Photo: Steve Thurston
“The wheelchair mecca.”
That’s what Arlington resident Sheri Denkensohn calls the county she has settled into as her home. Dekensohn, who is paralyzed as a result of a spinal cord injury, loves living in a place that’s cheaper than Washington yet easy to get around.
She and others have said that Ballston and Clarendon have become the mecca for people in wheelchairs because of the ease of mobility and because the federal government is an attractive employer for people with special needs.
Despite that, Denkensohn has one major complaint.
“Parking for handicapped people stinks,” she said.
Arlington County’s parking has been changing from classic “lollipop” style meters to central parking “kiosks”--or “multi-space meters”--over the past seven years. All of the kiosks meet old ADA requirements, but not all meet current requirements. They are too tall.
After March 2012 when the latest regulations took effect, the county installed 16 of the multi-space meters that fit the old guidelines, not the new. When the meters were field-measured they were found to be too-tall, said Wayne Wentz, chief of the county’s Transportation Engineering and Operations Administration.
Last October, the county negotiated repairs with the manufacturer, Cale America of Tampa, Fla. The multispace meters were converted earlier this year so that the controls on the kiosks were lowered.
Jeff Nethery, the general manager of Cale America, said that his company has converted the non-compliant meters at their expense. The multi-space meters that were delivered were not in compliance, Wentz said.
Although many kiosks in the county are still too tall, the new regulations only apply to those installed after March 15, 2012.
Wentz said that the county stopped installing meters after they realized the trouble and has worked since then to make the proper changes. The county is back to installing meters and will unveil new ones this week.
The motivation behind the change from meters to kiosks is part of the county’s Master Transportation Plan to make the parking system more efficient and enhance the technology, Wentz said. The changeover is due for completion in the next three to four years, he said.
According to Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary there are around 4,300 parking spaces in the county. Wentz said there are 338 multi-space meters, which cover half of all spaces in the county.
Side-Reach and Forward-Reach
Arlington County Planning Commissioner Rosemary Ciotti has been vocal in the fight for ADA compliant meters. Ciotti has an autoimmune disease that attacked her central nervous system, and in 1990 she became disabled. Since then she has used a wheelchair.