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Constable Carlos Lopez and his deputies assist the citizens and courts of Travis County

Carlos B. Lopez, Constable

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Bruce Elfant

Bruce Elfant

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Constable's Notebook - June 2009

Nearly 20 years after passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, and in spite of aggressive enforcement efforts, handicap parking violations are as widespread as ever. In 1995, my office established Texas’ first county volunteer handicap parking enforcement program. During that first year, volunteers wrote more than 1,000 tickets throughout Travis County. Since then the Texas Legislature has provided additional enforcement tools and increased fines. Local media outlets have widely publicized the need for handicap parking spaces by people with disabilities. My officers and volunteers have also worked with other law enforcement agencies to conduct periodic sting operations. This year we will write more than 1,500 tickets.

Three years ago a study conducted by my office found that 65% of those who used handicap parking placards to park in the downtown area were actually using someone else’s placard to park for free in handicap parking spaces or at meters. We estimated that the City of Austin loses as much at $500,000 per year in parking meter revenue. Recently during the Legislative Session, deputy constables wrote 22 handicap parking tickets around the State Capitol Complex. Twenty tickets were written to state employees. All 22 tickets were written to people who were using other peoples’ handicap parking placards to park in handicap parking spaces or at meters for free. The deputies said that with additional resources they could easily have written dozens more tickets.

This abuse is not just occurring at the State Capitol. It is occurring throughout Texas. Violators prevent people who need these parking spaces from gaining access to public places and they are stealing parking revenue from their cities. A couple of violators said receiving tickets two or three times per year would still be cheaper for them than paying for parking. It is clear that current state law and local law enforcement efforts have so far failed to achieve the expectations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Many disability organizations and law enforcement officials have asked the Texas Legislature to further increase handicap parking fines so violators won’t continue to view getting a couple of tickets per year as a cheaper option. As of this writing it is not clear if increased handicap parking fines will pass, but you can be assured that my deputies and volunteers will continue to aggressively enforce access rights in Travis County.

We are currently accepting applications for handicap parking enforcement volunteers. Volunteers must live in Travis County, have no criminal history and complete a training class. Applications can be obtained at www.Constable5.com or by calling 854-9100. Information regarding handicap parking abuses, inadequate handicap parking spaces or improper signage may be reported to my office at 854-9100 or bruce.elfant@co.travis.tx.us.

When signing the ADA President Bush (41) said, “Every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.” Nineteen years later many citizens are still not able to pass through the doors of equality because illegally parked vehicles stand in their way.



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