New fees for disabled parking spaces at Thompson Rivers University only creates more barriers for people already facing challenges every day, say accessibility advocates and the university's staff union.
TRU announced last term that parking fees would double, causing the CUPE union to protests the burden on staff.
Now the union and advocates for the disabled are piping in after learning previously free disabled parking spots would now cost as much as regular spots.
"We are absolutely appalled that TRU will be charging for parking for those individuals with disabilities," said Local 4879 president Lois Rugg.
Starting next week, disabled or not, students and employees wishing to park at TRU can choose from a day rate of $4 out of ticket dispensers, a semester parking rate of $200 or a semester carpool rate of $100. Staff can also pay an annual parking rate of $600.
"(This is) yet another sting to those of our members, students and faculty that already face challenges in their work and place of study due to their disabilities," said Rugg.
She added that several members have already reached out to the union with "very legitimate concerns."
"We will be contacting the institution to ask them to reconsider," she said.
Disabled parking fees also apply to the Royal Inland Hospital, the Kamloops Law Courts and myriad private parking lots throughout the City.
TRU's changes also aligns with policies at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus, the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University, said TRU spokesperson Christopher Seguin.
"We are instituting a like policy, with a commitment to ensuring that there are always enough handicapped parking spaces available and that they have easy access to payment options," he said in a statement.
But it's still not sitting well with accessibility advocates.
"People with disabilities generally are on a lower fixed income and they face a lot of barriers in transportation, trying to get to work or wherever on a timely basis," said Heather Brandon of People in Motion. "Increasing the fees is really one more barrier for them."
It also creates increased challenges for drivers who have to transfer from vehicles to wheelchairs only to have to transfer back into the vehicle to place a ticket on a dashboard, said Brandon.
And being lower than a pedestrian, crossing a parking lot can be a hazardous journey for a wheelchair user, especially in winter.
However Brandon welcomed the news that TRU intends to ensure there are enough parking spaces for the disabled.
The most common complaint the agency receives is over able-bodied people taking up disabled parking spots. And with the population aging, the need will only grow, she said.
"It's a dilemma for everyone with how we accommodate people with disabilities."
People in Motion advocates for the disabled when complaints arise involving the City but private institutions are "out of our hands," said Brandon.
The organization used to have an outreach advocate, but funding cuts three years ago eliminated that position.