All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for January 2003

Disability Parking Spaces? Good Luck!,2265,32924820,00.html

1st Dec, 2002
Karen Smith
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis

WHEN MY PHYSICIAN first gave me the application for a disability parking sticker, I sent it in. Soon, the state sent me a disability sticker to hang from my rearview mirror-I immediately put it in the glove compartment and vowed to never use it.

When the heat severely affected my legs or when I was very tired; however, I broke down and used the sticker. I hoped that no one I knew would see me. Since those early days, I've progressed to a wheelchair, and now I have a van with a side ramp that enables me to be somewhat independent. Disability parking is now a necessity. I'm forever grateful for legislation that makes it mandatory for businesses to provide such parking. However, there are still a few problems I don't seem to be able to overcome.

Give Me Land, Lots of Land...

I need a parking space that's van-accessible. Fewer of these spaces are available. For example, my grocery store has only two van-- accessible spaces (and you have to back into one of them). Often, both spaces are occupied. When this first happened, I chose another spot wa-a-ay out into the parking lot-no other cars in sight-and parked by myself. After shopping, I found that there were now TWO vehicles parked wa-a-ay out there with me. One was parked right next to the side of my ramp. I had to ask a customer service employee from the store to move my van before I could get in.

When I got home, I told my husband this tale. A few days later, he gave me one of the greatest gifts he has given me in 32 years: my own personal orange traffic cone. I put a sticker on it, stating that this was a disability-- equipped van that required several feet of space for the ramp. All I had to do was put the cone in the spot next to where I parked and I was home-free.

Well, almost. A few months later, I was taking my mother for an appointmant at a busy medical center. All of the disability spaces were full, let alone a van-accessible spot. I parked where there were two spaces and put my orange cone in the empty space. When we came out, not only was there a vehicle parked next to mine, my cone was hidden behind a concrete pillar. It took a call to security and two security guards before we could get in my van 30 minutes later and go home.

I attributed these actions to someone who didn't have a disability. Someone who just didn't think about or understand the needs of a person with disabilities. However, this rationalization was short-lived.

The medical building where my neurologist is located has a parking lot with two van-- accessible parking spots. Not only is there plenty of room for two vans to let out ramps (without backing in), the parking spots are also under cover. I've been fortunate to get one of these spots most of the time. However, upon leaving one day, I was shocked to find that some other driver with a disability had inconsiderately parked in the marked-off ramp area between two vans. God bless security guards.

On a recent visit to my neurologist, I was pleased to get one of the wonderful ramp-accessible spaces. But, when I returned to my van, I found that a person with a disability had illegally parked next to my van in a driving lane.

While taking my mother to another doctor visit, we were thrilled to find a van-accessible space near the door with plenty of room for my ramp. When we came out, there was a full-size van with a disability sticker parked between my van and the car in the next space. This was the second time in a week that I'd been inconvenienced in this manner.

I've always thought those in the disability community should look out for one another. What kind of a message do we send to nondisabled people when we individuals with disabilities don't obey the rules and aren't considerate of others? I certainly hope that (just because we have disabilities) we don't become jaded and uncaring about those around us. Let's continue to assist those who need a hand. Then maybe others will as well.

© 2002, Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis