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Violation of handicapped parking laws in a rural, southern town.

The use of handicapped parking spaces is a controversial and emotionally laden issue owing to the high incidence of illegal use. Consistently high handicapped parking violation rates have been reported for the past 20 years ranging from 20% to 76.6% (Cope & Allred, 1990; Cope & Allred, 1991; Cope, Allred & Morsell, 1991; Fletcher, 1995; Jason & Jung, 1984; Matthews, 1981; Suarez deBalcazar, Fawcett & Balcazar, 1988; Taylor, 1998). While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates provisions for adequate accessible reserved parking spaces, the frequent illegal use of these spaces negates the intent of the ADA, prevents independent functioning of people with disabilities, and promotes their social isolation (Burgdorf as cited in Fletcher, 1996). Suarez de Balcazar, Bradford and Fawcett (1993) reported that 8,607 of 13,000 persons with disabilities surveyed across 319 communities in 10 states identified enforcement of handicapped parking as a major problem. Fletcher (1996) noted that the widespread use of citizen patrols for enforcement of handicapped parking regulations provides solid evidence that the present system needs improvement. Taylor (1998) found violation rates were still very high, ranging from 44.0% in a smaller community to 76.6% in an urban area. This evidence indicates that, in spite of better signage, increased enforcement, and greater social awareness, a problem still exists (Fletcher, 2001).

Additional research on the illegal use of reserved handicapped parking spaces is needed to provide up-to-date information about this problem. While a number of studies have documented violation rates and tested methods to reduce them, only two researchers have interviewed individuals using handicapped parking spaces (Cope & Allred, 1990; Matthews, 1981). Matthews (1981) was the first to develop a classification scheme that examined the presence or absence of a mobility impairment and the presence or absence of a handicapped parking permit. The purpose of the present study was to re-examine violation rates using a modified version of Matthews' (1981) classification scheme and an interview format in the same physical location as the majority of studies conducted in the 1990s. In order to establish a more stable violation rate, data were collected over a two-year period at a variety of locations in one rural southern town. Violation rates during rush hour were compared to violation rates during other times. Other conditions under which violations occurred were also examined. Recommendations for physicians, enforcement personnel, the general public and individuals with disabilities were made. These included suggestions to improve access to handicapped parking.

Definitions

Differences in definitions across studies and in different states make comparisons difficult. Therefore, the following definitions were modified for use in the present study (General Statutes of North Carolina, 2002).

(1) Handicapped: a person with a mobility impairment who, as determined by a licensed physician, either

(a) Cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest;

(b) Cannot walk without the use of, or assistance from, a brace, cane, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair, or other assistive device;

(c) Is restricted by lung disease to such an extent that the person's forced (respiratory) expiratory volume of one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than 60 mm/hg on room air at rest;

(d) Uses portable oxygen;

(e) Has a cardiac condition to the extent that the person's functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or Class IV according to standards set by the American Heart Association;

(f) Is severely limited in their ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition; or

(g) Is totally blind or whose vision with glasses is so defective as to prevent the performance of ordinary activity for which eyesight is essential, as certified by a licensed ophthalmologist, optometrist, or the Division of Services for the Blind (p. 315).

(2) Visible disability: an impairment that results in an observable functional limitation such as limited ability to walk or walking with the use of an assistive device. A person with a visible disability does not appear to walk normally.

(3) Non-visible disability: an impairment that does not result in any observable functional limitations so that the person with the impairment appears to walk normally. Examples could include, but are not limited to, lung and cardiac diseases.

(4) Handicapped parking permit: a distinguishing license plate, removable windshield placard, or temporarily issued removable windshield placard that displays the international symbol of access. The application for a permit must be accompanied by a certification from a licensed physician that the applicant is handicapped.

(5) Handicapped parking space user: four distinct categories of handicapped parking space users were identified,

(a) Legitimate handicapped parking space users were vehicles driven by or used to transport a person with a mobility impairment and which displayed a handicapped parking permit,

(b) Unauthorized handicapped parking space users were vehicles driven by or used to transport a person with a mobility impairment but which failed to display a handicapped parking permit,

(c) Inappropriate handicapped parking space users were vehicles not driven by or used to transport a person with a mobility impairment but which displayed a handicapped parking permit, and

(d) Unlawful handicapped parking space users were vehicles not driven by or used to transport a person with a mobility impairment and which failed to display a handicapped parking permit.

