HALIFAX - Tova Sherman did not look disabled when she was using disabled parking spots.
Her knee was in a cast, which couldn’t be seen under her jeans.
“People give you the sneer,” she said. “I’ve seen the sneer.”
The CEO of reachAbility was only temporarily disabled, but she was still affected by the stigma directed at people with invisible disabilities.
People with cancer, HIV, Chron’s, colitis and fibromyalgia don’t necessarily look like they need the accessible parking spots they use.
There are 10,490 disability vehicle parking permits active in Nova Scotia, a nearly 2,500 jump in five years.
To accommodate these drivers HRM currently has 196 accessible parking spaces in Halifax, with 74 downtown and an additional 18 general spaces in downtown Dartmouth.
The problem is not the number of permits, or the number of spots.
The problem is people who have access to a disability parking pass are frequently using accessible spots when the disabled person is not in the vehicle.
Sherman points to a situation involving her own step-mother as an example.
“My father’s wife would often use it when he wasn’t in the car, and that was a concern to me, because she was quite able bodied in those days,” Sherman said, adding the practice continued even after he died.
As the head of an organization supporting disabled people’s rights and accessibility, it’s a misuse she wants to stop.
“First of all, family members, stop abusing it, so that when it’s being used properly there isn’t all this judgment,” said Sherman. “Second of all, let’s stop judging people. Just because we don’t see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
In 2103, enforcement officers issued 1,105 tickets for vehicles illegally parked in accessible parking spots on the street and 139 on private property.
The fine amount for the first parking offence is $100, second offence is $200 and third and subsequent offences are $400 each.