Parking for UT’s disabled flawed despite meeting state guidelines

Alexa Ura

Last week Jeff Butler, a management information systems senior, arrived 30 minutes late to his database management class. Butler uses a wheelchair and can only take accessible routes through campus, so when he can’t find handicap parking near his classes, he usually cannot make it on time.

“I usually go up a hill to Whitis Avenue toward the Tower, where I can take the handicap ramp toward the South Mall and then cruise down a hill toward the business school,” Butler said. “It’s not ideal, but I’m used to it by now.”

Butler said he usually finds parking on Inner Campus Drive near the McCombs School of Business but has missed class on multiple occasions when no parking spaces were available.

As is the case with most parking permits, the University doesn’t have as many parking spaces for the disabled as permits sold by Parking and Transportation Services. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, state accessibility standards require entities to designate about 2 percent of parking spaces for disability parking, and one out of every eight accessible parking spaces must also be van-accessible.

The University provides 495 parking spaces for the disabled on campus, 178 more than required by state guidelines. Spaces for the disabled make up a little more than 3 percent of approximately 16,000 parking spaces on campus.

“The overarching problem is that there are not enough parking spaces on campus to begin with, but there is no good solution to this, so it’s hard to get upset and fuss about it,” Butler said.

Disabilities services coordinator Emily Shryock said students with disabilities sometimes face additional physical barriers after finding parking.

“Students may find parking close to the building they need to get to, but then there’s a giant hill in between where they parked and the building’s entrance,” Shryock said.

Services for Students with Disabilities promotes the public shuttle system as alternative transportation, but this does not always provide a clear solution for disabled individuals when bus stops are not located near a building, Shryock said.

“This leaves the students to navigate their way to their actual classroom,” Shryock said. “There’s a gap there even if the campus hustles to eliminate the challenges that come with parking on campus.”

In 2009 UT contracted Accessology, an accessibility inspection company, to survey accessible routes on campus. Shryock, who serves on a University committee working with the company, said they have identified a lack of parking for the disabled near the School of Social Work and Gregory Gym.

The University provides regular disability parking placards for $110-$138 and temporary disability parking permits for $10-$12 to the UT community if individuals provide proper documentation to prove their disability.

Parking spaces for the disabled must be on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible entrance, according to state guidelines.

Bobby Stone, Parking and Transportation Services director, said the University is looking into on-campus transportation services to assist students who are left to park in spaces that require extensive commutes to their classes.

Butler said he emails his professors when he has to miss class because he is unable to find parking near an accessible route, and professors usually provide an overview of what was covered in class.
“They are typically OK with it,” Butler said. “But there is no solution to missing class.”

Printed on October 26, 2012 as: Accessible spots elude drivers