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Angry note left on wheelchair accessible van attracting attention
Published Friday, November 22, 2013 6:45PM CST
Last Updated Saturday, November 23, 2013 11:10AM CST
It’s a story that began with mean notes left on the windshield of a wheelchair lift van, but now, one woman’s story is prompting people in Saskatoon to take a second look at accessibility issues.
CTV News was with Desirée Parisien as she shared some of the notes.
“You are parked like a complete jackass,” one note read. “You are in two spots, one of which is for pregnant ladies. Stupidity is not a handicap. Use your wheelchair sticker for a better cause. Don’t use it for an excuse.”
Double parking is the only way Parisien can access certain shopping centres and businesses in Saskatoon.
Her side-ramp van requires more room than many wheelchair parking spots allow and she often finds planters or landscape features in many parking lots prevent her from using the designated spots. She also finds her van frequently blocked-in by other drivers, preventing her from lowering the vehicle’s ramp to enter her van.
CTV News took her case to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission — the commission’s accessibility standards guide is frequently referenced by accessibility advocates in regard to Parisien’s case.
Judge David M. Arnot, the Chief Commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said while this complaint, or others like it, has not been brought to the commission officially, he finds the idea of abusive notes left on the cars of the disabled very concerning.
“Fundamentally it shows that there is a sea of non-understanding in the ambulatory world. People don't understand disability issues the way they should, and that's a function of education,” he said.
Arnot said the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is working closely with the disability community on transportation issues, but that parking spaces on private lots have not been identified as one of the top issues. Still, he believes the minimum requirements for parking lots need to be increased.
“It’s very important to make sure that accessible parking spaces are in fact accessible. We know that equipment is getting bigger. We know that dimensions need to be revisited. We know that the number of accessible parking spaces probably should be increasing.”
The commission is also working with municipalities, including the City of Saskatoon, Arnot said.
Lynn Lacroix, Saskatoon’s director of community development, said the city is learning a lot from other provinces that have accessibility legislation, even though this province does not yet have any.
“Accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority for us, and that’s why we’re moving ahead before it becomes legislation – which it may or may not down the road.”
Designs from other provinces the city is looking at include wide aisles between wheelchair parking spaces that would provide enough room for a lift or ramp. However, even if these standards are ever implemented, they would only apply to newly built parking lots.