Parking on campus is sparse and frustrating as is, but for some groups, lack of parking has become a very real issue. As a parking pass holder at the university, you are usually restricted to only specific lots or areas of campus.
Students usually follow these guidelines and park only in spaces designated to the pass they hold, although in the past few years it seems that many have started to view handicap spaces around campus as free-for-all spots. Whether it be able bodied students using these spaces for ten minutes as a waiting area to pick up a friend, or parking in them for hours on end during class time to avoid a metered space, these spaces being filled up can cause major accessibility issues for the disabled students at UNR.
As one of many disabled students at this university, I have been struggling the past few semesters with access to parking near my classes. I carry a disabled parking permit issued by the state and have also purchased a disabled parking pass from the university. This means that I can only park my vehicle in one of the limited handicap spots around campus. These spots are mostly only available in parking lots on the perimeter of campus, with a few scattered directly outside some buildings.
With constant construction and events, disabled parking spots are often the first to be blocked off. However, the issue I have been facing more often is students and campus vehicles who don’t hold handicap permits parking in spaces designated for handicap students only. While most don’t see taking a handicap spot for an hour or two as a big deal, this can be huge for disabled students like myself.
These spots all being occupied can lead to handicap students being forced to search for other available spots in much farther parking lots from their classes, or some not even being able to make it to class at all. Some students, like myself, have disabilities that are exacerbated by walking long distances, and some need the extra space next to handicap spots for wheelchair unloading.
Many disabled students drive to campus as walking even to a bus stop may be unrealistic. This parking issue has led to me creating a habit of leaving my apartment 30 minutes to an hour before my class even starts because I expect to need to wait for a close spot to become available or to have to park far and take breaks trying to walk to class. There have been times where I have not left early enough and ended up missing my class all together after not being able to find an open handicap spot anywhere near the building.
I have contacted the parking office about the issue many times. I have been told I need to call in when I actually see a car parked in handicap illegally. This is not realistic as I am likely already running late struggling to find a viable parking spot. It’s especially frustrating when you hear stories about how often students are ticketed for other petty parking offenses, but have never seen even a warning on any cars occupying handicap spaces without proper permits. If there’s often no repercussion, more students are likely to illegally occupy these spots.
The university should take this particular issue more seriously, clearly there is a large enough population of disabled students who need these spots. Disability access almost feels like an afterthought at this point. Whether we increase the number of spots available to all permit holders or start cracking down on illegally parked vehicles, something needs to be done. Students should also make an effort not to park in these spaces unless they hold a disabled permit and avoid using disabled areas as pick up zones.
Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or its staff. Alexa Silvers is a student at the University of Nevada and studies dietetics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.