SAN MARCOS, Texas — For those who may have disabilities, finding accessible parking is more than convenience, it's a necessity. So when people don't follow the rules and illegally park in those spaces, accessibility becomes an issue, especially during the busy holiday season.
San Marcos Chief of Police Chase Stapp said while it's a year-round issue, the peak shopping time is when the department sees the most accessible parking violations. That's why the City of San Marcos and Hays County have partnered up with the directors of the Parking Mobility app to get more violations reported and to create more education and awareness.
Parking Mobility allows citizens to report accessible parking abuse in their communities by uploading photos of a violation directly to the app itself.
"We've partnered with Parking Mobility to help basically serve as a force multiplier for our ability to enforce accessible parking space violations," said Chief Stapp. "It's a common occurrence to see people parking in the spaces that don't have the right to do so. The issue prior to us partnering with Parking Mobility -- for us it's really a resources issue. Police officers are very busy, and we don't have the time that we'd like to have to issue as many citations as we can."
For Mack Marsh, director of the Parking Mobility app, abuse of accessible parking is personal. Nearly 18 years ago, a day at the pool changed his life when he broke his neck. He's used his wheelchair ever since, and wants to help those with and without disabilities become more aware of the different challenges surrounding accessibility. He said that over the past year, San Marcos has really stepped up in their efforts to improve accessibility across the city.
"We recently had the pleasure of being named December as Parking Mobility Month here in San Marcos," said Marsh. "I've been really impressed by the city council. Just in the last year or so they've really taken the initiative to be a more inclusive community. They put in their first fully accessible playground for children with disabilities, they're working on making their riverfront fully accessible to people in wheelchairs, and other mobility impairments."
Marsh explained that the app's goal isn't to punish those illegally parked in these spots or those without the proper disabled parking identification. Instead, the goal is to improve education and awareness. Forty-three percent of violators are actually people with disabilities.
"Obviously as our community ages as people get older, more people have disabilities, more people have mobility impairments, and I think it's important that cities find ways to be accessible for all," said Marsh. "December is just a really good opportunity to raise that awareness. As we get into the holiday shopping season this is the time of year when we see those violations the most because it's when people are out the most. It's something that happens year-round but December is just a really good time to raise awareness."
Marsh said there are currently about 300 Parking Mobility volunteers in Central Texas. When a driver receives a citation, they can pay the $500 fine or they can potentially be approved to take a class so that the ticket can be dismissed.
To register or to learn more about becoming a Parking Mobility volunteer, click here.