Snow covered handicapped spots 'violation of federal law' - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Snow covered handicapped spots 'violation of federal law'

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Days after snow stopped falling in the Charlotte area, handicapped drivers across the city dealt with the aftermath of the storm in a big way.

Calls from viewers pointed WBTV in the direction of piles of ice and snow in handicapped parking spots across the Queen City.

Less than 24 hours after asking questions to locate the people responsible for the plowing of snow into handicapped spaces, WBTV returned to many of the problem areas to find them recently plowed with a fresh coat of salt.

"It seems a little unfair to handicapped people," said Dolan Bradbury, who visited the Arboretum Sunday night for dinner.

Bradbury found mountains of snow pushed into handicapped parking areas and left to melt. But that melting process is taking time. 

"It's just insensitive," said Pat Cotham. "[The handicapped] have enough obstacles to deal with everyday so were we don't need to make their life harder and that's what's happening."

Smart phone in hand, Cotham spent her Sunday documenting what she calls danger zones. 

"The handicapped spots are full of snow," said Cotham, who said many handicapped spots in the city were covered in snow since Friday. 

Before speaking to WBTV, Cotham said she'd been to Matthews, the uptown and everywhere in between and seen the same thing. 

"It's not just this one shopping center - it's all over," she said.

Cotham snapped at least 25 different pictures of handicapped spots being completely or partially blocked by snow.

"I went to hospitals, stores, different shopping centers and unfortunately I saw the same thing," said Cotham.

The inconvenience has Bradbury wondering who was contracted to plow the snow in the Arboretum shopping center.

"Some people need a wheel chair and if they can't get close enough or have to cross over icy spots its going to be difficult for them," said Bradbury.

A call to the listed number for the owners of the Arboretum shopping center went directly to voicemail. The recording said they do not have business hours over the weekend.

Cotham believes the snow piles weren't purposefully pushed into handicapped spots, but she was still surprised that the incident wasn't isolated but instead widespread.

The maximum penalty for parking in a handicapped space is $250.  

But what is the penalty for blocking handicapped accessible parking places and who is on the hook?

Julia Sain, with Disability Relief & Resources in Charlotte, says the blame falls on both shopping center landlords and the business associated with the covered parking spots.

"It is equal responsibility of the tenant and the landlord," said Sain. "They are equally responsible for parking spaces to be accessible at your location."

Sain says businesses across the country have a federal obligation to keep their handicapped spaces as open as possible under all circumstances. 

"You scrape for everybody," said Sain. "Not just for the people that you think are driving or that you assume aren't driving."

Sain says police don't ticket people in these situations. Instead, she says it is a bigger issue that could make it's way up to the U.S. Department of Justice if enough complaints and claims were made in violations of civil rights.

"It's insensitive, it's unfair, it's illegal and it's in violation of federal law," said Sain.

She says the best course for people and businesses in a future situations is communication.

To report a violation of civil rights if you have a disability you can email the Disability Rights & Resources office at askADA@disability-rights.org.

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