EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — An online petition is calling for UTEP to make ADA parking permits free of charge for students and employees who are disabled.

The University responded to that petition, and explained what those costs are based on.

Some parking spots at UTEP’s inner campus are reserved for those who are disabled and come at a high cost which is why this petition is demanding a change. However, UTEP officials said those costs ultimately pay for parking services, and is equally payed by those purchasing the parking permits.

“We believe that UTEP cares, and that UTEP is interested in addressing these obstacles that persons with disabilities are encountering,” Dr. Selfa Chew, Associate Professor of Instruction, Dept. of History with UTEP.

The Texas State Employees Union created the petition to address accessibility issues for disabled UTEP students and employees urging the University to make ADA parking permits free of charge.

“I think the pandemic has made it clear that our resources should be spent wisely, and that we need to make an assessment or evaluation on what really matters,” Chew said.

According to UTEP officials, right now an ADA inner campus parking permit for UTEP employees is $525 per year, and students is $200 per year. However, officials said those costs are the same for everyone.

“The students pay equally just like the employees pay equally. So if I’m a student and I buy a parking garage permit I pay $200. If I’m a student and I buy an ADA permit, I pay $200. It’s the same. So we have the same equal cost for employees,” Mark McGurk, Vice President for Business Affairs at UTEP explained.

“$500 is a high portion of their salary or their tuition. As I said, ADA persons do not have a choice. It’s not a luxury for them, it’s a necessity,” Chew shared.

McGurk said the parking fees basically pay for UTEP’s parking garages as well as shuttle services, “We have to make a debt service payment on those two parking garages, and then we still have to operate the parking services. So the fees that we charge are to pay for those things.”

So far, the petition has over 700 signatures with a goal of 1,000. UTEP is reminding all students and employees that it’s complying with ADA laws which call to treat everyone equally.