Our interview is with Judy Babbitt, director of
San Antonio's Accessability Planning Department.
Expo1000 - Can you give me
a little background regarding your work?
Judy Babbitt - I work for City of San Antonio,
Texas as a city planner. My professional background is in the area of
urban studies and have been with the City of San Antonio for 25 years.
For the last 15 years I've been the city's accessibility
planner which is a little different from most cities. Most cities have
an ADA coordinator who does ADA compliance. I see the ADA as a planning
tool, so I am the city's ADA coordinator and I'm very actively involved
in the planning of what we're going to do, how we are going to do it,
staging it, and even sometimes helping to find the sources to pay for
So I'm really the city's consultant, technical advisor,
ADA advisor even though I'm an employee of the City.
Expo1000 - Who sets the guidelines
Judy Babbitt - Those come directly from the
Department of Justice. The guidlines are regulations that build a program
of compliance and laws. They are clearly spelled out, though they are
flexible. There are certain requirements like a self-evaluation and
a transition plan. Then you have to implement your plan.
What that means is that you have to evaluate where
you are weak and phasing the implementation plan in. So the ADA guidelines
and the way they guide way any city complies.
Expo1000 - Is there government
funding to help implement these programs?
Judy Babbitt - Government funding is very limited.
That's where planning comes in. A great deal of the money we spend in
our public facilities modifications for accessibility has been through
bond programs that have been hooked onto other bonds, through general
fund money, development block grant funds, and a combination of other
We are going to build 3 large parking ramps next year
with Certificates of Obligation, which means that the Certificates have
to be sold and the money used to build the ramps. Our city council has
been amazing in their support of our efforts and of the city's staff.
Expo1000 - We are involved in the parking
industry. What should parking management people be looking for in building
their own ADA programs?
Judy Babbitt - Well that's a really good question
and I don't think there is any one answer.
Expo1000 - How about your
- Parking managers should be looking at the ADA requirements
as another facet of the overall parking requirements. By that I mean
that ADA should not be viewed as an addition or afterthought but should
be built in from the start. The design of the spaces or the monitoring
should not be thought of as a separate issue, it is not.
Expo1000 - Unfortunately
these programs came along much later than initial programs. Are you working
on modifying the existing programs while implementing new programs?
Judy Babbitt - That's where the ADA is a very
interesting animal. The only thing that the ADA looks at is the design
requirements for the spaces and the number of the spaces. It's the State
laws and other covenants that guide the equity of the parking.
If you go to the ADA and look up parking, you will find
that if you provide any parking you must include people with disabilities
in that parking contingent and that talks about numbers of spaces. Where
ADA comes in is that it's a civil rights law not a design law. This
means that you must provide equal opportunity to goods and services
and of course parking is part of those goods and services.
Expo1000 - Where to people
look for help in designing their own compliance programs?
Judy Babbitt - If it's a public parking issue
they should look to their city's planning department and ADA coordinator.
If their a private venture, there are many good accessibility coordinators
out there people that sell the service.
We are now building a new arena here and they have hired
an accessibility consultant to get everything in order. Not with just
the design but how they will deal with people with disabilities is various
There are wonderful resources out there from web sites
to booklets. It takes some scouting, but if you want to build an equitable
parking program and want to include people with disabilities, as the
laws require, all the resources are available.
Expo1000 - Is there a program
the help advise the public or make the public more aware?
Judy Babbitt - Yes, I don't think it comes from
one place. Being aware as I am because I use a wheel chair and it's
also my job, of the people who disregard or have no respect for the
law we must continue to develop the tapes, tell the stories, and attempt
to get through to everyone. It doesn't matter how bad the story is about
the woman who couldn't get into her house because someone had illegally
parked in the handicapped space, we continue to get the word out.
Here we've done a short public service announcement
with David Robinson, the Spurs basketball player, and our police chief.
It's a great PSA and everyone likes it. How do you measure if it did
anything? I don't know. That PSA was aimed at people who park in the
handicapped spaces without a valid placard or any identifier.
Expo1000 - In our industry
a big problem is the use of fraudulent placards. What are you doing about
Judy Babbitt - You are right, the bigger problem
for us is the people who fraudulently use, obtain, or buy hanging placards
and consider themselves a valid parker to take the handicapped space.
That element is what we are now addressing.
Expo1000 - You've now brought
up my pet peeve.
Judy Babbitt - It's many people's pet peeve,
it's mine certainly.
Expo1000 - Is there a national
program that people can use to address this problem of fraudulent use
of handicapped placards?
Judy Babbitt - There's nothing now. Every locality
is struggling with this. We are now underway with what we think could
become a good model that others could adopt.
What we are doing now is a pilot and as a great sharer
of information, we will be able to export this program as a model. Not
to tell people that this is the way to do it, but instead to explain
that this is the way we do it and here are samples. We feel that we
are on the right track.
Expo1000 - Would you explain
a little about your program?
