Disabled students now have the option to buy a $300 parking permit to access newly labeled D+ spaces, along with D spaces from last year .
Parking and Transportation Services created the D+ parking permit over the summer after the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which oversees handicap parking, said some labeled parking spaces on campus were “not compliant” with Texas Accessibility Standards, PTS director Bobby Stone said.
The standards regulate what spaces are compliant based on factors such as the size, shape and location in relation to buildings. Additionally, the standards discourage parallel parking “unless it can be situated so that persons entering and exiting vehicles will be out of the flow of traffic.”
Stone said a number of UT’s spaces were on hills or parallel to streets, causing the department to advise that they no longer be labeled as spaces compliant under the Americans with Disabilities Act .
“Those spaces still have a lot of value for the (disabled) community, so we began to think about how we could make them not be ADA spaces but still reserve them for people with ADA needs,” Stone said.
Instead of removing the spaces designated for disabled people, Stone said UT created the new permit to preserve the availability for students and faculty who can still benefit from them.
Like the D permit, the D+ permit still requires individuals to display the permit with a handicapped placard, according to the PTS website. D+ permits include all of the D spaces as well as all of the spaces deemed “noncompliant” by the department, Stone said .
Stone said the D+ permit is twice as expensive as the $150 D permit, which allows students to park only in technically compliant spaces.
Stone said the price increase was affected by a 2013 study done by the University, which proposed increases to food, housing and campus parking rates. He said the difference in price is also due to the “prime” location and number of spaces provided to students with a D+ permit.
“We all certainly understand that in some cases, a compliant space is absolutely necessary to work for whoever is using it,” Stone said. “In a lot of cases, it’s not really required.”
Stone said a wheelchair user or a person with a mobility-related disability may need a compliant space.
Currently, the University has 575 D and D+ spaces – 223 of which are in garages. While PTS spokesperson Melissa Loe said in an email that the number of spaces constantly fluctuates due to ongoing construction, Stone said the number of D permit spaces will not drop below 333 — the number of compliant spaces required by the state.
Caroline Puryear, Disability Advocacy Student Coalition recruitment chair, said she feels like PTS is going in the right direction with having as many spaces available as possible but said the price tag of the new permits was unnecessary.
“I can really respect what UT is doing with trying to keep these spaces accessible, but I don’t think that the price jump from $150 to $300 was really necessary,” Puryear, a government sophomore, said.