You didn’t think it’d affect anybody. You were just running your kids in “real fast”. Maybe you didn’t notice the van that pulled into the parking lot right behind you with the disability plates. There’s no way you could have known they had a wheelchair. And maybe it’s human nature because like most people, you took the spot in the middle. The spot with the most space. The accessible parking spot with the wheelchair aisle on the right side.
Instead, you watched me back into the space next to you, sticking halfway out so that I could open my trunk without hitting the disabled parking sign. The sign you ignored.
Onlookers don’t notice I’m sure, but that concrete block at the end of the parking space always seems to be in the exact wrong place when you’ve had to back in and you’re trying to position your feet in a way that’ll prevent you from falling over as you struggle to hoist the wheelchair out of the trunk.
I don’t want to be the angry mom that knocks on strangers’ windows because they’re parked illegally and I need that space. But man, sometimes it’s so hard not to be that angry mom.
I’ve lost count of how many times the parking spot I need is taken. Of course, sometimes it’s legal. Of all the empty spaces with the same sign in front of them, a placard-wielding driver-without-a-wheelchair chooses the single spot with a wheelchair aisle on the right side of the space. And sometimes it’s illegal. Someone chooses to risk getting a $500 fine rather than park in a different open spot 20 feet farther from the entrance.
It’s really quite simple— if you don’t have the placard or plate with the International Symbol of Accessibility on it, do not ever park in one of those spots. Not for 30 minutes, not for 30 seconds. Not ever.
And if you are permitted to park there, but no one in your vehicle has a wheelchair, please avoid using spots marked “Van Accessible” as often as you can.
And because for some reason it still needs to be said— those striped areas? NO. No cars, motorcycles, bikes EVER. They’re not for shopping carts either…
For wheelchair users, that accessible parking space is the difference between being able to get out of the car safely and sometimes being able to get out at all.
I know those blue-square-bearing spaces look mighty tempting when the lot is crowded and you “literally just need one thing!”. Walking all the way from the back of the lot probably seems like too much trouble.
Meanwhile, the woman circling the Costco lot for one of four spots where her husband’s ramp can fully extend has to park in the middle of traffic at the front of the warehouse to let him out while she parks elsewhere.
I won’t ask you to go out of your way to make sure every disabled stranger has access all of the time. Just don’t be the reason their access is taken away.
About Lauren Weaver
Lauren found her way to Houston in 2018 with her husband, Collin, and their daughter, Emerson. They came here for Emerson’s medical care, who was born with a rare gene mutation that most doctors haven’t even heard of. They welcomed their rainbow baby, Rhett, into their family two years later. Lauren likes oversharing about hard things. These include disability and accessibility, mental health, and all the uncomfortable, messy parts of motherhood that not everyone likes to talk about. You can find her on Instagram @laurenbweaver.