By: Mack Marsh
Project Director of Access Empowerment and responsible for the daily operations of the Parking Mobility program to end “accessible parking abuse”. Most importantly, Mack is “Dad” to two children and is actively involved in their school and sports careers. On any given weekend, Mack and the boys can be found at any local fishing spot, camping in the great outdoors or on an adventure pushing the boundaries of their abilities. Since Mack’s injury, he and the boys have planned a different adventure every year, the only requirement is that it has to include something they haven’t done before.
15 years ago I experienced a C7 spinal cord injury. I use a powerchair and drive a ramp van. After my injury, it became apparent there were hurdles and barriers to accessing my community. As Dad to two active boys, this seemed to be magnified. My biggest disappointment was finding that accessible parking abuse seemed the one barrier that didn’t need to be. Countless trips to ball-parks, restaurants, movies, school functions…just about everywhere we would see people parking without a plate or placard. Or we’d come out from a fun evening to find a car parked in the access aisle blocking the entrance to my van. Confrontation wasn’t the answer and didn’t work, it always escalated and everyone left angry.
Seven years ago, a group of friends and I were talking about accessible parking abuse and decided that evening to do something about it. We developed the “Parking Mobility” App to gather data to show the extent of the problem. We started talking to police, judges, prosecutors, administrators and community leaders. We found a vast misunderstanding of the issue. Cops didn’t see it as a priority; Judges didn’t want to punish the disability community; prosecutors dismissed 80% of violations and community leaders didn’t even know it was a problem.
Using data gathered through the “Parking Mobility” App, we demonstrated the extent of the problem and proposed a solution…the “Parking Mobility Program”. People using the App are given the opportunity to become trained volunteers, their reports using the App are then converted to a citation that is mailed to the owner of the vehicle. That person is given 3 options:
- Pay the fine
- Request a court date to say why they’re not guilty
- Pay a reduced fee and take an online course to learn:
- The laws and rules of accessible parking
- The importance of accessible parking
- The contributions that people with disabilities offer to the community
The program is proving a HUGE success. In one community in Texas, we have reduced violations by 80%…volunteers complain they can’t find violations to report…a great problem to have. Our community partners love the program because it provides a positive approach to solving a problem and doesn’t rely on punishment alone. Community leaders love it because the program generates more revenue than it costs to run. And the disability community loves it because it puts the solution to a problem in their own hands.
This App, now working in one or two communities, is a great idea. It has also has contract proposals for full development submitted in Illinois, Oregon, Florida and New York because people have used the App to help gather data that is critical to educating their community leaders. For more information on how it works go to, www.parkingmobility.com or visit www.facebook.com/ParkingMobility.