So the first thing I noticed is, I'll go to a store and the handicapped space will actually be taken up by the snow. They'll have plowed the snow into the handicapped spot, so I can't use it. —Maggie Anderson
SALT LAKE CITY — Finding a parking spot can be tricky after a major snowstorm. Many spots are covered in snow and ice, and mountains of snow can be seen all over the lot.
It can be even harder for people who rely on accessible parking spaces.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses to clear these parking spaces and entrances to their buildings. But Maggie Anderson said she and others with disabilities have noticed that many parking spaces are often covered with snow and ice, making it difficult and sometimes dangerous to try and get inside a business.
Anderson, a graduate student in social work at the University of Utah, suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident 10 years ago. She said many people still do not think about the rights of people with disabilities.
Anderson, who said she just wants to be as independent as possible and be able to maneuver as part of the community, took photographs following a recent snowstorm in Salt lake City because she could not park in several lots.
"So the first thing I noticed is, I'll go to a store and the handicapped space will actually be taken up by the snow," Anderson said. "They'll have plowed the snow into the handicapped spot, so I can't use it.
“The second thing I noticed is that the parking lots are actually ice-packed and so I can't push through them. So, I usually have to have somebody I know that's with me, sometimes even a stranger, park my car for me so I can get out in the front of the store and go inside."
The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, and it requires businesses to clear these parking spaces and entrances to their buildings. It prohibits discrimination against the disabled and anything that limits major life activity.
On the ADA government website, there are drawings and regulations for businesses and one section deals with having accessible parking spaces.
"Clear completely snow, ice, mud and leaves from accessible parking spaces whenever plowing or clearing the rest of the parking area," the website says. "Be sure that cleaning crews do not pile snow or gravel in the accessible parking spaces, access aisles and curb ramps."
"I think that if you don't live within it, you don't understand it," Anderson said. "But as you begin to meet other people who are disabled, you see it everywhere and you start to understand, it is still a big issue."
Often clearing accessible parking spaces is the responsibility of property owners and managers, not just the specific businesses on those properties. Nothing should be in the accessible spaces except vehicles with disability stickers or handicap parking tags on the rearview mirror.
"Oftentimes, it's not my disability that makes me feel disabled — it's the environment," Anderson said. "By creating an accessible environment, they can support the growth of disabled people everywhere. That matters."