Parking And Accommodations
We’ve all heard the phrase “Location, location, location.” But did you know it applies to not only where you live but where you park your vehicle? Where a person parks can have a significant impact on the person. In addition to the challenges of managing parking lots for members and their guests,, parking for housing providers can become a major headache if they don’t take the right steps when considering additional parking requirements when faced with disability accommodations requests. This doesn’t mean that every request requires a rubber stamp approval. Yet, each request should receive individual attention and housing providers have some leeway when considering requested accommodation. Knowing the “ins and outs” of the approval or denial process will help housing providers navigate this legally perilous subject.
For example, a resident comes to the office, has a disabled person’s parking permit from the state and asks for a designated parking spot. Can a resident ask for a designated parking spot even though the site may have designated handicapped parking? The short answer is, “yes.” Housing providers should be prepared to respond to this type of request. Failure to respond or disregarding this type of request is an all-too-common failure by housing providers and or management companies. Just because there are publicly accessible spaces on a lot doesn’t mean that a request for accommodation may be denied. If a resident comes to a housing provider with a request that public accessible spaces won’t work---they’re too far from the resident’s dwelling, the spots are always taken, or even if the resident has mobility impairment—housing providers should have a process that accommodates such requests assuming they are reasonable.
Here is another scenario. A resident who doesn’t use a wheelchair asks for a designated parking space. All reasonable accommodation requests are open to any kind of disability. Vision impairment, cardiovascular conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, or even recurrent illnesses are medical issues that may be considered for reasonable accommodation. As part of the process, the housing provider may ask why the person with a disability needs reasonable accommodation. How is their disability related to the need for a parking space closest to their front door?
Residents who have a disabled persons parking permit still need to show the housing provider verification establishing the need for the accommodation. Remember these two requirements:
- Verification by a third party professional who can show the person meets the definition of disability and the need for accommodation is related to the disability;
- In some states, disabled parking persons permits ask enough questions on the form that it usually meets the requirement for verification, especially if signed by a doctor. Other states do not request adequate information to meet the verification standard. In those states, a housing provider can ask for further verification; however, it would be prudent of the housing provider to check with their attorney as to what constitutes a sufficient and reasonable verification.
Michigan and Illinois are two states that have a good disabled persons parking application process. The State of Michigan Vehicle Code (MCL527.19a) declares a “disabled person be determined by a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, chiropractor, nurse practitioner, physical therapist, or optometrist identifying one or more of the following characteristics which affect [the] patient’s ability to walk.” These characteristics on the application include:
- Vision impairment.
- “Inability to walk more than 200 feet without having to stop and rest.
- Patient must use a wheelchair, walker, crutch, brace or other ambulatory aid to walk.
- Patient has a lung disease from which the forced expiratory volume for one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter, or from which the arterial oxygen tension is less than 60mm/hg of room air at rest.
- Patient has a cardiovascular condition which measures between 3 and 4 on the New York Heart Classification Scale, or which renders the patient incapable of meeting a minimum standard for cardiovascular health established by the American Heart Association and approved by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
- Patient has an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition that severely limits ability to walk.
- Patient has persistent reliance upon an oxygen source other than ordinary air.”
- The attending healthcare professional must certify whether the disability is permanent or temporary. If temporary, the healthcare professional must estimate the duration of the disability.
The State of Illinois has a similar application process. According to 625 ILCS 5/1-159.1 and 3-616 of the Illinois Vehicle code, a medical professional must execute the application and verify the nature of the applicant’s disability. The criteria for the application include:
- Patient “is restricted by a lung disease to such a degree that the person’s forced (respiratory) expiratory volume (FEV) for 1 second, when measured by spirometry, is less than 1 liter.
- Uses a portable oxygen device.
- Has Class III or Class IV cardiac condition according to the standards set by the American Heart Association.
- Cannot walk without the use of or assistance from a wheelchair, a walker, a crutch, a brace, a prosthetic device, or another person.
- Is severely limited in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, a neurological, an oncological, or an orthopedic condition.
- Cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest because of one of the above five conditions.
- Amputation of extremity(s).
- Spina Bifida.
- Multiple Sclerosis.
- Cerebral Palsy.
- Arthritis of the ________.
- Osteoarthritis of the __________.
- Chronic Pain due to _____________.
- Legally Blind with limited mobility.
- Pregnancy (third trimester) 90 days maximum.”
Suppose a resident already has a disabled persons parking permit issued by the state. Will that suffice for documentation verifying the need for an accommodation at the housing site? Keep in mind that a third party professional has already stated that the resident’s disability meets the definition of disability and that the resident has a need for accommodation that is related to that disability.
If it’s been established that there is a need for an assigned space, the housing provider needs to go about making designating a specific parking space for that resident as close to the entrance of their unit or building as is reasonably necessary among current parking spaces. The provider also needs to know if the resident has a disability related need for a standard assigned parking space or an accessible assigned space, which is a wider space. Just because a resident has a disabled persons placard doesn’t automatically mean they get a wider space. Accessibility is determined by need. If the resident is in a wheelchair they would need a wider space so the door to the vehicle can stay open and the person in the wheelchair can get out of the vehicle. If the housing provider is going to provide a wider space, they do not necessarily have to follow the same guidelines as public spaces (blue lines, van accessibility lines, marked for handicapped parking). A better practice would be to line the space and mark it “Reserved.” Management would need to enforce the designation.
Parking shouldn’t cause headaches for housing providers. By following some simple guidelines and enforcing those guidelines, residents and management can come to a mutual consensus on a person’s need for a reasonable parking accommodation.