CICERO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Terri Alessi never forgot what it’s like to have a husband bound to a wheelchair. That’s why when she went to Target in a Syracuse suburb, she couldn’t help but notice a truck parked in the striped area in between handicap spaces.
The striped line allows space for people in wheelchairs to get in and out of their cars.
“If someone had a wheelchair, that’s where they would park their van, get out of their van, and use that spot to get in and out of the van,” said Alessi.
It wasn’t the first time. For years, Alessi has been trying to navigate around drivers who intentionally ignore or don’t see reserved parking signs.
What bothers her, even more, is how it was handled.
“The gentleman behind the counter actually laughed at me and said, ‘It was probably a customer of Starbucks,'” says Alessi.
The issue isn’t unique to Target. It happens all throughout Onondaga County.
To help enforce proper parking, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office has a program called S.H.A.P.E. (Sheriff’s Accessible Parking Enforcement) to train anyone older than 18 to check for people inappropriately parking in reserved spaces.
“We take special care when it comes to people with disabilities in our community,” said Sgt. Matthew Malinowski with the Syracuse Police Department.
The City of Syracuse counts on parking enforcement to give tickets while also keeping police officers on the lookout too. But they can’t be everywhere. So the police are asking drivers to do their part.
“Think about your own family and friends that have some sort of accessibility issue, or people living with disabilities, I mean would you want them to park further away and have to suffer getting into a store,” said Sgt. Malinowski.
“That person should understand that spot could have been used by somebody who was in a wheelchair and who isn’t able to just park wherever they want to park,” says Alessi.
A spokesperson with Target shares this statement:
“At Target, our guests are the center of everything we do, and we appreciate all feedback about how we can ensure a positive shopping experience for our guests. We’re disappointed to hear that some guests are inappropriately using accessible parking spaces. We follow all local ordinances for accessible parking spaces and have clear signs posted about how they should be used. We’re aware of the concerns raised and have shared them with the store leadership team.“