SAFETY

Wheelchair users face parking plight, Utah lawmaker sees solution

Jan 5, 2022, 12:26 PM | Updated: 6:37 pm
wheelchairs parking...
Utah Lawmaker has plans for a bill that will designate handicap parking spots for those in wheelchairs. Photo: Canva

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker says he was taken aback by a frequent experience of his disabled constituent. Now, he wants the state to require a portion of handicapped parking spots is designated for those who use wheelchairs only.

Republican lawmaker Jeff Stenquist (R-51) spoke exclusively to KSL NewsRadio’s Lindsay Aerts about his plans for a new bill. 

Stenquist said his constituent is four-time Paralympian Mike Schlappi. In addition to his athletic accolades, Schlappi runs the Wheelin’ Jazz. The team represents the Utah Jazz in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.

Schlappi brought something to Stenquist’s attention.

The wheelchairs, parking issue at hand

Schlappi explained that a lot of people qualify for and receive handicapped parking passes. Often, when he drives somewhere, those spots designated for disabled people are filled. Then, he parks all the way in the back of the lot, in the hopes that no one will park next to him and prevent him from safely getting out and back into his vehicle with his wheelchair. 

Even with this precaution, sometimes Schlappi still gets parked in, leaving him unable to get back in his car. When this happens, Schlappi has to ask others to move his car to a new place where he has the room to reenter in his wheelchair.

Representative Stenquist has a potential solution

Stenquist has a bill in mind that would prevent this major inconvenience for wheelchair users like Schlappi. Stenquist wants the state to update its disabled parking laws so some parking spots are exclusively for people in wheelchairs. 

Stenquist’s bill would require businesses to designate at least one parking spot for wheelchair users only. The bill would also add a specific handicap parking pass for people who use wheelchairs. This way, they will always be able to park in a spot with a width that accommodates their safe exit and entry into their vehicle.  

In his conversation with Aerts, the lawmaker acknowledged that others with disabilities might have to walk a little farther with the legislation. However, it is those who use wheelchairs that need the width provided by parking spots in the front.

“It really is necessary to accommodate this segment of our population that really needs it. So, I think it’s justified,” he told Aerts.

Stenquist says he hasn’t finalized how much it will cost to designate the spots as wheelchair only.

Contributing: Lindsay Aerts

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Wheelchair users face parking plight, Utah lawmaker sees solution