When Tomasz Muldner moved to Ottawa in 2010, he carefully read all the instructions attached to his new accessible parking permit.
Among those rules, permit holders are allowed to park in no-parking zones for up to four hours, so long as their permit is properly displayed.
On March 16, Muldner, who relies a wheelchair to get around, did just that to attend a medical appointment. When he and his wife returned to their vehicle, they found they’d been ticketed and fined $80 for parking in a no-parking zone. That amount is reduced to $60 for early payment.
Muldner said his permit was properly displayed, and they hadn’t been parked for more than four hours.
“It’s frustrating, as you can imagine, during COVID times in particular,” he said. “Everything which comes unexpected and undeserved makes your psychological problems much harder.”
Rules are clear
“In a no parking zone, a disability permit provides an exemption, but only if displayed on the vehicle’s dashboard or sun visor located on the driver side, the permit holder is present, and the permit is up-to-date,” the city’s bylaw chief Roger Chapman explained in an emailed statement.
Muldner, who maintains his permit was properly displayed, appealed the fine and the city agreed to reduce it by half if he paid within 48 hours. He also followed up with his city councillor, and said he was told he’d been ticketed for failing to properly display his permit.
“There was no mention of any pictures that would actually prove it,” said Muldner, who has not paid the reduced fine and plans to fight the ticket in court.
A common experience
Muldner said he’s been communicating online with other people with disabilities who have had similar experiences.
“It happened to me three times,” said Alicia Magliocco who has nerve damage from a spinal injury, requiring her to use a wheelchair at times.
Magliocco said she has difficulty finding appropriate parking spots downtown, so she often parks in no-parking zones. Like Muldner, she said she always follows the rules.
She was able to get the fines cancelled each time, but because of COVID-19 had to submit her appeals and photos online, a time-consuming process.
“Why should I have to go through that? The bylaw people should know what the laws are,” said Magliocco, who has since found a permanent parking spot.
Magliocco said she’s heard of other people with disabilities who didn’t succeed in getting their fines cancelled, and said it just adds to the frustration people with disabilities often feel, especially when they often see vehicles with no accessible permit parked in spots reserved for them.
“When we’re getting tickets for using our permit correctly and other people aren’t getting ticketed at all for not even having a permit, it’s definitely frustrating,” she said.