Monday, July 7, 2014

Think Before You Park

After driving up and down a 4 level car garage for over a half an hour just to find a parking space of any kind, I've had my fill of abuse of handicapped parking spots.  1 out of every 2 cars didn't possess a handicapped parking plate or tag.   And the parking space I finally wound up in was completely inadequate for unloading a wheelchair or needing room for a 4 foot ramp.   But it is all I could work with because of the growing trend in everyone thinking they are all entitled to these handicapped parking spots.

Invisible versus Visible Disabilities:
As a mother who is highly involved in the special needs community, I have a high level of respect for all disabilities regardless of diagnosis, condition and physical or cognitive abilities.  However, I think this invisible disability thing with handicapped parking spaces is just out of control.  Sure there are invisible disabilities, but not when it comes to disabled parking.  Disability parking spaces have stringent guidelines that provide for mobility problems and challenges.   These days anyone can say they have an invisible disability and find an enabling doctor who is tired of hearing about how their migraines affect them walking into a store and sign off on it.   I have issues carrying and transferring a severely disabled child with very little sleep that often gives me sciatic nerve and back pain, but that does not make me disabled.  Not at all.  Doctors really need to start cracking down on those who need these spaces from those who are simply whining, lazy, hypochondriacs who hide behind the label "invisible disability."  These are just some types of invisible disabilities:  Diabetes, dyslexia, hearing impairments, sleep disorders, chronic pain or arthritis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   And yes, people with these types of conditions are going to think that they need to park in handicapped parking spaces.

Here are some common things I hear when it comes to the argument why invisible disabilities should be entitled to handicapped parking spaces:

"I need to conserve my energy"
"I could have a seizure at any time"
"My child might run from me."

It is astonishing that someone who needs to conserve their energy feels the need to park in handicapped parking, but has the energy and physical capabilities to walk three miles around the zoo, showing no signs of exhaustion.  Yet we're completely supposed to accept that person needs to conserve their energy and can't possibly walk five spaces more in a parking lot to the front door?  Yes you might have a seizure in the parking lot, you also might have a seizure while driving, or in the check out lane.  You are taking a handicapped spot from someone who doesn't have a "maybe" situation attached to their condition and is always confined to a wheelchair.  I hear from parents of Autism frequently... my child might run from me.  Yes, well so does my three year old typical child, therefore I use a toddler leash (which are also made for all ages of children with special needs).   Having a front row parking space does not guarantee that they are any safer than parking 2 or 3 more spots away from the front door of an establishment.

I could wake up tomorrow, illegally use Noah's parking tag leaving him at home with his daddy and claim I have an invisible disability while running into the store just because I dropped Noah's wheelchair on my foot.  It's that simple.  And completely that wrong.  And this kind of abuse is happening all the time.  When do we stop people who clearly have zero problems with mobility feeling like they are more deserving to take a handicapped parking space than from someone who really needs it?   Everyone feels so entitled to these spots that the people they were truly designed to serve cannot access them. 

Temporary Conditions:
"I sprained my ankle mowing the yard.  Therefore I am entitled to a parking spot until I feel better."
"Broke my leg in a skiing accident."
"I'm pregnant and my feet are swollen."
"I'm overweight, I get winded easier."

First, it's illegal to park without a handicapped license or tag regardless of your temporary condition.   And a disability is a permanent life altering condition.   If you can walk the mall with your pregnant swollen feet then parking 10 feet closer to the door isn't going to help you any.   Putting your feet up will and finding some great compression stockings will.   I know from personal experience.  Although I feel bad you broke your leg having a good time, doesn't mean you need to park in handicapped at your favorite restaurant while you brag about how you acquired your injury.   And so what you sprained your ankle mowing the yard,  doesn't qualify you to take a handicapped spot so you can limp your way through the store.  And if you are overweight a bit of walking will likely do you good. 

Borrowing a License
Just because your Grandpa has a handicapped parking tag after a car accident left him paraplegic and you're going to a concert that will be jammed packed with very little parking does not mean you can legally borrow the parking tag.   This unfortunately seems to be a growing problem.  If Noah is not physically with me, I cannot legally park in handicapped parking.  The license is in his name, and without him as a passenger I am entitled to one big fat ticket.  I can walk.  Noah cannot.   If the person who's name is on the handicapped license or attached to the tag and is not with you, it is illegal to park in handicapped parking.

Just Plain Lazy
I'll only be in the store a minute.  No one will ever notice.
This is video is a disturbing example of that kind of arrogance and how that disregard for those who need handicapped parking spaces are impacted by the ego and inconsiderate actions of others:

Look at my New Ride
I just bought a new car, it deserves a front row spot so no one hits it with a grocery cart. 

True story, that really happened.   A young lady in a store, bragging about her new car that her brother bought her as a gift free and clear, describing the make and model of it.  You are taught to be respectful and happy for the success that other people find in life.  You congratulate this stranger on their new wonderful gift only to find that the exact car that was described to you is sitting without a license or tag on your way out to your car. 

And don't even get me started on the new proposed handicapped wheelchair logo with a figure that implies you have the ability to stand and get out of that wheelchair.   Why change the logo? To make people who are literally stealing these precious spots from people who truly need them feel justified in doing so?  These days everyone seems to think they have an invisible disability.

Ever wonder why handicapped parking spots have a loading zone, and curb cuts and access isles?  Here is a great video that explains all of these features and why they are so important for those with visible disabilities.

You may not realize that wheelchair users also happen to travel in a blind spot, below the field of vision of rear view mirrors, often going unseen by drivers and even pedestrians.   Here is an informative video about a wheelchair user and his need for handicapped parking spaces.

Think before you park again in a handicapped spot that is much needed by a wheelchair user.   And do your part to stop the abuse.  Don't be afraid to confront an able bodied person who is jogging into the store, or a car that doesn't have a handicapped tag or license plate.  If they are someone who accidentally forgot to post their tag in the window they'll likely appreciate the fact you cared enough to intervene and patrol these spaces on their behalf and for others like them.   And if you have extra time call your local law enforcement agency so that deserving tickets can be issued.   We all can play a part in starting to take action to preserve handicapped parking spots for those who truly need them.


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.