Advocate for the disabled spurs Birmingham to improve handicap parking spaces

On the 30-year anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act Erica Coulston, in a wheelchair herself, is changing the way parking spaces look in Birmingham.

"Birmingham is a city where I go often for services, restaurants, you name it, parks, everything, it's a great walkable or rollable town," Coulston said.

In 2016, the city decided to convert their free disability accessible parking into paid metered spots.  They added more accessible parking spots for those in wheelchairs.  Progress, but there was a problem.

"Not all of the spots met ADA requirements and many were often either unusable for me or unsafe," said Coulston. "In approaching the city, I realized the scope and the magnitude of the project."

Part of the problem was there wasn't enough space for people who are in wheelchairs to get out.

"It's also to help provide safe access to where they're going," she said. "Whether it's the nearest sidewalk, the nearest curb cut or ramp, to an accessible area so without that, that spot becomes unusable to me and sometimes unsafe."

So while they could say they had accessible spots available, they were hard to navigate. She found an attorney who is familiar with disability rights, he helped guide the city and Coulston, toward an agreement that makes parking as convenient as it is for everyone else. 

"I was very pleased that they were so receptive to my feedback and to making these changes," she said. "I think it will make it so that it is easier to find accessible parking for everyone who needs it."

Coulston also runs her own therapy program called "Walk the Line" that offers recovery therapy. If you don't notice the change right away in Birmingham, it is because this transition will be a long term one in Birmingham.