Halifax advocate wants fines increased for drivers who abuse accessible parking spots

Disability rights advocate Paul Vienneau has lived on Spring Garden Road in Halifax for more than a decade and says the accessible parking problem is getting worse.  (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Disability rights advocate Paul Vienneau has lived on Spring Garden Road in Halifax for more than a decade and says the accessible parking problem is getting worse. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Halifax's accessibility advisor wants drivers who illegally park in spots reserved for people with disabilities to pay a steeper fine.

The penalty for stopping or parking in an accessible parking zone without a permit is $100 if people pay within 60 days. Paul Vienneau wants to see that fine increased to $300.

He lives on Spring Garden Road, and said he regularly sees drivers use the few accessible spots in his neighbourhood as loading zones.

It's especially a problem among delivery drivers with companies such as SkipTheDishes and Uber Eats, he said.

"Nobody is literally going to die immediately if people abuse the spaces. But people will give up trying to go out and live their lives because it's like putting up a set of stairs where there was a ramp," he told CBC Radio's Mainstreet Halifax.

Listen to Paul Vienneau's full interview with Mainstreet:

The provincial government is responsible for accessible parking fines. CBC News has contacted the Department of Public Works but did not receive a response in time for publication.

CBC News also contacted SkipTheDishes and Uber Eats but has not heard back.

Halifax Regional Municipality, meanwhile, says it's doing its part to crack down on offenders.

In 2022 the province issued 52 per cent more accessible parking tickets than the previous year, according to a city official.

A need for clearer signs

In Nova Scotia, people with limited mobility can apply for an accessible parking permit or license plate through the province as long as they have a note from their health-care provider.

Vienneau said his parents, who are in their 80s, often can't find an available accessible parking spot near his home so his dad will wait in the car while his mother visits him.

He's become so fed up he's begun approaching people he suspects are abusing the rules.

Getty Images/EyeEm
Getty Images/EyeEm

"You're not supposed to ask people if they need the space. However, [there's a] serious problem going on," Vienneau said.

"And there's a lot of people saying, 'Oh my god. I honestly didn't notice the sign.' They can't all be lying, but some of them do lie."

In 2019, the municipality held community sessions with 50 participants, many of whom called for better signs for accessible spaces and greater enforcement of fines against people violating the rules.

While Vienneau is pleased that the municipality is taking the issue seriously, he said council also contributed to the problem.

Changes to downtown parking have created less on-street parking, meaning more people are parking where they shouldn't be, he said.

He wants to see larger and more visible accessible parking signs with the fine clearly indicated.

"It takes away any excuse for people to do that," he said.

City supports fine increase 

Victoria Horne, director of parking services with the municipality, said council approved new accessible parking standards last year that ensures spaces aren't lost during construction projects.

She said council has also been "very supportive" of increasing accessible parking fines and has had several conversations with the province about it.

"Those fine categories are set by the province, but our legal department has discovered that there might be existing options for us to increase them, and so that's what we're hoping to explore with council later this year," Horne added.

She said there are two dedicated bylaw officers in Vienneau's neighbourhood focused on moving along delivery companies and ensuring they know about the accessible parking signs.

These efforts are working, according to Horne.

"Unfortunately for Paul and others, we can't be in all places at all time[s] and so it is a little bit incumbent on drivers to be aware ... that it is illegal to park in an accessible parking space if you don't need it," she said.