In Your Corner: Struggle Over Handicapped Parking Space

By Ryan Elijah

October 21, 2011 Updated Oct 21, 2011 at 9:07 AM EDT

Pam Matson has Neuropathy in both of her legs and feet and she says her balance is continually getting worse. After falling twice on the ice last Winter, Pam asked West Wind Apartments for a handicapped parking space near her building. Management did put up a reserved parking sign, but Pam and her husband have consistently found other cars using the space.

"you can't see Neoropathy, they don't see anything wrong with me. these are young kids that don't have manners", said Pam.

Although West Wind did not return our phone call, they have been working with the Matson's to solve the problem. They put her apartment number on the sign and put out a letter to residents in the building saying any violators would be towed.

Pam originally called the police, but since it's private property, there's little they can do. The same is true for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which doesn't cover private apartments. However the Fair Housing Act does offer a form of protection. For instance, a building with a no pets policy would be required to allow a visually impaired tenant a guide dog.

Apartment complexes do have some protection under "reasonable accommodations", They're not required to make any change that would cause them undue financial burden. However, according to the Federal Government, an apartment complex that offers tenants unassigned parking must honor a request from a handicapped resident to reserve them a spot near their apartment.

Like many Federal regulations, the Fair Housing Act isn't black and white and treats complexes different based on their age, as major amendments were added in 1991.
It would seem an official handicap sign would work better for Pam, although it would also allow anyone that is handicapped to park in the space, unlike the current reserved sign.
She's grateful the issue is being addressed. Her situation does touch on a bigger issue of respecting those with disabilities, even if that disability isn't clear.

"it's frustrating that people don't respect people with disabilities. I don't want to be disabled, I was a very independent person", said Pam.

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