As a parking director in one of Santa Barbara’s downtown lots for the past five years, I’ve been able to see why the blue handicapped parking spaces are close to stairs or elevators and exits or entrances. I’ve also seen why the people who park there need extra time to set up their wheelchair or simply can’t move as quickly as most of us. What I don’t appreciate are the people who fake a need for the disabled placard.

The downtown parking facilities give everyone 75 minutes free, and they give persons with disabilities 2.5 hours free, as well as a highly reduced maximum fee of $7 (instead of the standard $25 maximum). The only requirement to receive the discount is an unexpired disabled placard, and when drivers present one, we parking attendants are not about to question them.

But I’ve noticed an alarming amount of citizens abusing Handicap Placard Parking Discounts. I’d like to increase public awareness about this all-too-common issue, because people who actually need the handicap placards are the ones who need the discount. A cornucopia of healthy drivers are shameless in saying the placard is “my aunt’s” or “my uncle’s,” and I’ve even witnessed a parent telling their downtown-employed child to “borrow Grandpa’s.”

Those with disabilities face monstrous and time-consuming obstacles while navigating tasks we take for granted and perform easily. Stop exploiting social systems intended to aid those who are in need! It’s not only unfair to those who use the system, but it creates a negative stigma toward it!


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