Judy Babbitt - Sure, I'd be glad to. The City
of San Antonio has a parking division that monitors the downtown meter
parking. They ride around in scooters and we have a bike patrol that
Expo1000 - Is this the traditional Parking
Control Officer who issues the parking tickets?
Judy Babbitt - Absolutely. They cover area that
contains an area that contains approximately 2,000 parking meters. The
area is about 4 miles square.
This program that we're working on is focused on the
people who park at a meter with a illegal placard. Up to now, we've
just wrung our hands when peopled call wanting the rules enforced. So
we decided that we would try to do something about the problem.
When we began this program last year, on a daily basis
approximately 200 of the 1,900 effected meters were taken with hanging
tags. The vehicles would stay all day. Essentially the hang tags were
being used a free parking permits. We computed that and even if 1/3
of the 200 were fraudulently using hanging tags it was costing the city
approximately $106,000 per year. That's a lot of revenue.
Between the Parking Division which is part of the San
Antonio Public Works Department, my office which is Disability Access
Office, and our Municipal Court - which handles all the traffic violations
we formed a team to come up with a definitive solution. It really
needed the cooperation of a team to do this.
We first decided to create a parking enforcement notice
which said that we were going to really enforce the law relating to
fraudulent parking placard use as well as the fines and penalties.
In Texas, it is illegal to park and not pay if the placard
is not in use by the actual owner of the placard or while transporting
the owner of the placard. For instance, if my husband is transporting
me he can use the placard but he is not to use the placard if I'm not
We printed the notices on bright yellow paper and we
distributed them to everyone parked using a placard. Our parking officer
put them on every car with a placard whether they were good or bad it
didn't matter. We did this every day for about three weeks.
Beginning immediately, the City of San Antonio
will actively enforce parking rules governing
on street metered parking
and publicly owned parking lots.
The enforcement will include but not be
limited to assuring that vehicles displaying
either a disabled driver placard or plate
are driven by or are transporting
a person with a disability.
It is a violation of Texas law:
- To park a vehicle in an accessible parking space without displaying
the appropriate plate or placard, even if a driver or a passenger
of the vehicle has a disability;
- To park a vehicle with a placard or plate that is expired;
- To park a vehicle with a placard or plate that belongs to someone
who is not a driver or a passenger in the vehicle;
- To lend a parking placard to an individual without a disability
who uses that placard to violate state law;
- To steal or counterfeit a parking placard or license plate;
- To park a car in such a way that it blocks access to a accessible
parking space, an access aisle, or any architectural improvement
that provides access for people with disabilities, such as a ramp
or a curb cut.
Violations of these laws are punishable by the seizure of the
parking placard and by fine, in the following amounts:
First offense: $250-$500
Second offense: $300-$600
Third offense: $300-$600
Fourth offense: $500-1000, plus 20-50 hours of community service
Fifth offense: $1000, plus 50 hours of community service
Reference: TEXAS TRANSPORTATION LAWS-681.006 (b),
CITY OF SAN ANTONIO CODES 19-216, 19-220 & 19-22
Expo1000 - I dying to know. What happened?
Judy Babbitt - Even with just that we saw a reduction
in the numbers of spaces in that were filled with placard users. We
viewed this as a initial success but were aware that as soon as we
stopped distributing the notices, the fraudulent users would come
Then what we began to do was we began approaching people
asking to see their drivers licenses. The disabled person's drivers
license or identification number is on the hanging tag. If the drivers
license does not match or if the owner of the placard is not with
them, then we simply ticketed them and took away their placard which
Texas law says that you can do. We had never done anything like this
Expo1000 - Is there a problem
confronting people coming from the handicapped community like ACORN?
Babbitt - I don't know about ACORN but I do know
that in my community there is jubilation that the city is doing this.
Of course we do not bother to approach someone in a
wheel chair or have obvious mobility problems but there are others
without obvious mobility problems such a someone with heart problems
At times we have approached people that it is their
placard are generally very pleased to show their drivers license and
like the program.
The results have been very good and actually fun to
give the people that are the maddest about the problem are finally
getting a hearing and a solution.
We take those placards and they don't get them back
plus the violators get a big fat fine of $100.00. People who think
that the placard was unjustly taken from them can go the hearing officer
and request the placard's return but I think this has only happened
2 or 3 times so far.
The other part of this program has to deal with the
County. The Count issues the placards and maintains the records. When
we take a placard we return it to the County so that when someone
shows up looking for a replacement for their "lost" placard,
the County knows that the placard was taken by us for misuse.
Expo1000 - Why do you think
that this program works so well?
Judy Babbitt - I think it's simply the idea of
shame. This is really a case of white-collar crime. It's planned,
thought through, and executed to defraud or steal. Shame is an important
deterrent to white-collar crime.
Expo1000 - Do you have any
numbers that reflect the success of this program?
Judy Babbitt - We continue to monitor the program
and I don't have all the numbers in front of me but I can report that
last week the average daily meter usage by placard users was down
to 106 from above 200 before the program began.
Expo1000 - Thanks a lot for
your time and good luck with the continued success of your program.
City of San Antonio, Texas