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SALT LAKE CITY — When a snow storm hits, many people have problems getting into parking lots, but one Utah woman with a disability said snow-covered handicap parking spaces are dangerous.
Maggie Anderson is a graduate student in social work at the University of Utah. Ten years ago, she suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident. She said many still do not think about the rights of people with disabilities. Maggie Anderson and others said they simply wish to be as independent as possible and be able to maneuver as part of the community.
After the latest snowstorm, Anderson took photographs because she could not park in several lots in Salt Lake City.
"So, the first thing I noticed is, I'll go to a store and the handicapped space will actually be taken up by the snow," Anderson said. "They'll have plowed the snow into the handicapped spot, so I can't use it. The second thing I noticed is that the parking lots are actually ice-packed and so, I can't push through them. So, I usually have to have somebody I know that's with me, sometimes even a stranger, park my car for me so I can get out in the front of the store and go inside."
The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, and it requires businesses to clear these parking spaces and entrances to their buildings. It prohibits discrimination against the disabled and anything that limits major life activity.
On the ADA government website, there are drawings and regulations for businesses and one section deals with having accessible parking spaces.
"Clear completely snow, ice, mud, and leaves from accessible parking spaces whenever plowing or clearing the rest of the parking area," the website says. "Be sure that cleaning crews do not pile snow or gravel in the accessible parking spaces, access aisles, and curb ramps."
"I think that if you don't live within it, you don't understand it," Anderson said. "But as you begin to meet other people who are disabled, you see it everywhere and you start to understand, it is still a big issue."
Anderson said her message for others is to "please see me as I am."
"Oftentimes, it's not my disability that makes me feel disabled — it's the environment," she said. "By creating an accessible environment, that they can support the growth of disabled people everywhere. That matters."
Often clearing accessible parking spaces is the responsibility of property owners and managers, not just the specific businesses on those properties, but nothing should be in the accessible spaces except vehicles with disability stickers or handicap parking tag on the rearview mirror.