(6) Violators: any vehicle parked in a restricted handicapped parking zone failing to display a handicapped parking permit, or displaying a handicapped parking permit but not driven by or used to transport a person with a mobility impairment, i.e. unauthorized, inappropriate, and unlawful handicapped parking space users-see 5b, c and d above.

(7) Violation rate: the percentage of vehicles using handicapped parking spaces that are in violation of handicapped parking ordinances.

Literature Review

Early studies of handicapped parking space use examined violation rates and made initial recommendations for ensuring adequate parking access for persons with mobility impairments. Matthews (1981) studied the public's perception that a large number of vehicles parked in reserved spaces were violators. Data were collected in both public and private parking lots in one Pennsylvania community. Of the 284 vehicles parked in handicapped spaces, 10.6% were legitimate, 11.3% were unauthorized, 2.1% were inappropriate, and 76.1% were illegal (see definitions). Mat-thews confirmed the public perception that a large percentage of vehicles parked in reserved spaces were violators, and concluded people would most likely continue to misuse handicapped parking spaces until enforcement became consistent.

Jason and Jung (1984) evaluated strategies to deter non-handicapped drivers from parking in reserved spaces. Data were collected in one parking lot at a university in Illinois. Thirty-one violations were identified with total baseline violation rates ranging from 47% to 59%. The major finding was that vertical signs plus ground markings were more effective than ground markings alone in deterring violators.

Suarez deBalcazar et al. (1988) examined the effects of combinations of signs and police enforcement on reducing violations of handicapped parking ordinances. Baseline violation rates were established at two sites in the state of Kansas. One was a suburban community (population 52,788) where baseline violation rates ranged from 36% to 41%. The second was a larger community (population 150,256) where baseline violation rates ranged from 20% to 27%. Findings indicated the combined effect of upright signs and police enforcement provided the greatest deterrent for potential parking violations.

Five subsequent handicapped parking studies were conducted in a North Carolina community (population 58,000) to examine characteristics of violators and the effects of signage and social sanctions on violation rates. Allred and Cope (1990) studied the personality and behavioral characteristics of handicapped parking violators and determined that rates were highest among male college-age students who were smokers, frequent drinkers, and who drove after drinking. Situational conditions related to violations included type of sign, weather, and rewards and punishments. Cope & Allred (1990) examined the use of handicapped parking spaces at three supermarkets in commercial areas in the same community. A total of 266 vehicles were observed, with a violation rate of 62.0%. Trends indicated more violations during rainy weather and among young drivers. On the other hand, the availability of other convenient illegal parking such as fire lanes, etc. was found to reduce violations. Cope et al. (1991) conducted a follow-up study to determine the effects of signs and social sanctions. Of 102 vehicles observed, the baseline violation rate was 69.3%. The addition of vertical signs to existing ground signs decreased the violation rate to 53.7%. The subsequent addition of message dispensers containing the social sanction, "Warning this space watched by concerned citizens" was found to further reduce violation rates to 27.1%. Cope and Allred (1991) replicated the Cope et al. (1991) study with similar results. Spaces were initially marked with vertical signs, and the baseline violation rate was 51.3%. Again, message dispensers containing social sanctions were added and further reduced the violation rate to 23.7%. Cope, Lanier and Allred (1995) evaluated whether or not a sign indicating that the handicapped parking space was under citizen observation would reduce parking violations more than the current vertical sign. Neither sign produced statistically significant results. Therefore, the presence of the sign alone had greater importance than the message content in controlling handicapped parking violations.

