Mack Marsh knows what happens when someone parks illegally in a disabled parking space. Disabled himself, he's gone to the hospital three times as a direct result of someone taking his spot.
One time, he was forced to the back out of a parking lot and was run over by a truck (the driver didn't see him because he was in his wheelchair). Another time, it was a big van that crashed into him. Another time, someone parked too close, leaving him unable to get into his vehicle (he got heatstroke while waiting for the driver to return, and passed out).
Which is to say, it's no joke when someone parks in your space and you're disabled.
Marsh, though, is doing something about the people who don't care. He's created an app that lets people photograph offenders and report them to the authorities. The app, which is available in iPhone and Android versions, has been downloaded 150,000 times already, and local governments are starting to take notice.
If you live in Hays County, Texas, you can take a short course to become a volunteer parking inspector and start issuing violators with a $500 fine. Call it citizen justice. All a person needs to do is take three pictures of the car and submit the photos to Marsh's nonprofit, Parking Mobility. It then sends the details on to the county. Another major Texas city is set to adopt the program in the next few weeks, he says.
By photographing the transgressors, Marsh hopes to build awareness of the problem across the country. "The data is a really helpful because it shows the extent of the problem in communities. It lets us demonstrate and get support to address it," he says.
His biggest challenge is convincing cities to pay attention. "A lot of decision-makers aren't directly affected by the problem, and they still don't realize accessible parking is an issue," he says.
The next step is to interest more cities and counties into accepting citizen-submitted photos, and to generate funding for more community education. In Hays, the Parking Mobility app has already led to a 80 percent reduction in offenses in six months, Mack says.
"With our community education program, people know those spots are important," he adds. "And they know that there are people out there with smartphones who care about their community."