Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Thursday, April 19, 2001

Security cited in lack
of disabled parking

Question: Isn't there some kind of state or federal law that you must provide parking for handicapped people? That big District Court building at 1111 Alakea St. doesn't have ONE stall for handicapped persons. We have to go to court, pay fines, be sued, sue people just like people with no handicaps. I ended up parking almost three blocks away. It took me 15 minutes each way to get into the building. I am handicapped and it is very difficult for me, and others like me, to get to the building. Can we find out who is responsible for this and perhaps fix this grave situation?

Answer: The state Judiciary is responsible for the building and, for now, does not plan to change its policy eliminating all public parking there.

The reason is security.

"Because of bomb threats and other security concerns, all access to the courthouse parking garage was restricted to authorized personnel," said Susan Kitsu, the Judiciary's affirmative action/equal opportunity officer.

The decision was made by Judiciary officials after consulting with state sheriffs and the parking control branch of the Department of Accounting and General Services, she said.

Kitsu said visitors who inquire about accessible parking stalls are directed to the municipal lot at Ali'i Place, "conveniently located" directly across the courthouse.

But the state Disability and Communication Access Board does not believe that lot is an acceptable alternative, Executive Director Francine Wai said. When we called about your complaint, her office already had been trying to work with Judiciary officials to provide parking for the disabled.

"The governor's directive to us to do something (about access for the disabled) does not apply to the Judiciary," she said. "Because it's not a design issue -- it's a program or service issue -- we don't have any leverage."

Wai noted that, according to standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, a business or agency does not have to provide disabled parking for the public if there is no parking available for the general public.

However, because there used to be parking for the disabled on the bottom floor of the District Court building, the argument could be made that the Judiciary has decreased access, she said

"It's one thing if you go out and rent office space downtown that doesn't have parking," she said. But she argued that taking away accessible parking is like taking away a drinking fountain or restroom stall that was available for the disabled.

If you once offered it, then took it away, "then I don't think you can claim it is an undue burden" to have it, Wai said. She also believes that disabled parking could be offered on the bottom level and still restrict general access to the rest of the parking garage.

But at this point, "someone would have to file a complaint against the Judiciary (on grounds) they have reduced access," Wai said.


To a Mike Ferguson, who helped my mother, a senior citizen, when her car stalled recently by Zippy's in Kahala. He put the car's hood up and put the hazard lights on, then dropped her off at home. We can't find his name in the phone book to tell him how grateful we are. -- The Oda Family

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