More recent studies have examined violation rates and factors that might reduce them. Fletcher (1995) conducted a study of handicapped parking at a supermarket in a large shopping mall located in a city of 127,000 people in the state of New York. Of the 1,201 vehicles occupying a handicapped parking space, the violation rate was 64.3%. Fletcher observed that violators were more likely to be male, non-white, and young. She recommended educating young drivers about the need to reserve handicapped parking spaces during drivers' education. Taylor (1998) designed an experiment to determine if the presence of actors with a physical disability would result in a lowered rate of handicapped parking violations. Data were collected in three parking lots, one in an urban shopping center and two in a nearby town. Of the 291 vehicles observed, violation rates averaged 76.6% in the urban location and 44.0% in the town. She also found that the presence of a disabled bystander resulted in significantly fewer violations. Fletcher (2001) studied whether guilt was a factor in the illegal use of handicapped parking spaces. Of the 962 drivers who parked illegally in reserved spaces, illegal parkers were less likely to park in the more conspicuous parking spaces and were more likely to park in the least conspicuous parking spaces. Fletcher concluded that the data supported the hypothesis that a guilt gradient exists among those who parked illegally in reserved spaces.

Methods

Surveys were administered between September 1, 1998 and September 30, 2000 within the city limits of Greenville, North Carolina (population 58,000), a city covering 26.6 miles in the eastern part of the state. Representative sampling was ensured by collecting data at 28 different locations, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., during all seven days of the week.

Surveys were administered by 10 undergraduate students from East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. The first author provided training for these students regarding observation criteria and interview techniques. The interview process was reviewed periodically to ensure consistency. Students conducted the observational portion of the survey by standing in an unobtrusive place, approximately 10-20 feet from the handicapped parking spaces. Observations were recorded including the location, date, time, weather conditions, presence or absence of a handicapped permit on the vehicle, number of occupants in the vehicle, and mobility of all occupants leaving the vehicle.

If a driver and/or passenger exited the vehicle, the student approached requesting an interview, stating "We are conducting a survey that could help achieve better parking for people with disabilities. There are several questions which should take a total of one minute to answer." If any occupant agreed to participate, they were asked the following questions: who in the vehicle qualified for the handicapped parking permit, the reason the permit was given, and the specialty of the physician providing the permit. If all occupants refused to participate in the interview, the refusal was noted as a "refusal to answer all questions."

The University Medical Center Institutional Review Board and the City of Greenville, NC Police Department approved the survey. The total number of licensed drivers in the state of North Carolina in September, 1998 (beginning of the study period) was 5,335,846; of these 82,399 (1.5%) were in Greenville. The number of handicapped parking permits issued within the state of North Carolina in 1998 was 142,032. Consequently, it was estimated that 2,130 (1.5%) of these 142,032 handicapped permits were in the Greenville area (1.5% x 142,032 = 2,130). A 10% sample (213 completed surveys) was estimated to be an adequate sample, however a total of 289 surveys were completed. The data were entered into a Statistical Analysis System[R] (SAS) (Gilmore, 1999) dataset by two of the students. Descriptive statistics were limited to frequencies and percentages for comparison purposes. Tests of statistical significance included either Chi-square or Fisher's exact tests.

Results

A total of 289 surveys were administered over the two-year study period. Twenty surveys were eliminated because no observations could be made about the physical disability status of the occupants; either no one left the vehicle or the occupants' responses to the survey were limited. The remaining 269 surveys form the study sample.

Surveys were administered at seven different types of locations: 147 at strip malls (54.6%); 86 at grocery stores (32.0%); 12 at enclosed malls (4.5%); 8 at drug stores (3.0%); 7 at restaurants (2.6%); 4 at retail stores (1.5%); and 5 at other locations, e.g., banks, car washes, etc. (1.8%). The total number of handicapped parking spaces across all locations ranged from 1 to 12. Eighty-eight percent of the surveys were administered in daylight and 12% after dark. Eighty-seven percent were collected in dry weather, while 13% were collected in wet weather. Two hundred forty five (91.1%) of the study sample agreed to participate in the interview portion of the survey, while 24 (8.9%) declined.

Four distinct categories of handicapped parking space users were identified in the present study: 228 legitimate handicapped parking space users (84.8%), 14 unauthorized handicapped parking space users (5.2%), 14 inappropriate handicapped parking space users (5.2%), and 13 unlawful handicapped parking space users (4.8%) (see definitions). Consequently, there were 228 compliers with handicapped parking laws, and 41 violators of these laws (14 unauthorized + 14 inappropriate + 13 unlawful = 41). Therefore, the violation rate in the present study was 15.2% (5.2% + 5.2% + 4.8% = 15.2%).

