Don’t Judge My Handicap Parking Spot

Don’t Judge My Handicap Parking Spot

No matter how I’m feeling my group therapy sessions always put a smile on my face. I love meeting with the women who attend and always leave with positivity tools I can practice in my everyday life. Walking out of group therapy one day I noticed there was a note on my windshield. I had stayed a few minutes extra and I thought that maybe one of the ladies had written a note and put it on my car. Smiling I walked over thinking it would be a sweet note. Taking the note off of my car my smile quickly turned into confusion…

"I hope you are enjoying the handicapped parking place. I can barely walk and had to park on the far side of the lot - This is a really inconsiderate thing to do!"
“I hope you are enjoying the handicapped parking place. I can barely walk and had to park on the far side of the lot – This is a really inconsiderate thing to do!”

I immediately began looking around the parking lot to see if there was anyone around – perhaps they had JUST left the note. There was nobody around.

I got in my car and sat there for a few minutes, puzzled. Why would someone leave this note for me when my handicap placard was displayed right on my dashboard? Now to be fair, it was not hanging from my rearview mirror – I had just set it on top of my dash board. There’s no way the person didn’t see it though because the placement of the note was almost directly over where the placard was.

I sat there and went from disbelief, to angry, to sad, to feeling empathetic.

“I can’t believe someone would think I was ‘enjoying’ the fact that I parked in the handicap parking spot. I can’t believe someone would take the time to write this note and place it on my car RIGHT ON TOP of my handicap placard! What is wrong with people!?

ac168e66a523f801fe627caafd3c6577What right did this person have? I’m on crutches! It’s not like I’m just some punk kid who was being lazy! This is so rude… It’s a good thing this person wasn’t around because I have some choice words I’d like to let them have. This is what having an invisible disability causes… To whoever wrote this – you’re the inconsiderate one for even believing that this note was warranted. Wow. Just wow. No words. 

I can’t believe I have to park in the handicap parking spot at 28 years old. I’m 28! I should be at work, working on establishing my awesome career, starting to build a family… NOT sitting here at 11am, on a Tuesday morning, coming out of a group therapy session. I know there has to be a reason I’m going through all of this, but how much more can a person take!!!!?!?!?!

I feel horrible – I completely feel for this person. I was having a pretty good day … maybe I should have parked in a regular spot so someone else could have used the parking spot.

No, Julie. You have every right to use this spot.

This poor person… I know exactly how it feels to be having a horrible day, pull up and see no handicap parking spots and have to walk further than need be. Sometimes you HAVE to go to the store for something, but are so bone chillingly tired that just the thought of walking from your car to the store makes you cry inside. Some days you can walk around the store and others you rely on the motorized wheelchairs they have – even planning your shopping around which stores HAVE motorized wheelchairs and which do not.

Dear God, I’m so sorry that I put extra stress on this person who left this note. Please bless this person and help them. Please let them know that I’m so incredibly sorry.”

There are times when I feel very uncomfortable and self-conscious parking in a handicap parking spot. I drive a convertible and when people see me pulling up, and parking in the handicapped spot, I feel like ‘all eyes on me’. I don’t know what exactly they’re thinking, but I can speculate that they’re judging me on the fact that I’m young, playing my music a little too loud and am parking in the closest spot to the store. If I have the energy, I hurry to get out of my car and pull out my crutches so they can see that I have a disability. I know that we’re taught to be confident and not worry about what others think, but there is only so much a person can take. Crutching around for almost 2 years I know the feeling of people’s stares. Sometimes it just really gets to you.

That night I went home and I prayed for the person who left the note on my car. Every night I pray for those who have a chronic illness or an injury or just perhaps are sick. I also pray for those who are affected by anyone who is sick or injured. I made sure to send up some extra blessings for this individual because I did feel bad that I caused extra stress that was unneeded.

I took a picture of the note and posted it to my instagram account. I received some very interesting comments from a variety of people. Most in disbelief and sickened that someone would call me out for using the spot, but there were a few that made me stop and think…

“You know what’s sad is it almost seems as though those of us who need to utilize the spots are almost harder on each other than outsiders are.”

 

“Wow. That’s really just disgusting. I think it stems from a lot of people in our society who live with the mindset that they’re MORE disabled, or in MORE pain than others. That and a totally warped sense of entitlement. Our society is very backwards in that respect.”

