Woman seeks more handicap parking spaces on Main Street

A Dunlap resident with mobility issues is dismayed at the lack of on-street handicap parking in downtown Elkhart.
Posted on Jan. 7, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Amid all of the additional parking spaces created as a result of angled parking, Faith Slayton thinks the city of Elkhart could have created a few more handicap parking spaces in the downtown business district.

Slayton, who is disabled, said she is upset at the lack of parking spaces set aside for people with mobility issues.

Two parking spaces are reserved for one handicap parking spot outside of the Seifert’s Drug Store, but that’s the only one in the six-block stretch of South Main where parallel parking was replaced with angled parking last year.

Slayton said she voiced her concern about the lack of parking for disabled to a city official last summer and was told the city is in compliance and that there is ample handicap parking on side streets and behind stores on Main Street.

Slayton, 45, who lives in Dunlap, suffers from a brain disorder that surfaced in about 2009 and has left her with decreased use of her right hand. She also has very little sense of balance when walking.

Slayton said the closer she can be to store entrances, especially in inclement weather, the more she can avoid falling. Slayton keeps a wheelchair in the trunk of her car, but needs the extra room often provided with handicap spaces to fully open her back passenger door to get her walker out of the backseat.

“I would think I’m not the only one to be concerned about this,” Slayton said. “Just about everybody eventually is going to know someone or themselves who will need a wheelchair, a walker or a cane.”

The handicap parking space in front of the pharmacy was established years ago, but three more will soon be available in front of the offices of ADEC, after the organization made a request to the city to accommodate their new office at 317 S. Main St., across from Civic Plaza. ADEC is an agency that serves disabled people.

Other than the pharmacy and ADEC’s request, Leslie Biek, traffic engineer for the city who oversees accessibility issues, said she’s never received a general request from the public for more handicap spaces along Main Street, but was open to the idea after hearing of Slayton’s concerns.

Biek is the contact person for public concerns about accessibility issues. If she receives a request, she can forward it to the board of public works for a final decision.

“We could definitely look at it and maybe add one or two per block. I don’t see that as a problem,” Biek said.

She also said if the parking spaces would need a nearby ramp, that would be added to the city’s priority list to meet requirements under the federal Americans with Disabilties Act.

While there is an apparent lack of handicap parking along the street, there are numerous spaces in several parking lots along the street, including one that serves the post office and the newly revamped parking lot just north of Lerner Theatre.

Slayton said she was frustrated by the lack of consideration for disabled people who might want to shop in downtown Elkhart.

“Just because we’re disabled doesn’t mean we have to be shut-ins,” Slayton said.

Elkhart established angled parking along South Main Street last year and increased the number of parking spaces by 151.

While there are guidelines for the number of handicap parking spaces necessary in off-street parking lots, Biek said that’s not the case for on-street parking.

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