On August 26, 2008 — Denver was packed with attendees of the Democratic National Convention — Chris Hinds was riding his bike when he was involved in an accident with a car.
“Car beats bike every time, like paper beats rock,” Hinds says.
No exception, he emerged from the accident with a spinal cord injury, which he would spend the next few months recovering from at Englewood’s Craig Hospital. Though Hinds eventually graduated from Craig’s rehabilitation program and returned to work, the injury changed his life. He now uses a wheelchair to get around.
As he adapted to the challenges of this new life, Hinds began “learning a lot about people with disabilities, disability issues, wheelchairs,” he says. In the learning process, Hinds became interested in disabled advocacy and began advocating for more parking for disabled people.
Ten years after his accident, his advocacy got a nod from Governor John Hickenlooper, who on May 29 signed the Chris Hinds Act into law.
The act creates a parking placard which “exempts an individual with a disability from paying for parking” if the individual is physically unable to use a parking meter. This overrides a previous law, enacted in 2014, which allowed disabled individuals to use metered parking without paying.
At first glance, the 2014 law seems like it should have been sufficient. However, as Hinds explained, “some municipalities decided that they may not need to follow the law.” This was enabled by Colorado’s status as a home-rule state — meaning powers not explicitly granted to the state are left to municipalities. The Chris Hinds Act creates a statewide standard.
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Hinds first came into frustrating contact with the bureaucratic loophole HB18-1285 eliminates when attending meetings on the Auraria campus. Stopping his car in a metered spot, he parked and, as seemingly allowed by law, didn’t pay. Returning from his meeting, he found that he had been issued a parking violation. Hinds immediately appealed. The process dragged on, an arduous back-and-forth of legalese. The takeaway: Auraria is Denver-owned, Denver is a home-rule city, and although Colorado had a disabled parking law in place, it did not apply to Denver.
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Citing what appeared to be a blatant wrong, Hinds began researching. He found that “in the majority of states in the nation, if you have a valid disability parking placard, you can park for free for an unlimited period of time, statewide.”
Furthermore, he discovered that three states (now four) currently have a law that creates a third parking placard — in addition to the red of temporary injuries and the blue of mobility disabilities — that, per Hinds, is “centered around whether you can physically enact with a parking meter.”
He took the text from other states’ legislation, copied and pasted it, and began seeking support, first from disability groups, then Auraria campus, then various municipalities and counties, and finally the Capitol. Encouraged by the whole experience, Hinds has announced his candidacy for Denver City Council, running in District 10, which comprises the Cherry Creek and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.
“I kept growing the stakeholder group, and everyone kept saying, ‘Yeah, I think we can live with that,” he says.