The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) released a 79-page Interim Report: A Review of Accessible Parking for Persons with Disabilities required by House Bill 1317 (84th Legislature) to provide information about relevant state and federal laws and regulatory requirements regarding parking for people with disabilities, including parking policies at the State Capitol and in state-owned parking lots, see “A Review of Accessible Parking for Persons with Disabilities in Texas” on the Office of Texas Governor Committee on People with Disabilities webpage.
GCPD gathered information from across the state, convening multi-agency meetings, contacting other states’ GCPD groups or equivalent organizations, conducting two online surveys, and soliciting public comments directly via email campaigns.
“Accessible parking” refers to parking spaces reserved for drivers with disabilities that meet federally mandated standards for accessibility, as per the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The State of Texas outlines these specifications within the Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS):
- Signage: the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) must be mounted in front of the parking space at least five feet above the ground; van accessible spaces must include the designation “van accessible” on signage.
- Van Accessible Spaces: one van accessible space required for every six accessible spaces.
- Van Space Width: 11 feet required or eight feet permissible if adjacent accessible aisle is eight feet wide.
- Access Aisle: width of five feet for accessible car and van spaces and length equal to the full length of the parking space.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation oversees the TAS standards for accessible parking in compliance with construction standards outlined in Title III of the ADA. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for issuing accessible parking placards and plates: blue placards and ISA license plates denote permanent disability while red placards represent temporary disabilities, which must be renewed every four years.
- Enforcement was the top concern expressed in public hearings and survey responses. Lack of enforcement of existing parking laws was cited, as well as generally negative attitudes and inaction on the part of law enforcement and property owners in response to reported parking violations.
- Survey respondents and public testimony also expressed widespread concerns about the insufficient number of accessible spaces. Almost four-fifths (79.4%) of survey respondents reported difficulty finding an accessible space at least once a week, with 40% reporting difficulty several times a week, and almost 20% reporting difficulty every day. 93% of the responses stated that finding an accessible space is so difficult because all accessible spaces are already occupied.
- Placard fraud and abuse was widely reported to be responsible, in part, for the lack of accessible spaces for survey respondents and public hearing attendees. The report outlines generally, a lack of prosecution and investigation on placard fraud, as well as three types of unlawful parking fraud and abuse:
- Someone without a disability using a vehicle with a specialty parking plate or placard belonging to a family member or friend with a disability;
- ‘Grey market’ purchase and sale of parking placards online or through other means;
- Forging or altering parking placards for use by a person without a disability.
- Strengthen Enforcement language in the Texas Transportation Code § 681.010 to require enforcement action from all individuals with responsibilities to enforce accessible parking laws (change “may” to “shall”) and limit judicial discretion to curb repeated dismissal of citations.
- Control Placard Fraud through the creation of a fraud and abuse task force, the requirement to surrender a placard after the death of a family member with a disability, administrative review of death records for placard cancellation [similar to Connecticut’s General Statute § 14-253a(o)] and the redesign of the placard to be more tamper-resistant.
- Develop Public Awareness Campaigns on the importance of accessible parking for Texans with disabilities.
- Codify Person-First Language in the Texas Transportation Code to change “Handicapped Parking” to “Accessible Parking” as per the state’s respectful language initiative (Texas Government Code, Chapter 392).
- Promote Volunteer Enforcement by developing programs to recruit and train volunteers on reporting violations and improve enforcement statewide.
- Improve Capitol Complex Accessibility by increasing the number of accessible spaces in targeted areas, constructing sheltered accessible drop-off stations, and creating a clear accessible parking map for the public.
- Permit Alternative Sentencing for accessible parking violators by amending Transportation Code § 681.011, allowing courts to order disability awareness courses, as well as community service or restitution with a nonprofit service agency for people with disabilities [similar to Washington Rev. Code § 46.19.050(12)].
- Increase the Number of Van Accessible Spaces by modifying the requirements of Texas Accessibility Standards for medical facilities to allow for angled and parking and shared aisles.
- Update Standards for Painting Spaces by modifying Texas Accessibility Standards for marking spaces to include painting the ISA within the space and “No Parking” in adjacent access aisles (similar to New Mexico Statues § 66-1-4-1.B and § 66-1-4-4.E).
- Update Parking Signs to include required information on fines or penalties and consequences of parking illegally within the accessible spaces.
- Expand GCPD Authority within the Human Resources Code, Title 7, Chapter 115.009 to allow GCPD to train law enforcement and volunteer parking enforcers, and to allow GCPD to collaborate on public awareness campaigns with other state agencies.
- Further Study on Veterans with Disabilities to determine how state and federal laws can be aligned to ensure that veterans with mobility disabilities are eligible for accessible parking placards, rather than permitting accessible parking for veterans with disabilities that do not cause mobility issues.