WCU Not-so-handicap parking

Limited handicap spots on WCU. Photo by: Sammy Stedem

At WCU there are over 5,000 parking spots on campus.   Nearly 100 of those spots are reserved for handicap students and faculty. However, this does not appear to be enough.  There have been several complaints going around the university claiming students and faculty who are not handicap, take the parking spaces at their own convenience. Betty Dishman is an office assistant on campus, located at the Old Student Union. Last April, Betty fell in her yard and broke her ankle in 3 places.  After several months out of work, she returned in September as a handicap. Since the incident she has noticed there is only one handicap parking spot for her, and it is often taken by students who do not need it.

“I struggle to find a parking spot about twice a week, I have to get here early in the morning to make sure I get a spot ” she says.  “It is frustrating to see someone get out of the car after parking in the handicap spot and walk perfectly fine to class.  Some days I get so angry I can’t see straight.”

Due to the number of handicapped spots on campus and the amount of people using them, Dishman says it is hard to get around. “If I need anything I don’t go out.  I can’t trust there will be a space for me and I can’t trust my spot will still be here when I get back.”

At the speech and hearing center, Lili Acheson is experiencing similar problems.   There are three designated spots for patients that are also being used by students and faculty who are running late and decide to park there.

“Elderly and parents of patients have a hard enough time trying to park. The spaces should be left for them but are being taken up by people who don’t need them.”  Acheson says about twice a week she sees cars parked in the reserved spots. “A lot of the time it is faculty who are running late.  It is aggravating for patients and even for students who work here.”

The police department says they are extremely sensitive to these problems.  For football games the University police reserves 70 spaces for the handicapped and give a $250 fine for those who are caught without a placard. When asked about consequences for students or faculty parking in handicap spots with false placards, Chief of University Police, Earnie Hudson says that they have a good system for tracking.

“During a check officers call in with the placard number and we verify with the DMV if the person is who the placard says are, and you will get caught,” Chief Hudson explained.

Students registered with the school will receive the fine and a university citation that is not appealing.  However, if the vehicle is not registered on campus, you will receive a state citation and have to go to court.  As for the issue of parking in reserved spaces, if the university police are called or you are caught, you will also get ticket.

“90% of the problems in this world would be solved if people were just decent to one another,” says Hudson. “My daughter is handicap.  Even though I have the stickers on my car I won’t park there, because she is handicap, and I am not. If you do not need to park there, don’t park there.  There are people who need the space and we should always consider them.”