With the holiday shopping season just beginning, I want to present something for you to think about that could affect many disabled people you come across daily. Will you listen for just a minute?
Life is busy. I get that. You are often in a rush. I get that, too. This time of year makes it even worse because more people are out and about, and the schedules are pushed to the breaking point. But there is a limit to everything. Don’t you think? Have you ever parked in a handicapped parking space? I am sure many of you have never done this and would never; but, unfortunately, there are many who do and don’t see a problem with doing so. There are things in life that you need to look at carefully and understand fully in order to “get it”. Sometimes, you really have to put yourself in other people’s shoes, so you won’t make the wrong decisions. It may not seem like a big deal. I mean, it is just a parking space a little closer to the store, right? You are just going to run in for a minute, right? You have appointments and are already running late, right? You may even have a permit because you have a relative that needs one, but that relative isn’t with you all the time. You may think it’s ok if I just use the permit, so I can get in and out quickly. Listen to me a minute please . . . a person who has needed a close parking space and couldn’t find one because of the perfectly abled body’s car in the spot I needed, because I can give you a different perspective.
Whether you need a wheelchair, cane, or guide dog to be mobile and independent or have one of the many invisible handicaps that makes walking even short distances difficult, a parking space designed for your ramp or change over to chair, or unsteady pull to your feet, or harnessing your guide dog and getting the guide into position, you appreciate not only the closer proximity to the stores, but also the slightly larger space to maneuver in relative safety. These are not just conveniences or undeserved privileges. These are needs and rights for the disabled people who often face too many struggles in an ordinary day to count. It isn’t about getting to the store sale quicker than someone else. It is about being able to get to the store at all or with less pain or the ability to still breathe well enough to shop. There are so few spaces allowed for handicapped parking as it is that some have to cut their shopping experience short or forego it until another time when there is a space available that if a car is parked without a permit or a non-disabled person is using a permit illegally, it compounds the problem even more. Please think before you park. We need that space.
Now, if you think you have a medical issue that warrants you parking closer to the business, it is fairly easy in any state to get a handicapped parking permit. You can go to your state’s department of motor vehicles or the web site for it and get the simple application. Take it to your doctor and discuss your problems. The doctor will sign the form if you are qualified, and you then will take the signed form to your state’s DMV to get the parking permit. It really is simple, so do that rather than park illegally in the spot and hope that you won’t be ticketed and fined.
Now, as a side note, all, disabled or not, must mind the attitudes when we see someone parking in a handicapped space with a permit that looks perfectly healthy. As I have mentioned, there are many invisible health problems that warrant the use of a handicapped parking permit. Personally, I use one for multiple reasons. Not only am I DeafBlind and a guide dog user, I also have extremely severe asthma and chronic breathing issues. Because of my asthma, I had a parking permit before I lost my sight. I tried to be considerate, though, I only parked in the handicapped space if my breathing would be compromised by the trip or already was compromised. I had many people over the years yell insults at me because they failed to realize that there are other handicaps besides wheelchair-bound problems. So, think before you assume, too.
Have I made my case? Do you understand that we disabled people need that space more than you? You taking that spot is more than just inconveniencing us. You are making it more difficult for us to be independent or do the tasks of daily living. Make our day. Park somewhere else, please.