Photo: Steve Thurston
Some of Arlington’s disabled residents have not been happy lately with the county’s changes to its parking system and have been looking to Washington D.C.’s streets for guidance on efficient strategies to make the area more disability friendly. They say Arlington’s neighbor has been making the right moves to create a system that is easier for the disabled community to use.
The county is currently in the process of changing the its single-space parking meters to multi-space kiosks. The county began this process seven years ago and will continue for another three or more.
The changes worry some disabled residents--the Mercury talked to a large handful--who are afraid that finding accessible spaces near their destinations, and physically paying for parking with new devices, will become even more difficult. (See our story on this here.)
This is why some are looking to Washington.
Arlington resident Sheri Denkensohn says that even though the Rossyln-to-Ballston corridor has been praised for its improvement in universal design (building and landscape that people with disabilities can use), she thinks Washington provides a model for what the meter system should look like.
“D.C. got it right,” Denkensohn said.
Not so, said Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary in a recent interview. He believes the exact opposite.
“They [Washington, D.C.] are slowly but surely emulating us,” he said. “Frankly, we’ve been the leader in this field.”
Jeff Nethery, the general manager of Cale America, the company that makes the parking kiosks for Arlington said the county has been as “proactive as any if not more” than the municipalities he has worked with from Alexandria to Baltimore.
Washington has adopted several programs to make parking more accessible, including reserved on street parking for residents with a disability and meters with payments slots no more than 4 feet off the ground, according to their Department of Transportation’s website. The DC Center for Independent Living confirmed that all handicap parking meters in Washington comply with ADA standards, with all meters standing under 48 inches high.
Arlington also follows ADA guidelines for single-spaced, handicapped meters. However, activists in town are quick to point at many handicapped meters that are inaccessible to drivers who use scooters or wheelchairs. Arlington also allows permanent handicapped spaces in front of private residences including apartment buildings, but few people have requested them said Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary.
Under temporary rules, the District allows disabled people to park for free at handicapped parking meters. They may stay only for the time allotted on the meter. They cannot pay for additional parking at that meter. If they park in standard spaces, they must pay for that.