Handicapped parking, or not

Hubby pushed the cart as I carefully wheeled my wheelchair back to the handicap slots in the parking lot. We stopped at the end of the sidewalk and stared across at our sedan. Someone had parked in the striped area beside the door I needed to open to transfer from the wheelchair. The van occupied the “do not park here; it is reserved for a handicapped person.” In fact, drivers had coveted the convenience of the closeness to the building and filled all the striped areas of handicapped parking lot.
They had not parked there for lack of parking spots. Most of the spots on the other side of the line remained open. Beyond that lay hundreds of empty parking spots.
I know the reasoning, Years ago, late at night, shortly after the federal government mandated handicap parking, we arrived at a national monument. Rationalizing, “no one will need this handicapped parking spot at this monument this late at night,” we parked in the spot nearest to the monument to facilitate our quick visit.
When we returned to the car (yes that short of time) we had a $50 parking ticket. That was the last time we rationalized taking a handicap parking spot, no matter what the circumstances.
Now we need the handicapped parking. We have a tag and we know how much energy and time it saves. We are not alone. One afternoon, we drove down the line of disabled parking spots at a major department store and could not find an empty handicapped spot. We made do in a far off parking spot with extra space around it and hubby rolled me into the store.
So, of course we parked close to the store the day a van blocked my access. Seeing the van sitting so close to our sedan, my husband took down the license number, left me on the sidewalk with the buggy, marched back into the store and had an announcement made. Minutes later, the red faced owner came out, mumbled an apology and moved his van a few spots down to a non-handicapped spot.
When I posted our experience on Facebook, a follower told of the day her handicapped husband encountered a lady parked in the striped area. He could not get the wheelchair lift down to load himself and his chair. When he asked her if she could move from the handicap space, she screamed ‘this is not marked handicapped. My husband is a policeman and I know the law.” Who cares what the law is, another person simply needed a bit of consideration. She could take a couple minutes, move her van and help him access his ride home. Common courtesy and thoughtfulness is all that is asked. We don’t need the law to do that. And review the law with her husband when she got home.
Another Facebook acquaintance, whose late daughter was handicapped wrote, “I feel for you. We had vehicle and access problems for her whole 35 years. Mostly people were not nice about being asked nicely to help by moving. We were told many times that there were places for kids like her and if we wouldn’t put her there, we should keep her at home so other people could live their lives without the irritation of seeing her… (I omitted the curse words). I hope the climate has changed some toward the handicapped in the last 11 years.”
Ouch! Really! Hide the disabled at home? What un-enlightened century did they come from? Frankly, it is getting out and doing something that has enabled many disabled to make the effort and become active, contributing members of society. Being able to leave the house definitely adds to the quality of life for anyone in a wheelchair or on a walker. Just a couple weeks in the hospital and I simply enjoyed a wheelchair stroll through the hospital’s gardens. When I finally left the hospital, I spent the entire ride simply enjoying the view. A little empathy goes a long ways folks.
Another reader noted that she too, “found the frustration of parking a handicapped van for my dad. People don’t realize how important spaces are to a handicapped person until you’re the one looking for one.”
Even at the doctor’s office on Tuesday we experienced the same lack of accessibility. I guess everyone hobbling in wanted a short walk. My husband double parked near the door and helped me out of the sedan, then parked the car further away.
At least we had the option. Not everyone does. Think about that before you slide your car into that handy, close to the door spot. Drive on by, park further away from the store and be thankful that you can walk the extra steps with ease.