Kimberly Walters freefalls at 14,000 feet with a skydiving instructor in New Jersey in 2006. She was paralyzed from the chest down in a 1993 car accident. (Submitted photo)
Print By Michelle Breidenbach
on May 29, 2014 at 10:41 AM, updated May 29, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Kimberly Walters has served in the U.S. Army, answers a crisis hotline for veterans and has even jumped out of an airplane.
She feels like she can do anything, except get out of her wheelchair-accessible van when there is not enough room.
Walters, of Canandaigua, is paralyzed from the chest down after a spinal cord injury caused by a 1993 car accident.
She argued successfully for the Veterans Affairs office where she works to post a sign that reserves one handicapped parking space for people who use wheelchair-accessible vans and need extra space.
Now, she wants New York to pass a new state law that would require at least one handicapped parking space in each lot to be used exclusively by wheelchair-accessible vans.
She took the request to her representative, Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, who introduced it. The bill was given a number last week and a place before the Senate Transportation Committee. She has not yet approached anyone in the Assembly.
“Van accessible parking spaces are required under the Americans with Disability act and have an adjacent 8 foot access aisle so the wheel chair lift can be safely lowered and utilized,” Nozzolio said. “This legislation would help to make sure that the parking spaces designed for wheelchair accessible vehicles are used by only those wheelchair bound motorists who need them.”
The bill (S7611) says the Americans with Disabilities Act already requires at least one in every eight handicapped parking spaces in a lot to be wide enough for wheelchair-accessible vans. But the law does not prevent people who have handicapped parking tags but do not use wheelchairs from parking there.
“People who drive modified vans and use wheelchairs for mobility such as myself, are, in my opinion, being discriminated against,” she said. “Even if you have the handicapped tag, you shouldn’t be parking in a van accessible spot.”
All the time, Walter said, people who do not use wheelchairs park in the spots. When that happens, she and others have to park their vans somewhere far away or go home.
Other times, she comes out of a store to find someone has parked her in. She wheels herself back in to the store and asks the manager to page the other driver, or she has to call the police.
“It’s long overdue,” she said. “I endure a great deal of challenges like this every day and got fed up with it and I said I’m going to do something about it.”