Access denied: Stadium parking irks handicapped fan

When a steel door crushed Tom Woodson's foot back in 1998, many aspects of his life changed in an instant. But at least one thing remained the same: his love of UVA football.

In 2000, after eight surgeries to restore function to his injured limb had failed, Woodson opted for amputation. Then began his new life, complete with a prosthetic leg adorned with the Cavalier V and crossed swords. But for the longtime season-ticket holder, getting to the games at Scott Stadium has proven an unexpected challenge. Woodson hopes UVA might consider some changes in its handicap parking policies.

Becca White, UVA's director of parking and transportation, says UVA's current parking policies already offer handicapped fans easy game-day access. In addition to discounted parking and a $3 shuttle from the Water Street parking garage downtown, handicapped fans can park free in a lot near the JAG school, at the corner of Arlington and Massie roads, and catch a free, handicap-accessible shuttle between that lot and the stadium. The free shuttle runs two hours before games, White says, and continues running until every fan has been delivered back to his or her car following the final whistle.

But Woodson says that solution is problematic.

"I have to stand there and wait," he explains, something that causes him considerable physical discomfort. And then there's the trouble at the end of the game.

"If the bus leaves at the end of the third quarter, and you're not on that bus," he says, "there's no telling when you'll get back to your car."

Getting dropped off near the arena entrance is also not an option, unless Woodson arrives two hours before kick-off. For security and traffic purposes, general traffic is diverted away from the stadium.

"I understand about the terror things, and I'm glad they make it safe in that way," says Woodson, "but there are handicapped people who are trying to be honest, to get close."

It's not as if Scott Stadium doesn't have handicapped spaces closer by– in fact, there are 39 of them, in accordance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. But on game day, using those spaces requires both a handicap and a donation, says White. Only "qualified donors"– those who've given at least $1,100– get the plum spots, according to Virginia Athletics Foundation spokesperson Joe Hall.

For Woodson, who lauds the stadium's other handicapped accessible features– ramps, railings, restrooms– that's small consolation.

"You still have to pay for handicapped parking," says Woodson, whose budget won't allow for a hefty donation. "I get penalized," he says. "That's just the way I see it."

Tom Woodson says handicapped parking at Scott Stadium is a problem.