Tech solution developed for disabled parking abuse


December 29, 2011

New Zealand's Car Parking Technologies has developed a system that detects when a non-disabled driver's vehicle is parked in a handicapped parking spot (Photo: Tdmalone)

New Zealand's Car Parking Technologies has developed a system that detects when a non-disabled driver's vehicle is parked in a handicapped parking spot (Photo: Tdmalone)

What does it mean when a parking spot is marked with a wheelchair symbol? If you answered, "It means I can park there as long as I'm going to be quick," you're wrong - yet you're also far from alone. Every day in parking lots all over the world, non-disabled drivers regularly use spaces clearly reserved for the handicapped. They often get away with it, too, unless an attendant happens to check while their vehicle is parked there. Thanks to technology recently developed by New Zealand's Car Parking Technologies (CPT), however, those attendants could soon be notified the instant that a handicapped spot is improperly occupied.

This is far from the first parking issue that CPT has addressed. Some of its past innovations have included SmartGuide, which uses digital signage to guide drivers through parking garages; SmartCounter, which keeps track of the number of vehicles entering and leaving parking garages, displaying a digital tally of the number of spots currently available; SmartPlate, which automatically reads and records vehicles' license plate numbers, to make sure the right cars are in the right spots; and SmartMeter, which allows drivers to remotely top up the amount of time that they've paid for.

Now, the company has developed a system in which disabled drivers' vehicles are equipped with an electronic tag. Sensors in handicapped parking spots would detect when a vehicle was pulling in, and then detect the tag - if the vehicle had one. If no tag was detected, the sensor would instantly notify parking enforcement personnel.

The system could reportedly be implemented for around the same cost as the current permit-based system, and could also be applied to other types of reserved parking. Although it has yet to be picked up by any clients, CPT claims that the technology is ready to go, and could be in use as of early next year.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

The law should be that you get a ticket ONLY if you occupy one and there are no other available handicap spaces, so it becomes a gamble, but at least doesn\'t leave them all empty (I estimate that the majority of time, at least 50% of them are empty).

Steve Pender

If they fined people who have a disabled sticker but park there when they don\'t have the disabled person on board, they would free up two thirds of the spaces. The authorities should look a bit closer to home to recognise the abuse.


I\'ve been stuck using a chair this past six months and even though I have the permits etc (hopefully only temporary) I do actually avoid using the stall if there is a normal one empty. The idea is that someone might need it more than I do. Also tend to have to sit in the car and wait so get to observe just who uses the various spots. I\'ve seen a 75 grey hair old sob park and get out of the pregnant ladies only spot. I\'ve also seen a bunch of golds gym tee shirt wearing yahoos park in a handicapped spot (cutting off an old lady (with the permit displayed) and then go in and lug out a tv. For those reasons I applaud this tech though in these cases I wonder if some kind of death penalty for parking infractions might be more suitable....


Looks like another revenue raiser for city councils to me. I\'ve seen cars with the requisite permits park in these reserved spots, with nary a disabled person on board. And I see enough cars without permits use these spots to know that it could be a problem.

What I sometimes do, when waiting for my wife to arrive on the train, is park in one of these reserved spots. At that time of day most if not all of them are vacant, and if they weren\'t, and a car with a permit came along, I would (and have) moved. Should I be penalized for this? Under this system I probably would be. Fair? I don\'t think so.


If you are not entitled to be in the handicapped parking spot, don\'t park there! Don\'t develop a bad habit no matter how many spaces are occupied. Leave them empty for those that need them. If you are taking a handicapped spot and you are not entitled it will at least tell me the wrong thing about you...or will it?

Mary Dixon
Actually this idea has a huge flaw. The handicapped parking sticker travels with the person and not with the car. For example, if you have a handicapped person in your car they can bring their sticker and use it in that car or any other car in which they are a passenger. Also there is a problem if you attach an electronic unit to the car as a non-handicapped person may frequently use the same car. One other issue is with members of the public who seem to feel that they have a right to interview a disabled person to determine if he is disabled enough to have the sticker. There are many disabilities that leave the victim with a perfectly normal appearance. Yet our public is so poorly educated that many do not know that. Jim Sadler

Just give tow truck drivers the green light to tow any vehicle parked in a handicapped spot without handicapped permit or plate at any time without warning. Problem solved and no sophisticated tech needed.

William Lanteigne

I like William\'s comment.. the tow truck companies already patrol.. just let THEM make the money off of it and they\'ll monitor it on their own dime and do an excellent job! If you have the threat of having your car impounded for parking in a HC spot then you\'ll think twice.. and no death penalty required!


Where does this ridiculous sense of entitlement come from? If you are able to walk to and from an unreserved spot, why would you think you have any reason or right to park in a reserved spot regardless of whether anyone else is using them? Or whether you are waiting for someone? Or whether you are only going to be a minute? Park where you are supposed to and walk the extra 10 feet.