I began feeling really hypocritical because I feel myself looking at people in the handicap parking spots and judging whether some of them really needed to park there or not. For instance, the other day I went to the grocery store and I pulled into the last handicap parking spot that was there. I noticed there was a man sitting in the handicap parking spot across from me. He was in the drivers seat, with the car on, just waiting. I sat there for a second because I wanted to see if perhaps the man had just pulled in and was catching his breath before he got out of the car. Unfortunately my suspicions were confirmed when a woman briskly walked out of the store, got in the car and pulled away.

e346776f39e2428e8eadf67fe292e1a7At first I was very upset. He was taking a spot that someone who really needed that spot was not able pull into. But then I started thinking … what if that woman has rheumatoid arthritis? what if she has lupus? what if she had no energy today, but had to run in to get something and the man was unable to go in for her? was it a nice thing he was doing sitting in that spot waiting for his wife?   My thoughts quickly turned from questioning to judging to a passage that is often read at church ‘For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged’.

I did not know their situation. I still don’t know their situation. I can sit here and ponder why that man was sitting in the handicapped parking spot for the rest of my life and I will not ever know the real reason. I was just as bad as the woman who left the note on my car.

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There are so many of us out there that get upset when people judge us based on the fact that we don’t ‘look sick’. We often make remarks about how ‘normal’ people don’t understand and throw judgement our way. I feel that it’s not only the non-chronic illness individuals who cast out judgement, but it’s EVERYONE. I cannot speak for you, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of us out there has judged another at one point or another. When pulling up to park and noticing that there aren’t any handicapped parking spots I often get angry thinking that I deserve one of those spots. But what makes me more deserving than the people who parked there? Absolutely nothing.

I think as a whole we all need to agree that judging people based off of looks is not the way we should live. Just because I may not look ‘sick’ does not mean I’m not fighting an inner battle and just because someone else takes a handicapped spot that I want does not give me the right to judge them.

I am no better then the person next to me and they are no better than me.

We are all equal.

And we all deserve to be treated as such

Wishing You A Pain Free Day!

SparklySignature

  • Wood Smith

    I found it interesting the note writer admitted to parking on the far side of the lot. This tells me they wanted to park in the handicap stall because it was convenient, not because they needed to. Tensions around handicap parking continue to increase as the number of people with handicap parking permits increases. Most states today have a ratio of 10% to 15% issued permits to issued driver’s licenses. Meaning 10% to 15% of vehicles looking to park have a person with a handicap parking permit inside the vehicle (either driving or riding). While the number of handicap parking stalls remains around only 2% of all parking stalls. In short, demand for handicap parking far exceeds supply.

    Some will claim the demand has increased over the years solely due to an aging population. Truth be told, the increase demand is more due to fraud and a lax in permit eligibility requirements. Over the years the eligibility requirements have become broader and more inclusive. This is all well and good only if the supply of handicap parking stalls were also broadly increased to match demand. Since this did not happen, you have the increased tensions surrounding handicap parking.

    Many states are now introducing and approving new legislation to remove the free parking at meters component of handicap permits. This to help reduce the number of people fraudulently obtaining and using handicap permits. Many states are also tightening the eligibility requirements for handicap parking, Illinois being a good example. And states are moving to more closely matching Federal Regulations governing handicap parking (not to be confused with ADA regulations). I’m referring to The Code of Federal Regulations Title 23 – Part 1235 – Uniform System For Parking For Persons With Disabilities. Some states, Illinois again an example, have tighter eligibility requirements then the federal regulations. All states are suppose to closely mirror the federal regulations to comply with reciprocity agreements. This is what allows states to honor handicap permits/plates issued from other states within their own state and vice versa.

    The increase in demand and lack of supply are the reasons why people are judged (fairly or unfairly) when parking in handicap stalls. It’s not so much about judging if someone has a disability or not but judging if they need handicap parking. Over the years the definition of need has become blurred, especially when it comes to handicap parking. There are many types of disabilities, invisible and visible, that have little to no impact on mobility. So just having a disability itself does not warrant the need for a handicap parking permit/plate. Other disabilities, such as a quadriplegic or paraplegic are so obvious there is no questioning the need for handicap parking. It’s the gray area disabilities, invisible and visible, that dependent on their progression stage may or may not require the need for handicap parking. Someone could be in the early stages of ALS for example and not need handicap parking. But as ALS progresses and their ability to ambulate decreases they very much need handicap parking. And in later stages when they become wheelchair bound, it’s obvious they need handicap parking.

