If you abuse an accessible parking permit, you will lose it. That is the message Toronto Police Parking Enforcement wanted to get across by retaining 293 permits over the last two weeks.
The “Abuse It and Lose It” campaign not only saw 293 permits retained, they also issued 916 tickets after inspecting 1,600 permits.
In Ontario, there are 700,000 people with accessible parking permits and over 500,000 live within an hour’s drive of Toronto.
An accessibility permit allows drivers to park for free on Toronto streets as well as in marked accessibility spots in parking lots, however people are often driving vehicles without the permit holder in the car, but still using the benefits it’s meant to provide for those with actual disabilities.
“The majority of the abuse is people using other permits – a family member or friend will use it to park in spaces close to doors in malls and shopping centres, as well as to gain a free exemption on the street,” says Parking Enforcement Officer Scott Wylie.
This misuse affects people who actually need accessible parking spots, says Wylie.
“They will take up a space that the disabled person requires, for their convenience, and now the person who needs the spot is out of the convenience or may not even be able to attend the store because they can’t walk that distance,” he says.
Debbie, who has a driver/passenger permit, meaning the permit allows her to be a driver or passenger in the car, says that often she sees people abusing accessibility spots at the mall.
“They’ll park right there and be running into the store,” she says, adding that when she is feeling okay and her leg is not hurting, she won’t take up an accessibility spot since other people may need it more.
The same goes for Anne, who was happy to see Parking Enforcement enforcing the law.
“You see people parking without a permit and they seem to get away with it,” she says. “Sometimes I can walk, but there are times when I need to get close and you want to say something but you get verbal abuse… I’ve tried it a couple of times but I am not going to do it anymore because the language that comes out of their mouths is terrible.”
If someone is caught using a permit that is not issued to them, they will be fined $450 if in an accessibility spot. If they are parked on a street and not paying for parking by using a permit, the fine is $30, says Brain Moniz, Operational Supervisor at Parking Enforcement.
On top of the ticket, the person is also charged under the Highway Traffic Act which can be a fine anywhere from $300 to $5,000, after which they will have to go to court to get the permit back.
While people feign excuses when caught, Wylie says that the permit clearly states who can use it under what capacity. He stops a woman to check her permit. Immediately, he can read the code on the permit and see that it belongs to a man, and there is no man in the car. He asks her why she was using it and the woman says she had a child with her.
“Not a reason to park in this spot,” he tells her, as he retains her permit.
In a two-week period, they have retained 20 per cent of permits compared to the overall total of last year, which was 1,057, showing how rampant the abuse of accessibility permits can be if it’s gone unchecked.
“It’s a real inconvenience for those who really need it,” says Wylie.