as an individual is extremely important,” she said.
“I don’t want to have to have somebody take me everywhere I need to go. I’m quite capable of doing it on my own. I just need a place to park, my chair and off I go,” said Carroll.
Service NL Minister Tony Cornect and Kelly White, executive director for COD-NL, said one of the goals of the campaign is to make businesses and organizations aware of the significance of having visible, accessible blue zone parking.
“Accessibility is vital in supporting inclusion, and blue zone parking is a key element to making our built environment accessible to all persons with disabilities, as it affects their mobility,” said White.
“We want to help businesses and municipalities understand the regulations and the best practices for them and have people with disabilities have the choice of where they work, go to school, socialize and shop,” she said.
The partnership began in 2012 and involves brochures for business owners, pamphlets for accessible parking permit holders and presentations to organizations.
It is designed to promote education and awareness of the proper designation of accessible parking, including the correct installation of signage and dimensions of spaces, as well as the proper use of the parking permit.
Service NL is responsible for the enforcement of accessible parking regulations.
“The legislation is vital to ensuring the health and well-being of persons with disabilities and operates with their best interests in mind with respect to safety, accessibility and convenience,” said Cornect.
The minister said the government strengthened the requirements in 2012 regarding the proper identification of spaces and increased the fines for parking in blue zones without a permit.
“We know through inspections and blitzes, a number of businesses have complied and done so quickly and we know others have struggled to comply,” said Cornect.
“This campaign and outreach will hopefully increase awareness and help those become fully compliant and we will continue to combat careless parking and obstruction of spaces,” he said.
White said part of the campaign includes a pamphlet for permit holders to explain their responsibilities as users of blue zones.
“Permit holders have to understand their obligations. They are only to be used by permit holders and are not transferrable to friends and family. We want people to understand it is not a privilege, it is a right,” she said.
The brochure and pamphlet can be viewed at codnl.ca and servicenl.gov.ca/licenses/building/index.html.
Fines for violations under the Buildings Accessibility Act:
•Corporations — $1,000 to $25,000;
•Individual Owners — $500 to $5,000; and
•$200 to $2,000 per day for each day the offence continues beyond the time specified to have it corrected.
Some guidelines for accessible parking permit holder:
•The permit is issued to the person who requires it, not to a specific vehicle.
•Only one permit is issued per person.
•The permit can be used in any vehicle that the permit holder is a passenger in.
•It is illegal to use a permit not issued to you.
•A permit must be displayed in the windshield of a vehicle occupying a designated accessible parking space.
•For proper identification, the permit number and expiry date must be visible.