Incensed by those who abuse the system, Coquitlam council set out to look for some respect on Monday.
Council unanimously endorsed a notice of motion that will put pressure on both the province and the Social Planning and Research Council (SPARC) to curb those who abuse accessible parking stickers, and others who park in handicap spaces without the proper documentation.
Introduced by Coun. Lou Sekora, the motion asks both the province and SPARC to review provincial parking regulations, while asking for more powers to deal with parking issues on private property.
"If we're having these kinds of problems, I guarantee you that other cities are having the same problems we're having," Sekora said in an interview Monday.
Based in Burnaby, SPARC is the organization that oversees the issuance of accessible parking passes. Both temporary and permanent passes, which are good for three years, are issued to those who provide medical documentation that they, in fact, need them: residents with mobility issues, the elderly, or others who have suffered a stroke or from degenerative conditions.
According to SPARC's executive director Lorraine Copas, the main criterion looked at by doctors is whether a person can travel 100 metres from a vehicle to get to his or her destination.
"The doctor signs off on that, that this is a limiting condition and that it would affect mobility and access," she said in an interview.
The program is enforced in tandem between her organization and various municipalities - the cities first report parking violations to SPARC officials, who are then tasked with enforcement.
Copas noted that SPARC's enforcement scheme entails a few different options.
"It depends on the severity. There's a strong warning and then they attempt to follow up and monitor that offender," she said. "We have been known to take away the pass if there's a clear and absolute abuse of the permit."
The problem for many on council, however, is twofold: enforcement and punishment are not steep enough, and most violations take place on private property, leaving the city's bylaw staff unable to intervene.
Many on council were skeptical of that enforcement system on Monday night, and the discussion was rife with anecdotal stories of abuse of the program: residents borrowing or taking the pass from elderly family members or simply parking in those spaces without a pass at all.
"The handicap placard is a real precious thing for someone with a disability," said Mayor Richard Stewart, who owns one due to a longstanding back ailment.
"The wheelchair placard allows them access to the world that the rest of us take for granted. To take away that access because you want to park more conveniently, I think is the height of rudeness - and ultimately we should be punishing it."
Outside of notifying SPARC and the province, Sekora plans to raise the issue at the Union Of British Columbia Municipalities conference in mid-September.