Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Don't park in a handicap parking spot when you're waiting for someone

The other night, our family drove into the town parking lot. As I passed one of the accessible parking spots, I saw a car idling there. This happens regularly in this parking lot, especially during rush hour, when people waiting for their partners to come home either occupy handicap spots or block them. I knew what I was going to do.

Earlier that day, I'd read a post my friend Hallie had put on her Facebook page. A mom of a girl with Down syndrome, writer and advocate, Hallie had jumped into a conversation on her local Facebook page when a woman shared that her adult daughter had been parked illegally in a handicapped spot when some guy started bothering her. "I pointed out that while I was sorry that happened, I did hope the police ticketed her for parking illegally in a handicapped spot and taking it away from someone who might need it," Hallie wrote. "The comments are unbelievable: people attacking me because 'her daughter could have moved if someone had needed the handicapped spot.'"

Hallie was outraged. As she noted, "You expect a person with a disability to park, then walk across a busy train lot to ask an able-bodied person to move their car?"

Exactly. I see it all the time, cars without handicap placards idling in accessible spots in parking lots at the supermarket, at Target, the mall, school pick-up zones, everywhere. And there's a big problem with that: Occupying or blocking a spot designated for a disabled person to pick someone up means you're taking it away from a disabled person who needs that spot. Period.

There's no justifying that it's "just" for a couple of minutes or that you'll move if someone needs the spot—a disabled person in need of the spot will likely assume someone is rightfully occupying it and move on, even though the spot was meant to be theirs. They're not going to get out of the car and check for a handicap placard, and why should they? Getting around can be challenging enough for people with physical disabilities. They shouldn't have to be inconvenienced by someone illegally occupying an accessible parking spot because parking there was convenient for them.

Even if someone idles in front of a spot, they're still blocking it. Reasoning that perhaps a person "forgot" their decal is besides the point. You're not legally allowed to park in a handicap parking spot if you do not have the designated placard or license plate, and you risk a ticket if you do. One mom on Hallie's page noted that her kid can't walk more than 200 feet "and still, if we forget the placard because we switched it in someone else's car because they were picking up my kid, I still don't park in an HC spot.... Why? Decency and societal expectations."

To be sure, people may genuinely not realize it's wrong to temporarily park in a handicap spot. But make no mistake, it is. If you wouldn't park your car in an accessible spot because you are not a disabled person or driving a disabled child, don't block the spot. And don't park on those diagonal blue lines, either—they're for loading and unloading wheelchairs off ramps in accessible vehicles.

That night in the parking lot, I walked over to the car and sure enough, there was no handicap placard. A guy was sitting there with headphones on. I knocked on the window and when he opened it I said, "You're in a handicapped parking spot. It's for people with disabilities. I have a child with disabilities, and I care." He apologetically said, "I'm just waiting for someone." I pointed out there were other spots where he could wait, and he nodded. As I walked away, he pulled out.

We're headed into holiday season and parking lots at the mall, restaurants and train stations will be more filled up than usual because of shopping and parties. Frigid weather may also make it tempting to hover in a handicapped spot so, say, a spouse or visitor getting off the train won't have far to walk. While I'm not recommending confronting people idling in their cars without placards, if you see an officer nearby you could let them know. If the person genuinely forgot their placard and they get a ticket, they can appear with it in card and get the ticket revoked. (BTW, idling is also illegal in a bunch of states.)

Be a considerate person: Don't block the accessible spot.

1 comment:

  1. This happened to us at a restaurant about a week ago! I was glad it was a "good day" and my husband was able to make the walk across the parking lot. I did scare him though, as I walked up to the idling car, knocked on the window and gave the person a piece of my mind!


Thanks for sharing!

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