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Photo: The accessible parking placard campaign has been a huge success in Fort St. John – file photo. 

Finding an accessible parking spot can be a challenge for people with mobility issues.

In Fort St. John, the Mayor’s Disability Advisory Committee will be promoting its Accessible Parking Awareness Campaign for the month of December.

This is the second year the Committee has been campaigning and attempting to raise people’s awareness of the importance of these parking spots, says Lori Slater, the Committee’s chair. Slater says if someone who does not need to park in an accessible parking spot does, then it can cause a significant burden for someone with a disability that cannot use the spot.

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Slater says there have been more than 300 SPARC (Social Planning and Research Council) of BC permits issued to people in and around Fort St. John. She also says some people have temporary orange permits issued by the city. These permits are for people who sustained an injury or had surgery resulting in temporary mobility problems.

Slater says wheelchair accessible parking spots are easily recognizable by the blue stand-up signs with a wheelchair symbol, located in front of the parking spot, and a painted wheelchair symbol on the pavement. These spots are also often wider than regular parking spots to accommodate wheelchair access in and out of a vehicle. She adds that city-owned parking lots now also have blue paint along the curb, increasing the spot’s visibility to drivers.

Although Slater says the problem of people parking in wheelchair accessible parking spots when they don’t have a permit was a larger problem last year, she says there are still ongoing concerns.

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The SPARC-issued parking permits are only supposed to be used if the person for whom the permit was issued is getting out of the vehicle.

Currently, anyone in the city who parks in a handicap parking spot without a permit can face a $50 fine. However, Slater says the Committee is trying to have that amount increased.

A feature of the month-long campaign includes small red cards that have an accessibility symbol. Anyone who sees a vehicle parked in an accessible parking spot without a SPARC permit or temporary orange permit can put one of the cards on the vehicle’s windshield. The cards are used as a friendly reminder to draw attention to the fact that the vehicle is illegally parked and potentially blocking the space from someone who really needs to use it.

Anyone can acquire the cards from city hall, the Association for Community Living or by contacting Lori Slater at 250-787-1912.

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