    It’s these gray area stages in a disability where people can fairly or unfairly be judged. Only the person with the disability can truly know if they need to park in handicap parking or merely want to park in handicap parking because it’s convenient. The federal regulation of cannot walk 200 feet without stopping is pretty restrictive. Most people that are at a stage where they truly cannot walk 200 feet will have visible signs. 200 feet is not very far, city blocks range from about 250 to 900 feet in length. One lap around the inside of an average Wal-mart is 1,320 feet. One lap around the inside of an average convenience store is about 175 feet. Bouncing in/out of a small coffee shop is around 50 feet. For something as small as a coffee shop one may not show any visible signs going in/out. But for most stores, the distance from where they park combined with the distance inside the store will be over 200 feet. And they would have visible signs they are struggling with the distance involved. Stopping to rest, breathing heavy, walking abnormally slowly, abnormal gate due to pain, etc. If there are no signs, like not needing to stop and rest, it’s reasonable to assume they probably could of park another 5-6 stalls farther out (about 50 more feet), and not used a handicap parking stall.

    Certainly, if the person can handle parking on the far side of the lot, 30+ stalls out in a wal-mart parking lot, or over 270 feet, they didn’t need to park in a handicap parking stall.

    • Just A Bad Day~Juls

      I think you bring up some great points. I’m especially interested in the numbers and averages you sited. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t even realize you didn’t need to pay if you were in a handicap spot!) I think you’re right and I do think that handicap parking is abused, but I do try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt 🙂 Today I parked in a handicap spot and went into target. I was feeling fairly well so I didn’t get a wheelchair. I walked back to the dressing room and when I went back to walk up to the front I realized that not getting the wheelchair was a bad idea. I definitely could have used it… I definitely misjudged how I was feeling and was SO grateful to have the first spot out of the door.

      • Wood Smith

        For most states/cities, you can park for free at any city/state owned street parking meter. It does not need to be a handicapped spot, it can be any city meter. You do not need to put coins in the meter if you have a valid handicap placard/plate. Paid parking lots/ramps are different, here you must pay like anyone else even if you park in a handicap stall within the lot/ramp.

        For the numbers, it varies from state to state the ratio of permits to drivers licenses. But if you call your state DMV and twist their arm a bit, they should be able to give you the raw numbers. The distance numbers can be found doing some internet searches. It’s pretty easy to get average square footage for stores. But if you want more exact numbers for a particular store location, you could look that up using public land records. Most counties/parishes have this type information online.

        The average Target store is similar in size to the average Walmart. To walk from the first handicap stall back to the fitting rooms of Target would be somewhere around 400-500 feet. This is well beyond the cannot walk 200 feet handicap permit eligibility requirement. If you did not need to stop at least 2-3 times to rest walking that distance, I could very well see people judging you as not needing to park in a handicap stall.

        I’m not trying to insinuate you don’t have a disability. But you must admit your in the “gray” area as far as needing versus wanting a handicap parking stall. Keep in mind, a non blurred definition of need is must have. You need water to live. But you want coffee cause it taste good. I’m sure parking close makes your life more manageable and easier. But this would be the case for everyone, even people who have no disabilities.

        Now I’m not trying to say people in the “gray” area should not have handicap parking permits. But if they do, then there should be a larger supply of handicap parking stalls to accommodate them. Keeping in mind there’s a point where having too many makes some of the handicap parking stalls too far away to be useful. If a handicap parking stall is over 200 feet from the entrance and the eligibility for one is cannot walk 200 feet, well you get the point 😉

        • Just A Bad Day~Juls

          Well, I guess I definitely fit the requirements then because I can’t walk (without my crutches), let alone walk 200 feet… and even with the crutches I need to stop – definitely not walking more than that at one time.

          Thanks for all the info!

        • Just A Bad Day~Juls

          I was curious about the handicap/free parking. So this past Friday I parked in the city, didn’t pay the meter and put up my handicap placard.

          $20 ticket – haha! I’m going to see what they say when I say I had my handicap placard up.

          • Wood Smith

            What state/city? Could be the case where you live they have already changed the rules. Chicago for example, you no longer can park for free unless you get a specialized placard who’s requirements are way more restrictive than a normal disabled parking permit. That rule went into effect just this year.

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