Shabby Miss Jenn

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Mini Mission

Navigating the "rules" in the world of disabilities is sometimes hard to figure out. A lot of times, you don't know what those rules are until you break them. For instance, at the beginning of the school year when I was dropping Wade off at school, I pulled all the way up in the parking space. Little did I know, I was blocking a little cross walk area that leads you to the ramp on the sidewalk. I quickly figured this out when someone else made the same mistake and blocked our entrance to the ramp. So now, I don't pull all the way up. And for the record, neither does that particular car because I ever so nicely pointed it out to them! It's amazing how many things are now thrown in your face that you never thought you'd give a second thought. You tend to see the world and your environment with a new set of eyes. You constantly scan sidewalks for a ramp to make sure you know the best place to cross the street with a wheelchair . You take note of different places you go so you'll know if you can return later with a wheelchair. You get a little nervous when traveling through the airport hoping to rely on the kindness of strangers to help you get through that circular automatic door. You remember which playgrounds are the most accessible for your child and their wheelchair. And the biggest for me? You learn which handicapped parking spaces you can and can't use!

This issue has become one of my biggest pet peeves. We have a Sienna minivan with a side entry, automatic ramp. Typically, wherever I go, there are handicapped spaces always available. Yes, they're available, but they're NOT available for US! In order for me to lower the ramp AND wheel Wade off the ramp, I have to park in a space that is "VAN ACCESSIBLE".


Of course, we can park in a typical handicapped space and even lower the ramp, but then Wade is stuck on the ramp because there's not enough space to drive the wheelchair around the end of the ramp. And there's no way I can lift a 300+ pound power wheelchair over the edge! The space next to a "VAN ACCESSIBLE" space is extra wide. There is a reason these spaces exist. They are NOT for compact cars!!! I understand that sometimes nothing else is available, and the only spot left just might be one for a van. So, you gotta do what you gotta do. However, when you whip your little car into the very first handicapped space you come to--when there are at least five more down the row--and I am forced to park in a regular spot praying that when I leave there isn't another car parked next to me blocking my ability to get the wheelchair up the ramp, I get a little upset. I totally understand that this is a "rule" that a lot of people don't get. Since they've never been faced with the issue, they don't know. If they're able to walk on their own, they've probably never even given that extra space a second thought. But, if you read this and you have a handicapped parking permit, now you know! Please don't take our van spaces if you can help it!!!! Life with a little body in a big wheelchair is already challenging. Please don't make something like going to church a huge process for us.

This is my new "mini mission". If someone happens to be parking in a "VAN ACCESSIBLE" space while I'm parking, I will nicely explain to them the little conundrum I face at least once a week. If you don't know the unspoken rules, that's fine. But once you do, I hope you follow them in the future.


Amber Routten-Mitchell said...

Well said Jenny! I completely agree. When I drive my parents in their handicapped van (motorized ramp on it as well) and have to park in a "regular" handicapped spot, MANY times I end up having them (and Dad's service dog) sit on the side of the aisle while I back the van up so the ramp can land behind the car that's blocking the ramp's I'm blocking all cars from passing until I can get them up and locked in. And as you know, the more you rush the longer it ends up taking ;) I know with Wade being so young you can't just leave him on the side and expect him to stay there while you adjust your van. So great post! Hope others take the time to read it and can better understand what that sign actually means.

Tiffany said...

I didn't know this until you mentioned it the other day. I honestly thought one handicapped parking spot was just like another. Thank you for sharing and I hope that others with placards who don't know learn the difference to make it easier on mamas like you.

Sandra said...

I, too, never realized this 'til your post. Now, I notice them everywhere and hope the right people are parking in them!!

Paul Mastin said...

Thanks for the reminder. I don't think I would consciously choose a van space over a regular space, but I'll be more aware from now on. More power to your mission!

Anonymous said...

i just have to say though that i don't have a van with a ramp. i just have to lift caleb out of his carseat into his wheelchair. if i park next to a regular spot...i can't fit his chair in between the two cars and so i then have to carry him up to where i can get his chair. sometimes this is more than i can handle.

Jennifer said...

I definitely agree! Finding a parking spot should be the least of our worries!! They should just make the space between ALL handicapped spots wider.

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