TAMPA (WFLA) – Tesa Hausdorf is a fourth grader at an elementary school in Seminole. She has a beautiful smile but walks with difficulty.
“She has braces on both of her legs, she tires very easy, she can’t walk long distances,” said her mother Tiffany Hausdorf.
Tesa was born at just 25 weeks and has a few health issues, as a result.
“She spent a lot of time at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in the NICU and she has cerebral palsy,” said her mother.
To help with her transportation, Tiffany Hausdorf applied for and obtained a disabled parking placard, but at her school, some parents seem to think it’s OK to park in the disabled parking spots when they are dropping off or picking up their own healthy children.
“They know they don’t have a tag, they know they’re not supposed to be there, but apparently because they’re not going to be there for too long, they think it’s OK. Some of them just outright park there until their kids come out,” said Hausdorf.
As a crew from WFLA TV interviewed her for the story, one parent pulled into the disabled parking space without a legal disabled parking permit.
He explained he would just be gone for a minute and had to pick up his daughter at the school. When a reporter challenged him on it, he angrily shoved the reporter out of the way and made an obscene gesture.
Shari Wilson sees this kind of attitude all the time, Wilson relies on a battery operated wheelchair to get around and has run into problems shopping at the grocery store and at her favorite mall.
“It impacts us, you know we want to be out in the community and be included, as well, and for the four spots we do get in a spot, it makes it difficult when people take advantage of it and use it when they are not supposed to,” said Wilson.
Ben Ritter is a retired Marine Veteran who now relies on a wheelchair for his mobility and has heard the, “I’ll just be a minute” excuse many times.
“But meanwhile, somebody who needs that parking space can’t use it,” said Ritter who is advocating for a change in the law in Tampa and Hillsborough County.
Ritter would like to see greater enforcement, tied to a public education campaign to decrease the number of people parking in disabled spaces when they shouldn’t be.
Ritter says the other issue is people who park in the striped aisles next to disabled parking space or leave a grocery cart in them.
The striped aisles allow people with handicapped accessible vans or cars to lower a ramp so they can get into or out of their vehicles.
“So there could be a spot available, but if you are parking in the grid or the access aisle, I can’t let my lift down,” said Wilson who has confronted the problem many times before.
She’s even had to ask a stranger to move her car so that she could get onto the ramp to leave a store.
Florida State Sen. Gary Farmer is proposing changes to the law to fix other problems related to disabled parking spaces.
Farmer recently saw one person who looked perfectly healthy handing off a disabled parking placard to another healthy-looking person.
After doing some research, Farmer discovered there was nothing illegal about the act he witnessed.
He is now proposing a fine for using an expired permit, and to make it a crime to use a disabled parking placard if it isn’t yours and the person it belongs to isn’t with you in the car. To help with enforcement on the issue, Farmer wants the parking placards to contain a picture I.D.
“It gives law enforcement the ability to quickly verify if the person using the permit is in fact handicapped,” said Farmer who adds the placards would come with a “privacy sleeve” so that people could conceal their photos when the placards are in use.
When Tiffany Hausdorf saw the other parent make the obscene gesture at her daughter’s school, she used it as a teaching moment for Tesa, as she has many times before.
“I just explain to them that some people aren’t as courteous as others, unfortunately,” said Hausdorf.
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