In Manitoba, nearly 175,000 people live with disabilities, and over 427,000 live with chronic conditions.
Although these are two separate groups, people who have chronic diseases and people with disabilities can share certain barriers, such as a lack of accessible parking.
There are fines and penalties for using these designated areas improperly. However, even with fines of $150 to $300, the barrier still exists.
The Manitoba Parking Permit Program allows people to park in designated parking for persons with disabilities if they have difficulty walking more than 50 metres or need to use a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair. Permit holders receive a sign to hang in the window of a vehicle that has a person with a disability inside.
“I have two chronic illnesses, one affecting my bones and the other my lungs.
I require accessible parking to keep me safe. A fall can land me in the hospital for weeks,” Katia Guzzardi says.
“It’s disconcerting to see able-bodied people using accessible parking spots as ‘rock star’ parking, because they feel entitled to closer parking.”
In order to be eligible for a permit, a person has to submit an application with a doctor’s signature that confirms they require one.
However, some people with valid permits still experience confrontation from non-disabled individuals for using parking spaces designated for persons with disabilities. People with invisible disabilities, such as cystic fibrosis, fibromyalgia or early-stage multiple sclerosis, might find themselves in conflict due to the non-apparent nature of their ailment.
Another barrier occurs when people park in front of curb cuts, which people who use mobility aids require easy access to.
This occurs more often than it should, and it can pose a major problem, especially at medical facilities.
Imagine a patient who just finished a treatment like chemotherapy or dialysis. That patient is often sore, tired and sick.They should be able to access their vehicle with ease, whether it’s their own car or a medical transport vehicle.
The Winnipeg Parking By-Law states that no vehicle is permitted to stop or park in a designated parking space or loading zone that is meant for people with disabilities.
“I wish the general public would take the time to understand that by taking a handicap parking spot away from a disabled individual, they are then hindering their ability to enjoy activities safely and with ease,” Guzzardi says.
The designated parking spots are very clearly marked with signs, yet people still use these areas without a need for them or consideration of the barrier it creates.