I-Team: Triangle growth puts squeeze on accessible parking

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- Even without the signs and blue paint, these spaces are already special for their location - but people who actually need them don't really consider themselves lucky.

"You overcome things and you have to keep going," David Ayscue, a disabled Raleigh resident told ABC11. "I've tried to remain independent, which is a goal of people with spinal injuries and people with disabilities."

Ayscue was injured in a freak accident at work eight years ago and has limited feeling in and around his midsection. Still, he maintains a remarkable sense of independence with a specially equipped van with room for him, his family, his wheelchair and a ramp.

"You want to patronize your local businesses because I'm still a human being that needs stuff," he said.

In Ayscue's perspective, however, that ability to visit those businesses is made increasingly difficult because of parking issues. Indeed, he said there are those who park in accessible parking spaces that aren't supposed to, but the issues are far greater because of a growing population in the Triangle, and an aging population of Baby Boomers.

"You'd love to see the shopping center thinking we need more spaces," he said.

Backed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), federal and state regulations mandate the number of accessible parking spaces in a lot.

RELATED: Minimum Number of Accessible Parking Spaces, 2010 Standards (.pdf)

For people like Ayscue, however, a simple accessible parking space is not enough; they require more space for vans to open their ramps.

The law requires one of those van-accessible spaces for every six accessible spaces in a parking lot, and Ayscue says any adjacent car that encroaches even one inch could mean the difference of him getting in or out.

"People will park in the access area," he said. "I don't know if they're confused about the regulations. They will park in the access area. I have come to my vehicle and a car was parked right against me. No way I can use my van for what it's made for."

The North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities is the state's ADA affiliate.

Philip Woodward, the Systems Change Manager, says his office is aware of several similar complaints regarding parking, and he worries about more problems in the future.

"I think greater awareness is needed, and by that I mean when you see the sign, you respect the sign and you respect the full accessible parking area," Woodward told ABC11. "My perspective as an individual is to educate people. I do that by developing relationships and getting to know them. You get to know someone better by appreciating what they have to go through."

As to whether regulations need some updating, Woodward advises companies to look at the minimums as a starting point; new businesses should be encouraged to go beyond the minimums because North Carolina will have more disabled residents with mobility issues, and that includes aging veterans.

"We have two major military installations in North Carolina - Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune," Woodward added. "I remember former Gov. Pat McCrory said he wanted North Carolina to be the most veteran-friendly state in the whole country."

The U.S. Census reports as many as 20 percent of residents live with a disability, including 30 percent of all veterans
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