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'Wheelchair only' handicap parking spaces are new to Jackson County

Being the parent of an adult child who uses a wheelchair, one of my pet peeves is when people, given a choice of five handicap parking spaces, choose the one that says "van only" when they are not wheelchair users and don't truly need an access zone (those areas with the white stripes). This leaves those with lifts and ramps on their vans with no place to park, even though there may be empty handicap spots still in the parking lot.

That is why I was so excited in 2008 to receive the light blue "wheelchair user only" placard for my son. The new law said that there were going to be "wheelchair user only" parking spots in parking lots of certain sizes. Only those in possession of the light blue placard would be able to park in those places.

Now it is nearing the end of 2012 and I have yet to see even one single "wheelchair user only" parking space. Can you folks at Since You Asked locate any for me?

— Rachel O. Talent

We are sorry you're having parking issues, Rachel. And we are happy to report that we have found you and your son two places in Jackson County which, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, are the first in the area to offer these special handicap spaces.

The new Wal-Mart in south Medford has both types of handicap parking spaces. As does Applegate Christian Fellowship, said Andrea Carlson, sheriff's spokesperson.

Carlson confirms that there are now two types of handicap parking spots.

"One is the traditional handicapped parking space, and the other is a wheelchair-only parking space," Carlson said.

The law became effective in 2008 as a result of SB716. Just as you stated, Rachel, it is now illegal to park in a handicap space that is designated "WHEELCHAIR PARKING ONLY" unless you have the blue wheelchair parking only placard. If a person qualifies to receive the placard, they should go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and apply for the special placard, just as you did.

It is illegal for handicapped people without wheelchairs to park in the new wheelchair spots. And Carlson would like us to remind people who have no disability to use a regular parking place.

We would like to take that one step further and remind people that they're being big jerks if they use those spaces without need.

With regard to those with standard handicap placards who are using the special spaces, Carlson said deputies "are currently handing out warnings, since it is still relatively new to Jackson County."

But people who continue to park illegally in these types of parking spots will be cited, she added. The fine for the parking violation is $160.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.