May this serve as fair warning to those who do not exhibit a \'handicapped parking\' permit or tags. I am a militant disabled veteran who can make it from my vehicle to the nearest shopping cart which is usually within 50 feet of any parking space. Any further than that and I will be using my cane for temporary support. A cane by the way for the uninformed public is used when someone has a lack of balance. Canes are not supposed to be used for support, that is what a walker is used for and I keep mine in the back of my vehicle at all times. A shopping cart gives me the same support as my walker does. I am one of those who does not have an outward appearance of being disabled. I am also one of those who will take the law into my own hands and leave my mark on your vehicle if you have parked in a handicapped parking space without exhibiting your handicapped permit. Have you spotted any new deep scratches or freshly broken windows in your vehicle lately, did you have a flat tire when you came out of the store after you had parked illegally. Have you been parking where you should not have been?


Ironically, the two people I know that qualify for such a permit refused to apply for it. Again, the Idea being \"I\'m not so bad off, others need it more...\". One did eventually accept one as he was born with an anomally that makes it difficult to walk. To his credit, he didn\'t break down and accept it until almost 40. Some days he can hardly walk at all. In my state, it is a documented fact that more permits are active than there are physically challenged drivers. It amazes me how easy it is for some to prostitute their human decency. I think getting caught abusing these spaces should be rewarded not with a fine, but 20 hours community service aiding the handycapped. Maybe that would give them a greater appreciation of the daily difficulties those less fortunate face daily.


I\'m glad to hear that this company has no clients for this product. I don\'t know about the rest of the world, but most parking lots at businesses with required handicapped spots don\'t have an \"attendant\" employed there. Also, painting a wheelchair symbol on the pavement does not create a legal handicapped parking spot in my state. It must have a sign on a pole displayed in front of the space. I learned this after calling the police on a repeat offender at the business where I worked. Once I made the request, the store owner had the sign installed within two weeks. A week after that, the culprit I had reported received a $250 ticket. I myself am not handicapped, but my little brother, other relatives, and many other people who ride in my vehicle are. Most of the time we don\'t even bother with using a handicapped spot because I can drop them off at the door and pick them up at the door afterwards. I\'d rather save the spot for a handicapped driver.

My brother-in-law had a wheelchair lift assisted van. Many times he would use two regular spots and park at angle so his lift would have room to let him in and out. This is perfectly legal for a person with a handicapped permit to do as long as their vehicle isn\'t impeding the flow of traffic.

Gene Jordan

@Jim Sadler - aren\'t these the same \"problems\" with mirror tags or license plates? And the reality is I don\'t care if someone who\'s not disabled parks a car with a disabled tag or plates in the spot - they pay the money, they should get the spot. Sure it shows a lack of integrity to do such a thing, but they\'re not the people who we\'re targeting here.

@William H Lanteigne and Timberwolf - clearly you don\'t live in Chicago. There\'s a little ditty that\'s popular in the Chicago bars called \"The Lincoln Park Pirates\" which illustrates the folly of such an idea. And in reality, the equipment in this article does what you two suggest, except it makes it more targeted and less guesswork.

Brian Brehart

I have several family members with disabilities that impair movement. It makes me very frustrated when I see someone in a jacked up truck roll into one of these spots to wait for his girlfriend to run into the store and buy a six-pack of beer. All you people that park in the spots just because there are others open, or who think it is okay because it will only take \"a second\" are self-important jerks. If you were ever temporarily or permanently disabled and with movement impairment I guarantee you would not appreciate it.

As for the portability of the device, they could make it so that the current system uses this, such as a placard with the device embedded in it.

@genejordan - Very kind of you. I also do that instead of taking a spot.

Mary Finney

I totally agree that this is wrong, let alone immoral, but in almost any state by law, a Handicapped spot must be designated by signage along with the fine structure for the violation. Just by having a Handicap symbol does not suffice. The fine structure must be noted on the signage. i.e; Handicap Parking only Tow away with a $200.00 fine Violators will be prosecuted

Just having a handicap marking won't hold in most states and is a beatable violation.

Retired L E O


I think it should result in their car being turned into a cube and the loss of their license for life or the breaking of their legs, my choice.

Charles Batchelor

I\'m handi-caped and I often see people parked in spaces reserved for people like myself. Then what I like to do is double park behind them and take my sweet time in the store. :-)

Robert Weeks

Spending another minute or two walking isn't going to kill you and your time really isn't that important.

We live in a world of prima-donnas who think the rules can be broken because they assess themselves above everyone else. Keep out of the disabled spots unless you are truly disabled, not so hard, not necessary to complain about whether they're effectively used, just do the right thing.


Wow, they have a lot of people militant about parking spaces. Proves that yet again people feel they\'re entitled for being different. Let\'s give the minorities in life everything and force regular people into enslavement for it. Woo hoo. Most handicapped people I know hate the ADA, because it\'s a bullshit law by bullshit government.

Daryl Sonnier

Most egregious handicap parking ever: Mc Minnville, TN Warren County Sheriffs department; I actually watched a man park his Harley Davidson in the handicap parking spot (on mother\'s day when the lot was empty) walk up to the front door and open it with his key. That\'s right, an employee of the Sheriffs dept (looked like an out of uniform deputy to me) parked his motorcycle in a the handicap slot closest to the door without batting an eye. But fear not handicap drivers, they routinely defecate on every other law we have, so it\'s not like they\'re picking on you.

Brian Tucker
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