Some Augusta handicapped parking breaks rules

 

Using a tape measure, calculator and notepad, a reporter with The Augusta Chronicle inspected more than 20 parking lots at popular retail spots in Richmond and Columbia counties to see whether handicapped parking spaces satisfied the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The informal survey found five with parking spaces improperly marked, slopes too steep for vehicular wheelchair lifts or no access aisles at all.

Those locations were:

• A ramp 5 inches tall, 74 inches long covering a handicapped parking space access aisle outside the Augusta Mall’s children’s play area. ADA standards mandate that handicapped parking spaces and access aisles must be “level with surface slopes not exceeding 2 percent in all directions.” On-site measurements found that when the height of the ramp, 5 inches, is divided by the length, 74 inches, the slope equals 6 percent.

In an e-mail response to the findings, mall general manager Andrew Wilke said: “Augusta Mall strives to be fully compliant with the American’s with Disabilities Act. In fact, we provide more accessible spaces throughout the property than is required by the ADA. We will further investigate this specific area to confirm that we are compliant and if not, we will commit to make any improvements that are needed.”

• No access aisles on any handicapped parking spaces at Toys R Us on Wrightsboro Road, although ADA standards require passenger loading zones provide a 5-foot-wide access aisle.

A spokesperson said the company will look into the matter.

• Van-accessible parking spaces at Chili’s on Robert C. Daniel Parkway were not properly marked, despite ADA law requiring such spaces have a sign that reads “Van-Accessible” be mounted below regular handicapped parking symbols.

A call to the company seeking comment was not returned.

• An access aisle for a handicap parking space marked “Van-Accessible” at the Wal-Mart Supe­rcenter on Bobby Jones Expressway was located at the head of the spot. ADA standards state passenger loading zones must provide an access aisle “adjacent and parallel” to the vehicle pull-up space.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the company will look into the matter.

• Two van-accessible handicap parking spaces at Lowe’s on Bobby Jones Expressway lacked marked access aisles. Laws updated in 2010 state access aisles must “be marked so as to discourage parking in them.”

In an e-mail, Lowe’s spokeswoman Karen Cobb said, “Several months ago, all spaces in the store parking lot were restriped. It appears the van access handicap spaces were designated by the restriping, however, the access aisle markings were overlooked. This was an unintentional oversight and we’ve made arrangements for the access aisle markings to be designated as quickly as possible.”

Ken Shiotani, a senior staff attorney for the National Disability Rights Network, said no mechanism exists to enforce the law on the local level, adding that building inspectors are not necessarily versed in ADA regulations or concerned as much about following them.

“It is sort of a complaint-driven situation where somebody goes and finds a violation and hopefully lets the proper authorities know to correct it,” he said. “Sometimes civil lawsuits can result.”

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HAVE A COMPLAINT?

According to the Department of Justice’s Web site, complaints alleging disability discrimination against a public accommodation can be made by writing a formal letter to the federal agency detailing the violation.

The complaint must include contact information and can be faxed to (202) 307-1197; sent to ADA.complaint@usdoj.gov or mailed to US Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, Washington, D.C. 20530.

Georgia law mandates that a property owner who fails to follow ADA parking standards could face a $150 fine for each space in violation. However, the law adds that the fine will be waived if the required improvements are made within 14 days from the date of citation.

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