At first, I looked the other way when able-bodied individuals parked in spaces designated for disabled drivers. I was determined not to be that “bitter handicapped woman.” Fast forward twenty-two years of parkinglot frustrations and I’ve become, shall we say, much more assertive.
I’m extremely fortunate to have the independence associated with owning a wheelchair accessible van, with hand controls. However, ramp-vans require wider parking spots (thus the hash marked areas). These parking spots are few and I often end up parking in the back-forty (at an angle between two slots) in order to get out of, and back into, my vehicle. It, therefore, flabbergasts me when I return to my car to find someone has squeezed their car into the space I’ve created for lowering my ramp, or worse, someone has actually parked in the hash marked section of the disabled parking space.
I could share a number of humorous stories, but the most astounding story occurred on my way to work one morning. I was in the elevator listening to a woman complain to her friend about how she had parked in a disabled parking space, “I was only going to be five minutes”. When she returned, her car had been booted. She was very disturbed that she had to take time, and spend $25, to get her car out of hawk after parking illegally. Mind you, I was sitting right next to her in my wheelchair.
“Yes, lady, when I couldn’t find a parking space I knew you’d only be five minutes. I drove around the parking lot, not at all concerned about how late I might be for work, waiting for you to return and open one of the only spaces I could park in.” Okay, I didn’t say anything– now I wish I had.
I’m still not that “bitter handicapped woman”, but I have become a great deal more outspoken when it comes to dealing with my disabilities. I’m also getting very proficient at flagging down strangers and asking them to back my car out so I can lower the ramp.