More MS news articles for March 2001

Couple sees handicapped parking sign as setback

Woman with disability, husband ask for other types of cooperation from St. John.

The Times of Northwest Indiana and South Suburban Chicago
Monday March 05, 2001
BY DONNA KIESLING Times Correspondent

ST. JOHN -- To most people, the second no-parking sign that officials want to erect in front of a St. John home would mean only that they needed to find another place to put their car.
But to Ken and Laura Ubriaco, the sign represents a setback for disabled individuals who wish to remain living at home.

This is not the first time the couple has skirmished with the town over the parking issue. Laura Ubriaco suffers from multiple sclerosis, and about two years ago she and her husband fought successfully for a sign in front of their home in the 8700 block of Verbena Court that would allow parking only for vehicles picking her up and dropping her off.

Now officials have told the Ubriacos that a second sign will be installed to eliminate confusion over where the handicapped parking space ends.

That would be too much of a good thing, according to Ken Ubriaco.

"It's going to impede when I do load her down by the curb," he said. "We don't want the second sign."

Ubriaco, who lives in a cul-de-sac, said the new sign would be in the way of his vehicle and his mailbox, and also would cause a problem when he plows snow in front of the house.

A better solution, he added, would be to paint the curb blue in order to mark the restricted parking area.

"They'd only have to paint it once," he said. "I'd be more than happy to paint it after that."

"The existing sign is fine. The new sign would be too close to the curb."

It is impossible for him to pull a car up the driveway to pick up his wife, Ubriaco said, because the drive is sloped and the blacktop becomes too slippery for her to navigate safely.

Nor can he move the mailbox, he noted, because it is set in concrete and a new location would interfere with gas and sprinkler lines.

"I've already moved it once," he said, referring to when the first sign was installed. "I'm not going to move it again."

Should a second sign really be needed, Ubriaco said, he would like to see it allow for more space than is now planned.

"I reviewed the ordinance and there is no specific mention of blue paint," Public Works Director Bob Pharazyn said, although he added that did not mean painting the curb was not a viable option. However, most municipalities do not use that method in residential areas, he said.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Pharazyn said.

Police Chief Joseph Guzik said the second sign is needed because the handicapped space is not clearly designated by a single sign. He said one driver was ticketed as a result.

"The second sign will just define it better now," he said.

Guzik also said St. John has been responsive to the Ubriacos' needs, making the curb near their home wheelchair-accessible even without being asked to do so.

"This issue is about handicapped people staying in their home," Ubriaco said.

He said that at some point, the couple may donate a portion of the residence to a group that aids the disabled.

The issue has brought back stress the couple endured when they petitioned to get the original sign, he said.

"This whole thing being revisited ... ," Ubriaco said. "It's really been hell these last few weeks."