Parking permits of people who are no more misused.

Misuse of special parking permits for people with disabilities has become so pervasive that on many downtown Toronto streets almost all vehicles display one.

Wendy Murphy of Spinal Cord Injury Ontario says she routinely sees people who appear to be misusing accessible parking permits, which means she’s left waiting for a spot. She said, ” I have to sit by the fire hydrant waiting for people to come back to their car.It makes my life that much harder.”

Brian Moniz, operations supervisor for the Toronto Police Service’s Parking Enforcement Unit, said police seized 823 misused accessible permits in 2014. By 2016, that number had grown to 1,350, a jump of more than 60 per cent.Both Moniz and Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who chairs the city’s accessibility advisory committee, say part of the problem is counterfeit accessible permits.

Moniz said that permits are distributed by the provincial government agency Service Ontario. They can be issued to either a driver or a passenger with a disability who must be in the car for the permit to be valid.But while waiting for a permit to arrive in the mail, a temporary permit is issued, which is sometimes given to a friend or family member who’s not entitled to it.

Provincial statistics show that as of August, there were about 124,000 accessible parking permits in the City of Toronto, but Moniz says he has only 10 parking enforcement officers with the sole job of catching people abusing the permit system.

Others are using a permit that’s been issued to a family member with a disability. That’s legal, police say, only if that relative is in the car when it’s parked.

Moniz says,”We’ve had many cases where the permit holder is deceased and the family continues to use the permit as a family pass.”

Although the exemptions are determined by each municipality, the permits themselves are issued by Service Ontario, which is overseen by the provincial Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

Moniz says both the city and the province can do more to combat abuse.