Controversy surrounds FSU’s recent decision to move its disability parking at Doak Campbell Stadium.
In a letter sent out on May 19, FSU announced, starting this fall, all disability parking spaces would be moved to a garage 300 yards away from the stadium. The current parking spaces are on Stadium Drive, located just outside the stadium’s entrance gates.
Some patrons with disabilities who attend FSU football games are outraged at this change.
Tallahassee attorney Gordon Palmer has been an FSU season ticket holder for years and also uses a large 400-pound wheelchair.
He is disappointed in the school’s decision.
“The university says the parking spaces will be given to people with disabilities, they’ll just have to be boosters at that level," Palmer says, "though, I’ll be interested in seeing if anybody’s actually in those spots, or if people that are in those spots are disabled."
FSU's Amber Wagner told the Tallahassee Democrat the spaces closest to the stadium would be reserved for people with disabilities who also contribute to FSU Athletics as "boosters."
Regarding the discord, FSU spokesman Dennis Schnittker says, “The ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] does not require the closest possible access, just meaningful access.” He adds, “There isn’t any place closer.”
The federal act ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in public accommodations, among other stipulations.
Schnittker goes on to say that the reason for the move was “primarily a safety issue.” He says Stadium Drive is an open road and the curb is not level.
He also says the move will be “fairer to all patrons,” adding, “Putting them on one place simplifies things for, quite frankly, all involved.”
But Palmer disagrees. He says the parking garage does not provide consistency for disabled Seminole fans.
“You go into the parking garage; one game you could be on the first floor, the next game you could be on the fifth floor, another game you could be on the third floor," he says.
Palmer says he suspects the school is trying to capitalize on the Seminoles' National Championship win this past season by charging for spots that were previously free.
“It seems awfully coincidental," he says. "I’ve had that sentiment expressed to me by many people."
He says FSU’s offer to shuttle patrons to and from the parking garage will require them to wait and will take a lot longer than the previous set-up, even if it is a specially accessible vehicle.
Palmer says, though, he is willing to give FSU’s decision a chance. He says he still purchased season tickets for the upcoming year.