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Millersville accessible parking space count complies with ADA, but still causes problems for students with disabilities

Pictured above is the accessible parking lot behind Chryst Hall. There are only 61 spaces available to those who have handicap placards, which can cause students like Emilynn McComsey to not be able to find parking during busy class periods. Jay Lindblad/Snapper

Mickayla Miller
Editor in Chief

Ask anyone about their least favorite part of campus, and you’ll hear one thing across the board: parking. 

But, for those who need handicap-accessible parking—which, from here on, will simply be labeled as accessible parking—the issue stems beyond inconvenience. On campus, strides have been made to take more parking spaces away in favor of making the campus more “walkable.”

These strides impact students like Emilynn McComsey, a senior with acute fibromyalgia. A commuter, McComsey often finds it difficult to find accessible parking spaces outside of her classroom buildings. On days where her fibromyalgia flares up, walking long distances can become an excruciating feat. 

With the perceived miscommunication of closing Frederick Street, several dozen parking spots have been taken away for commuters, whether they need them for accessible reasons or not. 

“I do not think that they had their students with disabilities in mind when they made this change,” said McComsey. “[A] walking campus is great for those [who] are fully capable, but honestly it doesn’t work for students like me who have problems walking a far distance.”

In a previous article about parking, The Snapper reported that there were 2,531 parking spots on campus for both commuters and faculty members. 

Of these spots, only about 61 are accessible parking spots, not including those for residential parking (two separate Snapper editors drove around every lot and counted the number of accessible spots).

This means that only 2.41 percent of all parking on campus is accessible.

Some buildings, like Chryst, Roddy and Caputo, have only two accessible spots, while McComsey Hall has upwards of seven accessible spots. One issue, however, is that residents, commuters, visitors and faculty share these spots.

For events, the Parking Division can open up additional spots to make reasonable accommodations for visitors.

Millersville Police Chief, Pete Anders, said the lack of exclusivity for parking spots is a Pennsylvania law. While that sentiment is not explicitly stated in Title 75, the state legislation that mandates the handicap parking laws, a cross-check with accessibility websites confirmed what Anders said.

If a person with an accessible parking placard can not find an accessible parking spot, they are allowed to legally park in a close spot without a permit, so long as they have their placard.

While the amount of accessible parking Millersville has is compliant within the Americans with Disabilities Act—which dictates that the university should have roughly 36 accessible spots given the amount of parking spots it has in total—the sparseness of accessible parking over an entire campus means that those who need it have slim chances of finding a spot outside the building in which they have a class.

According to Anders, accessible parking has not been a cause for complaint.

“[We’ve gotten] very few [complaints]. Our parking lots and garages were designed with compliance to Commonwealth guidelines for H/P (handicapped parking) spaces per lot size,” said Anders in an email interview.

However, students like McComsey disagree.

“Those 60 some spots that are close are going to get snatched up pretty quickly if you have class during a popular time like early morning or any time after lunch common hour,” said McComsey. “I have found that… if I go home for lunch, I know I will have difficulty finding a spot, especially a handicap accessible spot.”

McComsey also questions the procedure behind getting parking passes.

While Anders said that those who need accessible parking do not need commuter or residential passes, the parking office reportedly does not ask about accessibility needs when a student applies for a parking pass. 

“During the process [of applying for a parking permit], they never once asked me if I needed any kind of handicap accessible spot, nor did they ask to see my ID card that registers my HP to myself,” McComsey said. McComsey paid full price for a commuter parking pass.

Asking about one’s disability may raise concerns about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations, but communication could be key to fixing potential accessible parking logistics.

The Parking Division’s webpage does not readily mention that students with accessible parking permits do not need to purchase resident or commuter parking passes. The office does not have any signs displayed that explicitly state this, either.

Accessible parking is mentioned in a PDF about parking regulations, which can be found on the Parking Division’s webpage, but the information is not readily accessible unless one is specifically looking for it. The verbiage is not clear.

It says: “All vehicles must display a valid parking permit when parked upon the grounds of Millersville University. Specific exceptions to this regulation are noted herein, and are limited to Government vehicles, vehicles already bearing a Handicapped plate or placard, and visitor vehicles with a day parking pass parked in marked visitor spaces.”

The PDF hasn’t been updated since the 2012-2013 school year.

Not all students and employees know about this, however. Especially those who have been recently diagnosed with a disability, or who are new to the area.

As administrators at Millersville University make more of an attempt to make the campus more walkable, students with accessibility needs should be of the utmost priority. This includes active communication and reasonable accommodation. 

While the parking division legally can not ask someone about their medical history (including impairments or disabilities), the communication should be open for those who this actively impacts. “Not everyone can walk everywhere to all of their classes,” said McComsey. 

“You have students like me that have disabilities that go unseen to the average person… While walking from Hash to McComsey may not be a huge deal to some, it’s a huge issue for me,” said McComsey.

Kaylee Rex contributed to this report.