I’ll be honest. I don’t really want to write this post. I’m sure everything I say will have already been said before. And yet, I feel I need to write this post. So, let’s talk parking.
I know, I know. We’ve all heard it before. We’ve all been there before.
The thing is, I remember being confused about handicap parking as a kid. I remember standing outside a dentist’s office with my older brother. For some reason, we hadn’t gone all the way in and as a naturally inquisitive child I tried to decipher why disabled people would need special parking. I remember saying to my brother, “you know, if they wanted to be treated normally they should have to park like everyone else.” And then I turned towards the ramp and looked at the ramp and said, “and they wouldn’t need a ra—“ and then stopped. “Well, okay, they need the ramp…”
I wasn’t very old. Maybe ten or so. But it was in that instance that I realized that they probably did need the ramp which meant maybe there was some sort of reason that they needed special parking. I think that was the last of it. I didn’t bother my thoughts about handicap parking. I didn’t get outraged at people using it. They just existed and that was fine with me. I figured there was a reason and I went on with my life. Not parking in handicap spaces didn’t affect me negatively, so I parked as normal.
Since becoming disabled, I’ve learned the value and downright necessity of handicap parking. Sure, I make jokes all the time with my friends how we ought to take me along for super awesome crip parking, but in reality it’s not a joke. I really need that parking. I’ve also learned a collection of myths and terrible ideas people have about handicap parking.
Myth #1: Disabled People Don’t/Shouldn’t Drive
First, uhm what? I drive a terrific tiny bright yellow car. My right foot works well enough to use the gas pedal and if I ever get to the point where it doesn’t, there are these fancy schmancy things you can install in your car called “hand controls” which lets you drive with your hands and not your feet. It is true that I definitely shouldn’t drive a stick shift. I couldn’t drive one if I wanted to. But we aren’t living in the days of ‘I travelled four miles to school in the snow with bread bags on my feet while meeting a dinosaur.’
Second, yes, there are people with disabilities who don’t drive and can’t drive. There are also people without disabilities who don’t and can’t drive. They sometimes go into cars as passengers. I’m sure some of these passengers need room to get their wheelchair out or a close spot to the door. In fact, those handicap tags that dangle from the mirror? They’re registered to the person not the car.
Myth #2: If Disabled People Want to be Treated Fairly Then They Should Have to Fight For Parking Like the Rest of Us
I know, I’m cringing. I did think this way. But hey, I do have the excuse that I was a kid at the time. But kids turn into full-grown adults with the ideas that no one ever challenged. One of the greatest signs I ever read was “Fair is not everyone getting the same thing. Fair is everyone getting what they need.” I had to read it a couple of times, but once it sunk in, it stuck. It makes sense. It makes SO much sense.
People who need handicap parking, just want to be able to get into the building without a huge amount of struggle, just like everyone else. Sure, there will be bitterly cold, snowy days in which just trudging through snow seems like an insurmountable feat, but then everyone’s struggling.
We shouldn’t have to fight for parking. In fact, I’m tired of passing empty inaccessible space after space only to find that the ONE accessible space is taken. Except for rare cases, I never had to fight for parking while able-bodied. I could always walk and easily dodge cars as I weaved through parking lots. Now when I fight for parking, I’m often taking up two spots smack in the middle of the parking lot while hoping fervently that the giant trucks won’t back out and hit me when I’m half the height I usually am. Funny how I don’t recall having these issues when I was able-bodied.
Myth #3: Disabled People Are Just Lazy and Looking For Handouts
Yeah, you caught me. I’m lazy. I like watching TV marathons on the couch. I prefer movie nights to nights out on the town. But needing accessible parking? That’s not lazy. That’s necessity. It’s not a handout; it’s us disabled people functioning in society.
You know that space next to handicap parking? You know, the pretty blue lines with the sign that says ‘Absolutely No Parking Anytime’? There’s a reason for that. That’s so us crips and gimps can actually get out of our car! Some of us have ramps that descend onto that space. Some of us assemble our wheelchairs in that space. Some us open our doors all the way and finagle with our crutches and walkers in that space. Some of us don’t need that space at all (they just need the close parking).
Some people need the close parking because they have a limited availability of steps they can take for that day. I know that on the days I use my cane or crutches, I NEED that close spot so I can go more than a few steps inside. If I can’t get a close spot, then it’s much more difficult and painful to get in the building. This aspect of my life is not laziness. In fact, I much prefer parking far away and playing Dodge the Chevys while in my wheelchair because I am a lazy person. If I’m standing, you can bet I’m not being lazy.
Also, most people don’t seem to recognize the amount of work and time that goes into assembling a wheelchair (Or better yet, getting one that’s custom-fitted for you). While I’m thrilled to have my time down to only a few minutes, if I could walk easily into the store as able-bodies I would do it. Why? Because it takes a lot less time and I am lazy and like to get things done and over with quickly. Assembling a chair in zero degree weather and getting the catch releases stuck is not always a simple process. And let’s not even go into the extra effort required when you decide to let a passenger sit where your wheelchair usually goes.
Myth #4: I’ll Only Be A Minute
No. You won’t. And even if you really are, it’s still illegal. It’s like a little bit of crack. Just because you don’t have a huge amount of it doesn’t make it legal. You are blocking our access. You are making it even more difficult for us to find proper parking. You are keeping people away from society. And chances are, you will not only be a minute.
Myth # 5: I’m Disabled, There’s No Accessible Parking So I’ll Park In the Blue Lines
No. No. No. Nothing frustrates me more than seeing a car with a handicap placard parked in the blue lines. Well okay, it frustrates me more when they are blocking my way into the car. It is ridiculous how many times this happens. It is ridiculous that other disabled people can’t seem to realize that they are impeding another disabled person’s way.
When I can’t find an accessible spot, I take up two parking spots far away or if I need a close spot, I wait in my car until one opens up. I don’t shove my car and leave fellow crips out in the cold waiting for me to finish my shopping before they can leave.
That’s just plain rude. It’s rude when it’s done with able-bodied people. It’s head-scratchingly rude when done by other disabled people.
Myth #6: Small Cars Don’t Need Wheelchair Accessible Spots
Hello. Small car here. Small wheelchair. Wheelchair accessible spot is often needed. They now make wheelchairs that can fit practically anywhere. The frame on my chair easily fits in the passenger seat, while the seat cushion and the two wheels fit in the back seat. Just because we don’t have a van doesn’t mean we still don’t need accessible parking.
Myth #6: Young People Don’t Need Handicap Parking
I see all you older folk glaring at me as I pull in and out of spots with my handicap placard clearly displayed. Sometimes, I wonder if the music’s too loud (you mean you don’t like the Camelot musical?). And then I realize. I’m young. I can’t possibly need this parking. I can’t possibly be disabled either, right?
Really, how many times do we need to go through this?
Myth #7: It’s Okay to Block Handicap Spots with Moving Trucks, Construction Vehicles, and Delivery Trucks.
No, it’s really not okay. I used to work at a furniture store. There are ways to move furniture, accept deliveries, and do construction without blocking accessible parking. It only requires a modicum of sense.
I’m sure there’s far more, and you’re welcome to add them in the comments section. But this is all I have the mental energy for, especially since I need to explain to my apartment managers that while shoveling my ramp is all well and good, it’s only helpful if they shovel the accessible space next to my parking spot.