Data were also collected about whether or not a handicapped parking permit was present in the vehicle, and if so, whether it was legally displayed. Two hundred forty-two (90%) of the 269 had a permit present in the vehicle. Of these, 230 (95%) of the 242 had the parking permit legally displayed. Twelve (5%) did not have the permit legally displayed but the driver or passenger was able to produce the permit when asked. For the remaining 27 (10.0%) vehicles, a handicapped parking permit was not visible and could not be produced.

During the interview portion of the survey, a question was asked regarding who in the vehicle had the handicapped parking permit. One hundred sixty-seven (62.1%) reported the permit had been issued to the driver, 65 (24.2%) reported it had been issued to a passenger, and 13 (4.8%) stated the person to whom the permit was issued was not present in the vehicle. Twenty-four (8.9%) refused to answer this question.

Interviewers asked handicapped parking space users why their permit had been issued. The types of mobility impairments of legitimate handicapped parking space users as classified by categories from the permit application are contained in Table 1.

Interviewers also observed the mobility of the drivers and any passengers as they left their vehicles. Of the 228 legitimate handicapped parking space users, 122 (53.5%) had a visible disability and 106 (46.5%) had a non-visible disability (see definitions). The visible and non-visible disabilities as classified by categories from the permit application are contained in Table 2.

Of the 228 legitimate handicapped parking space users, 216 knew the specialty of the physician who had issued their permit and were willing to provide this information. Of those physicians issuing permits, 95 (43.9%) were primary care practitioners: 73 family medicine and 22 internal medicine. The remaining 121 (56.1%) permits were provided by specialists: 41 orthopedic surgeons, 16 rheumatologists, 15 neurologists, 12 rehabilitation medicine specialists, 9 cardiologists, 7 neurosurgeons, 4 ophthalmologists, 4 pulmonologists, 2 endocrinologists, 2 podiatrists, 2 general surgeons, and l gastroenterologist.

With regard to the conditions under which handicapped parking violations occurred, there was one statistically significant finding: violators were found to be three times more likely to use handicapped parking spaces during rush hour, i.e., between the hours of 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, when compared with legitimate handicapped parking space users (Fisher's exact two-tailed p=0.011). Concerning the use of handicapped parking spaces during day time vs. night time, legitimate users had a tendency to use such reserved spaces more during day time than violators (p=0.098). Regarding the use of handicapped parking spaces during weekdays vs. weekends (Friday through Sunday), violators were no more likely than legitimate users to use such spaces (p=0.632). Violators were also no more likely than legitimate users to use handicapped parking spaces in wet weather (p=0.963).

Discussion

Over the past 20 years, handicapped parking violation rates have ranged from 20% to 76.6% (Cope & Allred, 1990; Cope & Allred, 1991; Cope, et al., 1991; Fletcher, 1995; Jason & Jung, 1984; Matthews, 1981; Suarez deBalcazar, et al., 1988; Taylor, 1998). The violation rate in the present study was 15.2%. It has been more than 10 years since the passage of the ADA, and it may be that increased public awareness has resulted in greatly lowered violation rates. Problems persist for individuals with disabilities who use handicapped parking, including space availability and public perception of individuals with non-visible disabilities. Therefore, further examination of factors related to handicapped parking violations is warranted.

With regard to the conditions under which handicapped parking violations occurred, time-related factors were the major issues in the present study. Violators were found to be three times more likely to use handicapped parking spaces during rush hour as legitimate handicapped parking space users. It may be that violators were more likely to use handicapped parking spaces during rush hour simply as a matter of convenience. In addition, there was a tendency for violators to use handicapped parking spaces more at night. It may be that violators perceive a lower likelihood of being observed during night time hours or are afraid of parking farther away in the dark. This finding supports Fletcher's (2001) proposal that a guilt gradient exists among violators. Also, legitimate handicapped parking space users would probably be more likely to use handicapped parking spaces during the day simply because it would be easier for them to drive and to move about in daylight. They may also prefer to shop when stores are less crowded.

