Twelve years ago, when Alexandra Segal traveled 30 minutes from her Melrose home to the Alachua County criminal courthouse for jury duty, she ran into a parking problem.
The sign at her handicap spot indicated she could park there for only two hours.
So she parked three blocks away at an open spot in the downtown parking garage and walked.
But now, with the neurological disorder Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and a cane, walking three blocks isn’t as simple.
Segal was again summoned for jury duty recently, this time at the civil courthouse downtown, but encountered the same note on her handicap space: two-hour parking only.
In calling ahead of time, “I was told that there was handicap parking right outside the courthouse,” the 63-year-old said. “All the spaces that I could see were posted two-hour limit.”
Segal said police in the courthouse told her that she would have to move her car after two hours. After complaining to several people, she was told that the parking would not be enforced while she was there.
Afterward, she emailed her issue to County Commissioner Mike Byerly, who responded by saying, “Sounds like they just need to remove or change the signs.”
“I just want the police and the court clerks to get their story straight and make [it] possible for a disabled person to conduct their civic duty safely,” Segal said, reading from a written statement to WUFT News at her home.
Tony DePalma, the director of public policy with Disabilities Rights Florida said that this was the first time he hears about this issue. He said that laws protecting handicap residents vary all around the country.
“Individuals with disabilities often times require a little bit more thought and consideration to allow them to achieve an equal status in how they interact with the court or fulfill their jury duty or fulfill other civic obligations,” DePalma said.
Segal said she could have gotten out jury duty because of her handicap but didn’t because she wanted to “pull myself together and get there on time and do it.”
“If you’re disabled, maybe people just write in and say it’s hard for me, so I’m not going to show up,” she said. “And they let them out of service.”
But worrying about her car made Segal stressed during jury duty.
“I really wanted my car to be there when I got out,” Segal said. “I felt anxious because I didn’t want my car to vanish.”
Regional Transit System spokesperson Chip Skinner said two-hour parking is in place downtown to rotate customers in and out of the businesses there.
The city does its best to communicate with the courthouse about its parking needs, he said. The city is in charge of all parking downtown, he added, but it works in coordination with the courthouse for its lots specifically.
Unaware at first of Segal’s complaint, Skinner said he doesn’t know if any action will be taken.
“I am not aware on what the status is on the request from the county courthouse as far as lifting those sanctions on any sign,” he said. “I know we do take into account individual situations.”
He said that when people bring situations like this to the city’s attention, officials try to handle it as quickly as possible.
“Every time something is posted, we are enforcing those laws,” Skinner said. “Please take that to heart and move your vehicles every two hours; otherwise, you may risk getting a parking ticket.”