Disabilities Commission spreading word about online reporting form

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COLUMBIA - Back in 2014, the Columbia Disabilities Commission learned the city had only issued five citations in four years to those illegally parked in accessible spots. 

"That's not much in the way of enforcement," Disabilities Commission Chair Chuck Graham said.

In response, the commission along with the Columbia Police Department, the city prosecutor, and the city's IT department created an online reporting system, allowing citizens to file a report when they see someone illegally parked. 

"We all sat together to make sure the system would work smoothly for everyone," City Prosecutor Stephen Richey said.

The city asks for specific information on the form about the vehicle, the person illegally parked, and the witness. The form also requires at least three photos showing the car parked in a spot clearly marked as accessible, no placard hanging from the rear view mirror, and a photo of the license plate.

"We've got to have certain information," Richey said.

Since October of 2014 when the system was created, Richey has received four reports of violations. Two of the reports filed were vehicles that had a handicap placard but did not have it hanging in the correct place, so their tickets were revoked once they proved they had the placard. The third report filed was incorrect because the car was properly licensed and misreported. The fourth is still currently pending through the city prosecutor.

The disabilities commission is hoping this number will rise as awayness of the reporting system continues to increase.

"I think if we had a public training program where people can come in and find out which three photos to take, how to file it, and show them how to do that online, then we will probably have an increase," Graham said.

Even though the committee has not done marketing for the program, Graham thinks the training programs would go a long way to help spread awareness. 

"Even if we don't have a lot of tickets being turned in that doesn't necessarily mean its not working because if people also know that there are people looking for it, there is a deterrent involved, and if we can deter it that's the best of both worlds,"
Graham said. 

The commission hopes to partner with CPD this spring to begin trainings on the online form.