Yesterday’s South Jersey section of the Philadelphia Inquirer had a story on Maryann Cottrell, who spends her free time searching for people who park illegally in spots designated for people with disabilities. Cottrell, the mother of an autistic daughter, takes digital photos of offending vehicles and takes the evidence to municipal court. In three months, according to the story, she estimates she’s been responsible for more than 300 tickets, including citations given to Philadelphia Eagles Donovan McNabb and Jeremiah Trotter. Both are fighting their tickets.
Cottrell may be going a bit overboard with her efforts, but the open disdain showed for her activities is outrageous. Lawrence DiVerto, a business owner caught in his own lot, called it “undue harassment.” The Glassboro Police Chief, Alex J. Fanfarillo, said, “I don’t know if it’s worthwhile.” Worst of all, the story said public schools in the area and Rowan University have banned her from their respective properties.
Let’s be clear on this: Rowan University, a supposed institution of higher learning, has banned a woman from their property for her nonconfrontational efforts to enforce a law on her own time.
This is absolutely absurd. I don’t care how much you want to roll your eyes at her efforts. Personally, I mostly just glare at the lazy able-bodied morons who are hustling in and out of their illegally parked cars while I lower my ramp for my wheelchair. It seems to go right over their heads, but I really don’t expect much more from these people.
But it is flat out wrong for public institutions to take a blatant stand against this woman. Ignore her? Fine. Wish she’d go away? Ok. Ban her? No way!
We all loved it when Jerry Seinfeld made fun of handicapped parking spots. My family and I laughed at the line that went something like, “Do handicapped people drive?” for all the same reasons others did . . . and because I’d just started driving.
Hopefully, Seinfeld was poking fun at the generally accepted ignorance on the subject. Clearly, officials in South Jersey missed the subtle aspect of the humor.
The fact is that with their actions, Rowan and the others have clearly stated that accessibility for people with disabilities is a nice, politically correct notion but little else. They are essentially taking measures to protect people who are choosing to violate the rights of people with disabilities to have equal access. Instead of trying to enforce the law, they’ve chosen to protect dumb, lazy, ignorant elitists who think the extra effort to either find an open legal spot or walk a few extra feet is beneath honoring the small concession to accessibility spots designated for the disabled represent.