I’m just waiting for someone.
I was only gone for five minutes.
I’ll move if somebody comes who needs it.
These are just a few of the excuses used to justify illegally parking in a handicapped parking spot. Out of all the things I expected to struggle with when I was told I would never walk again, parking my car was not one of them. And yet, here I am. And I am frustrated. I am frustrated with the lack of accessible parking and with the people who don’t think they are causing a problem by abusing the spots that exist. I am tired of people using tags that don’t belong to them, tags that are expired or no tag at all. I’m not a confrontational person and I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt by thinking that they are unaware of how crucial these spots are for the people that need them. So here is my attempt at spreading some awareness.
There are two main reasons to be given an accessible parking permit for your vehicle:
- You have difficulty with distance and/or have a condition that requires quick and easy access to your vehicle.
- You need a wider parking spot in order to accommodate a mobility device.
My needs definitely fall under the second option. While I do appreciate the close spot due to the fact that navigating a parking lot while being no taller than an eight-year-old (especially if I have my children with me) can pose some slight safety issues, it is the width of the parking spot that truly dictates my ability to use it. Having my daughter almost in tears in the backseat because we might miss swimming lessons due to the fact that all of the parking spots I can use are full, isn’t an obstacle we should have to be faced with on a regular basis. Give me extra accessible parking at the back of a lot and I will happily take it. But I’ve never seen any.
I could maybe understand people misusing accessible parking if the rules were convoluted and unreasonable. Except the rules for handicapped parking stalls are not all that complicated:
DO use an accessible parking stall if you have a valid parking permit for a person in your vehicle who will actually be getting out of said vehicle.
DON’T use an accessible parking stall for any other reason.
It is actually that simple. Even if you’re just waiting for someone or you will only be gone for five minutes, there is no way for the person who needs that stall to know that. I can’t just hop out of my car and tap on your window to tell you that I actually need your parking spot. Nor would I because, again, I’m not a fan of confrontation. Regardless, the concepts of accessible parking are not difficult to grasp and the availability of the spots is essential in allowing people with disabilities (both visible and invisible) to live their lives as freely and independently as possible.
Since accessible parking has become my only option, I have seen many violations. There was one that has always stuck out in my mind that put into question the proper use of a permit. A man was parked in an accessible spot and while he did have a permit, he was walking all over the parking lot picking up garbage. There were dozens of empty regular parking spots around his car. I don’t think it was fair for him to be taking up an accessible spot when he wasn’t using it for proximity to an entrance or width. Am I wrong?
That being said, besides the simple golden rule above, there are a few other considerations (and a rule or two) about accessible parking that everyone should be aware of. Maybe not everyone will agree with me on all of them, but I think they are important for keeping the usage fair.
- The diagonal lines beside designated handicapped spots are not to be parked on.
Not by cars, motorcycles, mopeds, food trucks, go karts, bikes or anything else you can think of. The lines are there to give ample room for mobility devices and vehicles that have ramps. Do not block the lines.
- Know that it is allowed for someone with a disabled parking permit to take up two regular parking stalls. I feel like a jerk every time I have to do it, but when my choices are to give-up on my plans or look like an asshole, I suppose I choose asshole. Please don’t leave an angry note on my car.
- Have faith in people. My goal in this post is not to create anger, just awareness. Another reason I don’t usually confront people (especially if they have a valid permit) is because they could very well have an invisible disability and require the parking space. My wheelchair seems to be the visible proof people need to know that I really do need the spot, but there are other reasons. However, if you know somebody using a permit that is not theirs, please enlighten them (kindly) as to why they should stop.
- If you need a space for proximity and not width, and there are empty standard spots the same distance from the entrance, maybe you could use one of those instead. Is this request unreasonable? I’m not sure. Please don’t attack me for it. But I have found myself getting frustrated when there are numerous open spots (some even closer to an entrance) and someone who has a tag – without a mobility device –takes up the one accessible stall. I am not trying to claim entitlement, I’m trying to offer a compromise and ask if it is fair.
That’s it. One simple rule to follow and a few added considerations for something that can have a massive impact on someone’s day. We can always advocate for more parking (and maybe encourage some changes to a parking lot that has four electrical vehicle spots for one accessible spot) but we can also be aware. Using a spot illegally essentially says to someone who needs it that their ability to participate in society isn’t as important. Relying on having only a small amount of parking spots available to you everywhere you go (and often only one spot) can be somewhat stressful. And worrying that they will be used improperly just adds to that stress. Let’s all be considerate and kind and understand that there are many people who use these spots out of necessity and not just convenience.