John Robinson is 3’9” tall. Earlier this month, he was issued a parking ticket outside a restaurant in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Robinson, visiting New York City as a tourist, had parked on the street since there was no disabled parking space available. When he saw an NYC parking patrol official at his truck, he tried to reason with him, saying that he could not reach the kiosk. His appeal was disregarded because the official had already processed the $60 parking ticket. (Source: Huffington Post)
The NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities has publicly stated that the voice of the disabled community is represented, and the city’s programs and policies address the needs of people with disabilities. However, whether the Office has made New York City disabled-friendly is debatable.
John Robinson’s case is one of the many indications of the accessibility issues that disabled tourists face in New York. As far back as 1991, 81 year old Harry Katz, a New Jersey resident, fought a battle similar to Robinson’s. The New York Times reported that Katz “received a ticket for parking and not paying at a curbside meter. He paid a $20 fine.”
Katz’s hip disability got him a special license plate which allowed him to park at meters without paying, but this plate was not valid for the limited curbside parking spots in New York. As Robinson notes, “It is obvious when cities, towns, tourism areas are not welcoming to people who are differently-abled…Parking in New York City should be — can be — easy to fix…I am a tourist and want to experience the city just like my able-bodied peers.”Overlapping city and state laws regarding disabled parking do lead to parking and ticketing confusion. However, the core of the problem is not that but a lack of parking spaces in general. New York City has many reasons to consider reserving more parking spaces for disabled tourists and making parking meters more accessible. According to an Open Doors Organization survey, New York City topped the list of destinations for adults with disabilities (47%).
As Robinson points out, disabled-friendly tourism is a growing opportunity for businesses. The figures speak for themselves:
- There are currently 54 million people with disabilities and 23 million parents of children with disabilities
- This group accounts for $220 billion in discretionary spending power
- They spend $13.6 billion on 31.7 million trips each year
- The number of leisure trips and hotel stays among people with disabilities has increased by 50 percent since 2002