Reporting Pam Zekman
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CHIAGO (CBS) — City and state officials are cracking down on the misuse of disabled parking privileges by people who are not disabled.
But the 2 Investigators found that in the last two years, 74 percent of those tickets issued by the city have been dismissed by administrative hearing judges.
The case of Wilton and Roystene Harris may explain why it’s happening.
Wilton Harris is blind, a diabetic, and has to go to receive life-saving kidney treatments three times a week.
His wife drives him to dialysis and uses Wilton’s handicap placard to park in a disabled parking spot near the center. Then they walk to the clinic together.
“I need the placard because of the shortness of breath,” Wilton Harris said one morning after finishing his dialysis treatment.
He says there are many days when he is so tired after dialysis that he can’t walk, so he needs the placard.
After Roystene Harris gets Wilton settled in for his four-hour treatment, she leaves to go to work. One morning, the police were waiting at her car and wrote her a ticket for unlawful use of a handicapped parking permit.
Chicago police say the officer followed the letter of the law, which says the person registered to the placard must be present when it’s being used.
But that’s wrong. The law says the disabled person must enter or exit the car when the disabled spot is being used. Roystene says she told the officer her husband exited the car with her to go for his treatment.
“I told him where my husband was at dialysis. He said, ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry. You’re a nice lady, but he has to be in the car with you at all times.’”
The officer also told Roystene she should drop him off and park because she herself is abled-bodied.
But her spouse can’t even get into the building by himself because he is blind, she says.
What’s more, the officer confiscated Wilton’s placard. He says that has been a real problem.
“We don’t have that placard anymore, and we can’t park in disability or handicapped spot,” Wilton says.
Zena Naiditch, president and CEO of Equip for Equality, said the Chicago police interpretation of the disability parking law is “downright wrong.”
“If they apply the law in this way, lots of people with disabilities are going to be seriously harmed,” she says.
Many people with disabilities, like Wilton, need assistance to go to doctor’s appointments, jobs, schools or other recreational activities.
“The police officer had a responsibility here to take that extra step to make sure, in fact, the usage was in compliance with the law,” Naiditch says.
The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office says that is, in fact, what they do. For example, officers even call to confirm if a disabled person is at a medical appointment. If they are, no ticket is issued.
In their opinion, the Harrises were using their placard properly, and it has been returned.
But the Harrises still have to fight that ticket.