To our knowledge, the present study was the first to scientifically evaluate the mobility of handicapped parking space users. This was seen as important because handicapped parking space use creates controversy, in part, due to the number of legitimate handicapped parking space users who have non-visible disabilities (Hood, 2000). Some of the general public appear to find people who park in handicapped parking spaces, yet who walk without visible impairment, to be objectionable (Potok, 1996). But as Hood (2000) pointed out, persons with non-visible disabilities seen walking away from a vehicle with a handicapped parking permit may have a gradually debilitating disease; if they tire quickly, they may need the space. As seen in Table 2, of the 228 legitimate handicapped parking space users, 106 (46.5%) had non-visible disabilities while 122 (53.5%) had visible disabilities. Many in the public assume that if there is no outward sign of disability, the person is not disabled. Missing, malaligned body parts, the use of an assistive device and abnormal gait pattern are typical expectations for a person using a handicapped parking space. However, a considerable number of legitimate handicapped parking space users may have cancer, dysfunction of cardiac or pulmonary systems, or poor endurance justifying the use of a handicapped parking space.

Examination of legitimate handicapped parking space users with non-visible disabilities in Table 2 raises additional questions. It could be expected that the majority of people in categories 3 and 5 would have non-visible disabilities since pulmonary or cardiac disease may leave the individual with no obvious signs of disability. This was the case for over 71% of individuals in each of these categories. Then again, one would expect the majority of individuals in categories 2 and 6 would have visible disabilities since those individuals would either be unable to "walk without the use or assistance" from a device, or would be "severely limited in their ability to walk." While this was, in fact, the case for over 57% of those individuals in each of these categories, what is surprising is that over 42% of these individuals did not have visible disabilities. This calls into question whether all persons who stated they had a disability gave valid responses. Several possible explanations include: (a) some of these individuals may have had a temporary disability that had resolved (e.g., a severely sprained ankle), but they were still using their permit; (b) the individual with the disability may not have been present in the vehicle, but the respondent failed to disclose this to the interviewer; (c) a physician may have issued a permit that was not necessary; or, (d) as Hood (2000) contends, many individuals with disabilities are proud and will try their best not to appear disabled. Regardless of the reason, legitimate handicapped parking space users with nonvisible disabilities do account for a considerable percentage of handicapped parking space users (see Table 2). Accordingly, the results of the present study have educational implications for physicians, enforcement personnel, the general public and individuals with disabilities.

Physicians can benefit from an updated understanding of the criteria for providing a patient with a handicapped parking permit. In the present study, medical specialists provided more than half of the handicapped parking permits (56.1%) while the remainder were provided by primary care practitioners (43.9%). Physicians need to realize not all persons with disabilities are legally entitled to use handicapped parking permits. For example, a deaf person or a person who has lost arm function is considered to have a disability, but does not qualify for a handicapped parking permit (General Statutes of North Carolina, 2002). Physicians certifying an individual for a temporary removable windshield placard due to short-term disability should be diligent about noting the time period the applicant will have the disability. Data on non-visible disabilities from the present study (see Table 2, categories 2 and 6) indicate that some individuals may be using a valid permit longer than the time period needed. Physicians should also be aware that in some states, Louisiana, for example, they now risk criminal sanctions ranging from misdemeanor to felony charges for knowingly filing a false certificate for a handicapped parking permit (Potock, 1996). In addition, physicians should remind all permit applicants that the handicapped parking permit is to be used only on vehicles transporting the person to whom it was issued (General Statutes of North Carolina, 2002).

Some communities make effective use of public handicapped parking enforcement groups ("Enforcing handicapped parking laws," 1991-92) in addition to the use of police department personnel. It would be beneficial for these individuals to be aware of current research findings. According to the present study, time-related factors such as rush hour and nighttime may influence violation rates. Violations were three times more likely to occur during rush hour and may have been more likely to occur at night. Therefore, handicapped parking enforcement personnel should concentrate their efforts during these peak violation periods.

