Changes to University of Tennessee Chattanooga's parking policy has some students concerned for the new school year.
The school is now requiring those with state issued disability plates or placards to buy a $100 parking permit. School officials sent out a campus-wide email regarding the change on June 28.
According to the new policy, if you have a valid state issued disability license plate, but not a UTC parking permit, while parked in general, reserved or disability parking spaces, you will be given a warning citation. After the third warning, you will be charges $25.
Rebecca Logan, a second year student at UTC and a six year Air Force veteran, has a state issued disability license plate. With it she says parking on campus has not been a big issue.
"It was free. They just handed it to me and told me that I could park anywhere that I wanted to you know whatever works for me to be able to get to class," said Logan.
But that wasn't the case when she went to get her UTC parking decal for this school year.
"It was a bit of a shock whenever they said that it was going to be $100 and that I couldn't even park as many places as I was when it was free," said Logan.
Logan suffers from chronic pain. She says too much walking or standing makes it worse.
"To some it's more than an inconvenience. To some of this is going to be an improbability for them to get to class now. Whether you're walking or if you're in a wheelchair the distance is just too much," said Logan.
A UTC spokesperson says the previous policy was not clear. Here's their statement:
All faculty, staff, and students who come and park on campus on a regular basis have been required to purchase a parking permit—either general, reserved, or value. It was never the intent for folks who come to campus daily to not purchase a decal but the policy was not explicit. We have now created a new category of parking decal for individuals with state issued disability tags or placards to purchase a decal just like all other faculty, staff, and students. The $100 disability permit is good for an entire year and allows parking in any handicapped or general space (regular general parking is $144 per year).
Day visitors to campus with state issued disability tags or placards can receive a free visitor's pass at our information station to park in a handicapped space.
Chuck Cantrell - Associate Vice Chancellor, Communications and Marketing
The new policy requires you show proof of ID that matches the name on the state-issued tag or placard. Channel 3 was told this allows school officials to weed out those abusing the system and free up spots for those who need them.
"There were many occasions where I would show up for school and there was not an open handicap spot and I did park in the reserved parking spot. She (school official) said if you do that again you'll get a ticket," said Logan. "I would have to pass open spots to get to a lot that's further away. For a disabled person that makes no sense."
According to the school's website, a parking decal for general lots costs $144 annually. For reserved lots it's $341.
"There's many reserved lots that are closer to the buildings, which makes them handicapped friendly but the general lots for the most part are on the outskirts of UTC campus," said Logan. "The general lots are even more busy than the reserved lots because they're cheaper. So the likelihood of you getting a general spot even closer to the door or closer to campus is not a likely."
Some say campus parking is already limited. Logan hopes school officials find another solution. She plans to get the veteran organization on campus involved and call the university's disability office.
"I have another class this coming semester at Hunter Hall and at this point I don't know what exactly I'm going to do."
UTC's new parking policy will go into effect starting August 21st.
According to UTC's website, the school states it is committed to assisting any person with disability, and to comply with all Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. UTC has 24 hour enforcement of all disability spaces, with a $200.00 fine plus possible towing for anyone who illegally uses disability spaces.