Mike Birdsall is one of his grandfather’s caregivers, which means driving him around on errands and to various appointments. It’s not an easy task, since his grandfather suffers from macular degeneration, dementia and is barely mobile. But at least parking should be simple – since Granddad qualifies for disabled parking privileges.
"Ninety-two years old. Eyesight issues," Birdsall said. "He had a placard. And we would drive him to the doctor’s appointments, and we weren’t able to find a parking spot."
But Birdsall's frustration didn’t stop there.
"My wife’s brother is really handicapped with cerebral palsy," Birdsall said. "Same issues. And we question whether all those places are taken by people that should have those spaces."
It was his frustration over not being able to find accessible parking while driving his grandfather and brother-in-law to important appointments that prompted Birdsall to launch his website, www.handicappedfraud.org.
His goal is to stop outright abuse by people using placards that don’t belong to them, whether it’s a friend, relative, or even someone who’s passed away. He’s trying to raise awareness – and consideration.
"When I look up and down the street, and every car has a placard and not paying parking meters, I question that," Birdsall said. "When I drive up into a grocery store, and there are no handicapped places available, I question that. If I see somebody jump out of a car and run into the store and come back in five minutes, I question that."
Birdsall builds websites for a living. So creating one to raise awareness of this growing problem was a natural next step.
"I’m not questioning whether or not they’re handicapped. I’m questioning whether or not they have the right to use the placard and take that space," he said.
The website allows people from across the country to post information about drivers they think are abusing placards.
One recent comment from Burbank said, "This guy came flying through the parking lot and parked in two parking spaces, one of which was handicapped." This person didn’t have a disabled parking placard.
Another from Chicago posted, "Person deserving handicap hang sign died. Daughter continues to use designated handicapped parking spot and handicapped hang sign even though she had no legitimate reason for doing so."
"If that is their placard, and they need the spot, park in the spot. If it’s not your placard, leave the spot for the people that really need it," Birdsall said. "They just don’t believe that they’re really doing anything wrong, and it’s not hurting anybody so why not. I think it’s selfish."