Enforcement personnel and the general public can both benefit from increased awareness about the appropriate use of handicapped parking spaces. They should be aware of the present study's finding that approximately half (46.5%) of legitimate handicapped parking space users have non-visible disabilities. Enforcement personnel should consider this when approaching a potential violator who does not have an apparent visible disability. The general public should not assume an individual with a nonvisible disability using a handicapped parking permit is a violator. Enforcement personnel and the general public should also be aware that both Matthews (1981) and the present study identified a small number of inappropriate handicapped parking space users who were using someone else's permit (2.1% and 5.2%), respectively. These individuals are using a handicapped parking space illegally and should be cited. The general public should be aware that it is illegal to use someone else's permit.

Two recommendations can be made for both enforcement personnel and legitimate handicapped parking space users. First, Matthews (1981) and the present study identified a small number of handicapped parking space users who had legitimate disabilities but did not have handicapped parking permits (11.3% and 5.2%), respectively. Enforcement personnel have an obligation to encourage these individuals to apply for a legal permit. Second, some users of handicapped parking spaces did not display their permits but produced them when asked. Enforcement personnel should educate legitimate handicapped parking space users, to the extent possible, regarding the importance of proper display of permits. Legitimate handicapped parking space users need to know that in order to legally use the parking space, their permit must be displayed so that it may be viewed from the front and rear of the vehicle or displayed on the driver's side dashboard (General Statutes of North Carolina, 2002).

Several limitations exist in the present study: survey setting, lack of verification of verbal responses, obvious visibility of interviewers, and potential duplication of survey respondents. First, the survey setting, Greenville, North Carolina, has several unique qualities that may have contributed to a reduced handicapped parking violation rate. There is a large medical and rehabilitation center located in Greenville that serves all 29 counties in eastern North Carolina. It is therefore probable that the general public has a greater awareness of medical and rehabilitation needs, including the need for handicapped parking spaces. The setting is also unique because this community was the site of five previously published handicapped parking studies (Allred & Cope, 1990; Cope & Allred, 1990; Cope & Allred, 1991; Cope et al., 1991; Cope et. al., 1995) and has its own handicapped parking enforcement group. In combination, this locally conducted research and public enforcement group could, over time, have resulted in higher than typical public awareness about handicapped parking space use.

Second, the interview portion of the survey relied on the self-report of the vehicle's occupants. The authors assumed these individuals provided accurate responses and did not verify information either from health care records or department of motor vehicle records. It is possible that some individuals were not completely honest in their responses due to fear of getting a ticket. However, a review of all surveys, and subsequent discussions with interviewers, did not reveal any specific concerns in this regard.

Third, the interviewers were told to stand 10 to 20 feet from handicapped parking spaces during the observational part of the survey. Some potential violators may have noted their presence and decided not to park in the space due to the realization they were being observed. If the interviewers' presence influenced some potential violators not to utilize a handicapped parking space, this could have artificially reduced the violation rate. Discussions with interviewers did reveal that a few vehicles pulled into handicapped parking spaces, and then backed up and drove away.

Fourth, the potential existed for duplicate surveys because interviewers were told not to record any license plate information. Interviewers were told not to do this for two reasons: (a) the authors believed that handicapped parking space users might fear getting a ticket and refuse to participate in the survey or possibly threaten the interviewers; and, (b) the authors also believed that participants would likely inform the interviewer if they had already completed the survey. A review of all surveys, and subsequent discussions with the interviewers, revealed no indications that duplicate surveys had been administered.

Replication of the results of the present study in other small, medium and large-sized communities would be essential to determine if violation rates have decreased as much as the present study implies (from 76.6% in Taylor, 1998 to 15.2% in the present study). A thorough analysis of conditions under which these violations occurred could provide useful information for the development of programs that would result in decreased violations. Also, replication of the frequency of non-visible disabilities among legitimate handicapped parking space users would support the need for public education regarding the legal use of handicapped parking permits by individuals with non-visible disabilities.

