I was surprised this past weekend when I found a few handicapped parking spaces available at Wal-Mart. Then, I felt relieved because I knew I was going to be able to get myself out of the car without any trouble.
Through moments like this, I have come to realize that it no longer makes a difference whether there are five or 25 handicapped parking spaces at the Wal-Mart shopping center. Either way, the likelihood of getting one is slim. The more disabled parking spaces out there, the more disabled people will suddenly come to life. And this is quite interesting to me, because the last time I looked I was the only person rolling through the store.
The misuse of disabled parking has slowly progressed over the last ten years to the point where parking for the handicapped has become parking for the masses. There are those who steal placards and those who have a valid placard but shouldn’t have one at all.
Now, disabled people, and I mean truly disabled people, have to hunt to find suitable parking.
But this is common knowledge among us all. It is rather weird to see someone who is handicapped use those spots.
There are days at CSUN where I watch other students park in a handicapped spot, hop out of their raised truck, put on a heavy backpack and dash off to class.
And they have no shame until days later when they see me, slightly giving them the eye, as they get out of their car.
Last March, DMV reported on their Web site that campus police ticketed 24 drivers, both students and teachers, who were using disabled placards that did not belong to them. Some stooped low enough to take a dead relative’s placard.
While this constant abuse of parking privileges is impossible for me to understand, I do believe there is a solution, and it goes beyond a $250 ticket. It is time to disable the abusers. That’s right-make them experience what it’s like to be handicapped.
Those who misuse the famous blue placard or write prescriptions for them like they are candy should have to spend the day using a wheelchair. Make them travel around town desperately trying to find a spot. Let them feel the frustration of having to get a wheelchair out of the car in a regular space.
And, then, give them an opportunity to see the hassles they create with their disregard for others. Allow them to witness someone with a walker try to make it all the way to the end of the parking lot, because they couldn’t get a space up front.
You see, the problem just goes a lot deeper than some people are willing to recognize.
This is the only way people will ever understand the importance of this extremely desired parking spot.
First of all, many of the people who park in the blue jog out of their car and end up leaving the disabled person with nowhere to go. This creates a stressful game of do or die for people like me who use a wheelchair to get around.
I have two choices: wait patiently or leave.
People just love these spots because they are conveniently placed right at the front, but that is not the only reason why the disabled need them. The larger space provides me with the opportunity to get my wheelchair out of the car without help.
In a regular spot, there is no guarantee that those who use wheelchairs will be able to get out or back into the car because another driver might park too close.
The extra five feet of space allows many disabled people to go places by themselves. Not having to ask for help means freedom.
Somehow, these points are forgotten.
We are all apart of the problem though– even me –because I don’t say something to abusers when I should. There is always that fear that people who park in these spots do have a disability that isn’t visible. People who have heart or lung disease, for example, are allowed to have parking placards. If it is a harsh case that enables them from getting around, then they should have one. But if one can walk around an entire supermarket piling groceries up in a heavy, hard to push cart, without losing a breath, it’s not okay. There are not enough of these spaces to go around for that.
Being disabled isn’t being overweight, old, or pregnant. Being disabled is having an extreme physical limitation. I wish more doctors would take this into consideration when writing prescriptions, because there are too many people who have valid permanent placards that have nothing wrong with them except laziness.
The reason there are not that many disabled parking spots to begin with is because there are not that many handicapped people in one parking lot, arriving all at the same time. Yet, now days, it sure does seem that there are.
Parking should not be the ultimate stress and worry for the disabled and until people are willing to spend one day of their life physically limited, they will never know why that one spot is so vital in providing a sense of independence for the disabled.