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Parking in a handicapped spot when you don't need to is not only illegal, but hurtful

"Most people, when they park in these spots, they're like 'Oh, it'll be just for a minute, or there's tons of spots it won't really affect anyone,'” Marti Boren said.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In January it became illegal to park in a van accessible space if you do not have a van accessible sticker on top of your handicapped plate, but one woman said she still sees people misusing these spaces.

"Most people, when they park in these spots, they're like 'Oh, it'll be just for a minute, or there's tons of spots it won't really affect anyone,'” Marti Boren said.

Tuesday night, Marti Boren took her sister Ashlynn out to get ice cream.

"We went to Sonic, but the thing about the van is you have to get the lift down a certain way and the regular stalls, there's no way to get the lift down without hurting the doors or hurting Ashlynn,” she said.

But when she pulled into the lot, the only handicapped van accessible spot was taken. It's a problem Marti and her family run into constantly.

"It affects how we have to park and how we have to get her out,” Marti said. "They didn't have a tag on the license plate or from the rearview."

Marti said this is also an issue with handicapped people parking in van accessible spots.

"Most people don't even realize that it's two separate things,” she said.

Scott Hardin with the Department of Finance and Administration said it is illegal to park in a van accessible spot without a tag. Back in 2017, the department began issuing a van accessible decal, which noted you have the ability to park in a van accessible spot to have the extra room, allowing someone with a mobility device to get in and out of that space. Hardin said the department began enforcing it in January 2019.

"In that scenario, if someone with a disability plate or tag parks in a van accessible space without that decal, they may be ticketed,” Hardin said.

Hardin said since January, the DFA received 33 complaints of people with handicapped plates parked in van accessible spots without a sticker. Hardin said this is a fine of up to about $500.

"In these cases regarding van accessibility, we're not yet contacting law enforcement. We want to give people a chance to change that behavior,” he said.

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Hardin said those van accessible spots allow an extra three feet of space, making it easier for people like Marti to get her sister in and out of the car.

"And we have a big van! I just wish people would read up on it and feel like it's more important because most people it is not a priority. For vans, it's more important, almost, because we need more space than regular cars,” Marti said.

Hardin said getting a van accessible tag is free, if you need one. He said you also do not need to have a van to get the tag.

“The process is simple. If they want that van accessible tag, they just go to the doctor, have the doctor sign a form that says this individual needs a mobility device, and they bring it to the local revenue office,” he said.

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Hardin said the DFA has not issued tickets to those 33 people. But if it continues to be a problem, law enforcement will be contacted.

“We don’t have the ability to ticket. What we do is issue the letter; a warning. The hope is the letter in itself is a deterrent,” he said.

Arkansans can report misuse of handicapped parking spaces by calling 1-866-NOPARKS, or online at portal.dfa.arkansas.gov/misuseparking. The DFA received a total of 2,000 complaints since it launched over a year ago – most of which, were regarding vehicles without any type of handicapped plate.