Several recommendations for the future study of handicapped parking can be made. Examination of the socio-demographic characteristics of handicapped parking space users would further previous efforts to typify violators (Cope & Allred, 1990; Cope & Allred, 1991; Fletcher, 1995). This information would prove useful to direct awareness education at groups most likely to violate the law. It would be important to determine whether handicapped parking permits are being issued in accordance with the law (e.g., are permits issued for longer than necessary, and are permits issued to people who do not meet the criteria set forth by law). Finally, if handicapped parking violation rates are consistently found to be relatively low in communities of different sizes, over time, then it may be reasonable to shift efforts from understanding the conditions under which such violations occur, to helping meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.

Conclusions

Handicapped parking violation rates have decreased considerably from 76.6% (Taylor, 1998) to 15.2% in the present study. With regard to the conditions under which handicapped parking violations occurred, violators were found to be three times more likely to use handicapped parking spaces during rush hour. Handicapped parking enforcement personnel can use this information to concentrate their efforts during these peak violation periods. Handicapped parking creates controversy, in part, due to the large number of legitimate handicapped parking space users who have non-visible disabilities (46.5%). Public attitude towards perceived misuse of handicapped parking spaces by apparently able-bodied individuals may diminish with the knowledge that patients with cancer, pulmonary, cardiac, or other gradually debilitating diseases are justified in using these spaces. Physicians should take advantage of any medical educational opportunities to familiarize themselves with current criteria for issuing such permits. In addition, there are a few individuals with legitimate disabilities who require the use of handicapped parking spaces but have not yet obtained a permit. These individuals are strongly encouraged to obtain a certified permit application from their physician.
Table 1
Handicaps of Legitimate Handicapped Parking Space Users as
Classified by North Carolina Statute

Mobility Impairment Categories # %

1. Cannot walk more than 200 feet
 without stopping to rest 31 13.6%
2. Cannot walk without assistance 28 12.3%
3. Is restricted by lung disease 13 5.7%
4. Uses portable oxygen 0 0.0%
5. Has a cardiac condition 21 9.2%
6. Is severely limited in their ability
 to walk 133 58.3%
7. Is totally blind or whose vision is
 severely impaired 2 0.9%

 Total 228 100%

Note. Mobility impairment descriptions are shortened for use in this
table. The complete mobility impairment descriptions from the
General Statutes of North Carolina (2002), can be found in the
definitions section of this paper.

Table 2
Visible and Non-visible Disabilities of Legitimate Handicapped Parking
Space Users as Classified by North Carolina Statute

Mobility Impairment Categories

 Visible Non-Visible Total
 # (%) # (%) #

1. Cannot walk more than 200 feet
 without stopping to rest 19 (61.3) 12 (38.7) 31
2. Cannot walk without assistance 16 (57.1) 12 (42.9) 28
3. Is restricted by lung disease 3 (23.1) 10 (76.9) 13
4. Uses portable oxygen 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 0
5. Has a cardiac condition 6 (28.6) 15 (71.4) 21
6. Is severely limited in their
 ability to walk 77 (57.9) 56 (42.1) 133
7. Is totally blind or whose vision
 is severely impaired 1 (50.0) 1 (50.0) 2

 Total 122 (53.5) 106 (46.5) 228

Note. Mobility impairment descriptions are shortened for use in this
table. The complete mobility impairment descriptions from the General
Statutes of North Carolina (2002), can be found in the definitions
section of this paper.


Author's Note

This project was supported in part by the East Carolina University Honor's Program Undergraduate Research Assistant Awards. Several groups and individuals contributed to this project. The Handicapped Enforcing Legal Parking (HELP) team assisted with survey development and initial data collection. Research Assistants Lauren Crumpler and Ann Marie Penny, and Recreational Therapy students Kristie Hogan, Kathleen Hopson, Angela Howard, Erin Jones, Toni Leary, and Jennifer Putnam provided additional data collection assistance.

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Cheryl A. Estes

East Carolina University

Jeanette M. Dolezal

East Carolina University

Daniel P. Moore

East Carolina University

Cheryl A. Estes, Ph.D., Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, East Carolina University, 174 Minges Coliseum, Greenville, NC 27858-4353. Email: estesc@mail.ecu.edu
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Author:Dolezal, Jeannette M.
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Geographic Code:1U4KS
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:6113
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