Parking can be a pain in the butt. We’ve all struggled with it. And we’ve all parked in places that we know we shouldn’t. We have pulled up to the grocery store and sat in the fire lane with our hazards on while we wait for someone to come out. Or parked a little too close to that fire hydrant. Or parked in a 10-minute parking spot knowing we’re going to be longer than that. We shrug these off saying our small indiscretion won’t hurt anyone. But it doesn’t make it any less maddening when someone parks in a handicapped spot and they have no reason to be there. Consider this my written rant about handicapped parking that every wheelchair user has at least once a year!

This has come up a few times recently, both in my life and also in a few conversations with our grant recipients; it’s a constant problem, so I thought it was worth sharing and discussing.

Here’s my recent story: a couple of weeks ago I was dropping off my daughter, Nell, at daycare. There is a large parking lot with plenty of available parking, including four handicapped parking spots. When I came back out to my car after dropping her off there was a car parked in the space next to the handicapped spot, the area with the lines through it. There was no one parked in the handicapped space that was associated with this area. I wasn’t even parked in that handicapped spot (I was parked a couple of spots over), but I was triggered. I’m sure this person was just running in quickly to drop their child off and thought, “There are several open handicap spots, it won’t hurt anyone if I park here quickly.” As soon as I saw this, though, I was mad. I went to find a piece of paper to leave this person a note. While I’m looking for a piece of paper the person comes out, gets in their car, and starts to leave. I wheeled out to get their attention, he rolled his window down but never came to a full stop and I said, “That’s not a parking spot”. His reply was, “Thanks for letting me know,” and he drove off.

As he drove away, I was pissed. First, of course, he knew he wasn’t supposed to park there, his response was one level short of flipping the bird. And second, I didn’t even get to explain why he shouldn’t park there. So here it is.

The importance of a handicapped parking spot for me is not the proximity to the building or entrance, as many people think, but rather it’s the lined space next to the parking spot. When I get my chair out of the car, I need to be able to open the door all the way. (See this video of me getting my chair in and out of the car). Have you ever shimmied between your car and the car next to you, opened your door a crack, and slipped your body in the nearly shut door? Well, that’s not even a remote option for me. If someone parks that close to my car, I’m stuck until that person comes back or I can find someone to pull my car out for me. Even if I am able to physically get to my car (my chair is about 2 feet wide), to get my kids into the car I need to be able to get to fully open the doors on both sides of the car so I can help to buckle them into their seats. Even more importantly, many people who have vans need at least 6 to 8 feet of space next to them to have the ramp come out. If the lined space next to the handicapped spot is blocked, they’re stuck.

So just don’t do it, ever. Oh, and don’t leave a shopping cart there either! But even beyond that very simple but important reason, parking there is a show of disrespect. It tells me that you don’t care about me or the disabled community and you don’t respect these simple things that are set up in our society to make our lives just a little bit easier.

Yes, we’re all in a rush sometimes. We make choices without really thinking about the consequences. But let this be your reminder that all choices affect someone. Let’s all try to make the right choices. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now! 🙂