AMES – Local 5 is On Your Side, asking if people have adequate access to handicap parking spaces.
We all know if you do not have a handicap placard, you cannot park in an accessible spot. But there are people with disabilities who might need specific parking spots more than others.
Accessible lanes next to handicap parking spaces are extremely important for people who have wheelchair ramps. They are often designated by yellow lines. But for Ames resident Shelley Jaspering, those spots are difficult to come by. She goes through the same scenario all too often when going to local stores like Target and Walmart, struggling to get in and out of van in the parking lot.
Jaspering has a spinal chord injury that forces her to be in a wheelchair. That means there is not a lot of space for her to move around her vehicle.
“I still would have to maneuver tightly, hop on the ramp,” Jaspering explained, showing Local 5 how difficult it is to navigate the narrow spaces.
Jaspering says the main issue is some people with handicaps who are not in wheelchairs, or those who do not need extra space, fill up “Van Accessible” spots. They are labeled that way because the yellow striped lanes next to them are wide than those next to normal handicap parking spots.
“I have a ramp on the passengers side and I need to be able to extend that out and be able to roll out of my vehicle and have enough space to exit and be able to access the curb cut,” Jaspering said.
But here is the problem: anyone with a handicap placard is allowed to park in the “Van Accessible” spots. So, what can be done?
It is not illegal, so do not call the police to file a report — it will not do anything. Local 5 asked stores in Ames is there is anything they can do to monitor the parking lot — the short answer is no. Your best bet is to take it up with the Iowa Department of Transportation.
“I just feel like the DOT should explain the importance of the access aisle,” Jaspering said.
Local 5 spoke with Andrea Henry with the Iowa Department of Transportation. She says to use the DOT’s general contact form online to report an issue.
“We really have not been made aware of this as a huge issue for us,” Henry said. “Of course we’re always willing to advocate and educate, however so we can make sure those people understand the proper way to park with a persons with disabilities card.”
In the past, the Iowa DOT has created campaigns if concerns are brought to them.
“If it’s something that’s a common misconception or something we can easily educate about, we use especially our social media channels to help educate people,” Henry said.
Jaspering plans on speaking with the Iowa DOT to get the ball rolling.
“If there was just more education on the important of that area, if the DOT could help just do a five minute video to explain he importance of leaving that area free,” Jaspering said.
Jaspering says she is also considering talking with lawmakers about her parking issues, to come up with potential legislation.
The Iowa DOT says someone monitors the online forms every day — and they are sent to the right people within the department who can address that certain issue.