Denver audit finds city does not have a strategy for maintaining disabled parking

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DENVER — The Denver Auditor’s Office released a new report Thursday regarding parking lots that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“Despite an ongoing obligation to maintain accessibility, businesses often get away with painting over disabled parking spaces because no one checks up on them,” according to a press release from the Auditor’s office. “The City has no inventory of these spaces, and no City agency is responsible for compelling owners to retain and maintain them over time.”

Chris Hinds, a paraplegic following a 2008 car crash, identifies himself as a disability advocate in Denver. He was relieved to see the Auditor’s report highlighting problems he sees all too often, including ADA compliant parking spaces.

“I used to get mad, but it seems to me there’s just a huge lack of awareness,” he said. “There are spaces with graffiti on them.”

Hinds showed FOX31 a lot, not too far from where he lives, where it appeared the blue and white accessible parking symbol had been covered up on the asphalt, and the disabled parking sign had been taken down.

“We could see remnants of paint on the ground,” he said. “We could see where there used to be a sign, but it had been sawed off. And so it looks pretty clear that there used to be accessible parking spaces there.”

Hinds says it highlights a huge problem in Denver. According to federal law, in every parking lot, there is a minimum number of disabled parking spaces required.

But according to the Auditor’s report, in Denver, businesses can get away with not properly maintaining the spaces simply because no one checks up on them. The Auditor found that there is no one city agency responsible for compelling business owners to maintain accessible spots.

“There’s just a huge lack of awareness,” Hinds said. “People don’t know what they don’t know.”

Another problem highlighted in the Auditor’s report is inadequate enforcement of disability parking. When someone parks illegally in an accessible parking space, it’s mostly a group of volunteers who serve under the Disability Parking Enforcement Program (DPEP) that issue citations.

“Despite the minimum commitment of one hour a month, only 11 of the 21 volunteers issued citations in 2015,” according to the press release issued by the Auditor’s office. “One single volunteer wrote 70% of the tickets issued by DPEP. Both the Denver Police Department (DPD) and ROWE can ticket cars that park in disabled spaces without the proper license plate, card or hang-tag.  Parking violations are low on the DPD’s priority list, and ROWE concentrates its enforcement in public streets.”

In the Auditor’s Office report, it is recommended that a single agency be tasked to ensure that accessible spaces are created and maintained, and that paid staff be hired to augment the volunteers.

“Admitting you have a problem is a great first step, and I’m excited to see what happens next,” Hinds said.

You can read the entire report by clicking here.