Ithaca College Parking Services has created a new parking policy requiring students who have accessible hangtags for their vehicles to get them validated in an effort to maximize handicap parking spots.
The college’s parking services, in collaboration with Human Resources, Student Accessibility Services and the Office of General Counsel, launched a new initiative effective Fall 2017. Carl Cohen, Parking Services supervisor, said students, faculty and staff members of the college must go to parking services to have their state-issued accessible hangtag validated by Sept. 29.
He said that those who go to parking services to get their hangtags validated will receive a registration sticker to place on the back of their rear-view mirror of their primary vehicle. The sticker is verified through the expiration date on the permit. To apply for a validation sticker, drivers must have their license and state-issued accessible parking permit. If the hangtag was issued outside of New York State, they must have documentation from their municipality or department of motor vehicles.
Frequent visitors to the campus will also need to receive a validation sticker. Physical therapy students have clients who visit for treatment. Cohen said the clients have reserved parking spaces on campus, but sometimes the clients have to use the accessible parking spaces.
He said that rather than making the clients come to parking services to verify their hangtags, the clinic staff will send a photo of the hangtag and their driver’s license, which will be put into the parking services system. The validation sticker will be sent by campus mail to the clinic.
In 2015, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found that the college had “compliance concerns with respect to the number of accessible spaces, location, slope, width, ground surface and signage” in all 32 of the parking lots they examined. There are a total of 34 parking lots on campus.
The college has been working toward addressing these issues, and over the summer repaved U-Lot, O-Lot and P-Lot to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Cohen said that prior to the new initiative, parking services faced a couple of challenges: They do not have a database to keep track of those who need accessible parking spots on campus, and students use hangtags that were not issued to them. He said this initiative is to make sure students who need accessible parking spots are able to use them.
Cohen said the process to obtain an accessible hangtag is regulated by the government and that hangtags have to be state-issued. He said that when the college decided to end screening and rely on government–issued hangtags, parking services lost their ability to know who on campus needed these accommodations.
In the last two weeks, Cohen said he has caught five individuals using someone else’s hangtag in order to use the accessible parking spots. For example, a driver might use a hangtag of a friend or relative.
According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, there is a legal requirement for how many accessible parking spots a public space should have. Since 2010, in public parking lots there needs to be “one of every six accessible parking spaces, or fraction thereof, must be ‘van-accessible.’” Cohen said the campus has approximately 126 accessible spots.
Senior Abby Quinn said she likes the new policy because she knows it is hard to find accessible parking spots, especially when those who don’t need the spaces take them up. Quinn said she has had some frustrating experiences with finding an accessible parking spot.
“It’s tricky for me because I identify as having an episodic invisible mobility disability, so I have flare–ups, but for people who definitely need the accessible parking, I could imagine how frustrating it is,” Quinn said. “When you go to the academic building there is no accessible parking, and then you still end up parking across campus in an accessible spot.”
Junior Nick O’Brien said he is unhappy with the new changes because he believes it is not going to fix anything in regard to accessible parking on campus.
“It’s a load of b-—–t,” O’Brien said. “We’re already having enough problems getting around and now they want us to go somewhere else, to do another thing, just so they can have paperwork done. If they actually wanted to help us, they would make more accessible spots near the academic buildings.”
O’Brien said that as a student in the School of Music, there are not enough handicap parking spots near the building. Outside of the library, there are four accessible spots. Closest to the James J. Whalen Center for Music is G-Lot, outside of Hill Center, which has two accessible spots.At the parking lots located at J-Lot, outside of Towers and Terrace Dining Hall, there are nine handicap accessible spaces, but only a couple are close to Whalen.
He said he sent an email to Student Accessibility Services about this accessible parking issue and in response, they worked to create this new policy to maximize parking for students who need these spots. O’Brien said he can understand how creating a database might help, but there are still issues getting around. He said students should be able to send an email with their information instead of going to parking services.
“Overall, this campus was built before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, and when it was passed, they, like many institutions all across the country, did the bare requirement,” O’Brien said.
Junior Joseph Gutberlet he said he has struggled with getting a parking spot in the past and has received many citations for parking in maintenance spaces.
“It could help, but I don’t see how many students have handicap passes, especially coming to Ithaca, it’s not really a handicap accessible campus, which drives a lot of students away,” Gutberlet said. “I don’t think the campus has been interested in [accessibility] in the past, but now they are.”
Cohen said if students who need to have their accessible hangtags validated by the deadline, they are still able to go through the process. Cohen said at the beginning of October, parking services will begin issuing “friendly reminders” in place of parking tickets to those who don’t have a validation sticker. After three reminders, drivers will begin receiving parking tickets. If a student can prove the accessible parking permit is theirs, the ticket will be dropped.