Uh, are you handicapped?

So today is the first day of school for my kids. All the standard rituals went as expected: My daughter, entering fourth grade, barely slept last night. My son popped out of bed excited and filled with anticipation. The dog had to pee, the morning humidity felt like a blanket, we ate breakfast, I drove the kids up to school, walked my son to his first-grade class …

Able-bodied people parked in the five available handicapped spaces.

Wait.

Stop.

Hold on.

I’ll write that again: Able-bodied people parked in the five available handicapped spaces. It happens all the time at this school and, I’m assuming, schools across the nation. In a rush to deposit their children (or, perhaps, just too damn lazy and inconsiderate), a group of entitled, wrongheaded parents use the spaces designated for handicapped people. To say this INFURIATES me is the greatest of understatements. It drives me to the brink of violence, and makes me want to scream and kick and, mostly, shame the offenders. Publicly shame them.

Alas, I do nothing.

This year, however, I’m making this my cause—and I ask (beg) you to join me. I’m not going to be mean or rude, but I will, from this day forward, politely ask those (unjustly) parked in the handicapped spaces to move their cars. I feel like, too often, we meekly walk past such situations which, in a sense, is a subtle form of approval … an “it must be OK, because no one’s saying anything.” At this school, however, there are—factually—kids with physical disabilities, as well as parents with physical disabilities. They don’t just deserve the spots—they need them.

Oh, and my favorite folks are the in-and-out violators; those who pull in for two minutes, thinking it’s no big deal. These offenders are lined up by the mile, which turns two minutes into 10 minutes into 20 minutes into, well, zero available spots.

Anyhow, I sound I sound like a whiney do-gooder I aspire to be. But, in absence of a great local cause, I’m taking this as mine for 2012-13.

Join me!

16 thoughts on “Uh, are you handicapped?”

  1. Just make sure that you check for a handicapped plate of placard before you speak up. Not all handicapped people can be identified visually.

  2. On the new Comedy Central show The Burn with Jeffrey Ross, he has a segment where he goes out and roasts a group of people who piss everyone off. Previous shows roasted paparazzi and bouncers. Last night’s installment found him haranguing people who park in handicapped spaces. He even found a couple of friends in wheelchairs to help him out. Very funny segment.

    A standup comic would be a great candidate for The Quaz.

  3. Not all handicaps are obvious and visible. Knees, back, neuropathy, chest pain, heart conditions and/or lung issues are some examples. Pain is often not visible. I have been chided for NOT using handicap spaces when there are other close open spots. I leave them for those handicapped folks that later might not be able to find a spot. I’m told I am taking spaces away from the non-handicapped and I have my own spots to park in. Whatchagonnado??

  4. Jeff – It sounds like there is a real problem at that school that needs to be addressed. A note of caution though: for a variety of reasons you will have no way of distinguishing an able-bodied person from a person with a disability. A handicapped person may have rear-view mirror-hanging placard rather than handicap plates and those placards are often hard to see unless you approach the car. Plus many, many people with disabilities may appear able-bodied to the layman. By way of personal example, both of my sisters suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Some days they have trouble getting out of bed. Other days they are symptom free. Still other days, they start out symptom free and then the debilitating pain comes on after a short period of exertion. They both have handicapped placards and both park in handicapped spots, even when symptom-free, as a guard against those sudden attacks. Even on their bad days, the days they need those spots the most — they might appear able-bodied to the rest of the world. As a result, at least one of my sisters has been harassed by well-meaning people who object to her choice of parking spot. My sisters live with frequent pain and constant fear of pain. They have been approved by their respective state DMVs for use of handicapped spots. They should be spared the extra burden of having to explain their private maladies to well-meaning strangers.

    It does sound like the school needs to address the problem. If you want to take action, I would suggest you take up the lack of enforcement with the school or local police. Self-help solutions — e.g., posting pictures of seemingly able-bodied people parking in the spots or excoriating people using the spots — may end up harming members of the very group you are well-intentionedally seeking to protect.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I live in a Co-Op and they just recently designated several handicap spaces. We have a DIPLOMAT who is an occasional resident. Guess where he parks his mini-van? Yup, he parks in the line stripe area BETWEEN the 2 handicap spaces and security does NOTHING about it. I can understand not ticketing a “diplomat” if this were a PUBLIC parking area and he was attending to business matters, but he is flagrantly abusing his status. I witnessed him do this the other day and there were plenty available spaces.
    I know this may sound extreme, but I think people who do this need to be confined to wheelchairs to actually understand how incosiderate they are acting.

  6. Great post. Sadly it is all too true. I work for an amazing organization dedicated to enabling people with disabilities and those who care for them, to achieve their goals and live life to the fullest. Have shared the post on our FB page.

  7. It gets me too!! having been confined to a wheel chair for a few months back in ’97 after a TBI!! I decided one day at work to call the cops!! The offending office spot had a guy raced out after I’d called to inform me he was indeed handicapped – but had been too lazy to hand his mirror tag!

  8. I know this is a very small segment of the population (or at least I hope it is), I have witnessed way too many people abusing not only the handicapped parking spots, but the handicapped parking passes they possess. So while you are asking them if they really should be parking there, ask if they really need to park there if the smell test doesn’t work. Case in point- I had a “friend”/co-worker have knee surgery. He was prescribed a handicapped parking pass for 6 months or so. Really needed it for a while, but by the last two months, really had no restrictions. No restrictions to the point he was playing softball 3 nights a week. Yet there he was, at work AND THE SOFTBALL DIAMOND parked in the handicapped spot. We called him out on it, and his response was “well, I’ve got it for another couple weeks- I’m going to use it!” Don’t let these people get away with it…

  9. I stumbled on this blog post while looking for a picture related to handicapped parking and even though it is from last year, I felt compelled to reply. As a younger person (mid 30s) with an invisible disability (well, it was invisible until 2008 when a fall left me unable to stand let alone walk until 2011, I was not just wheelchair bound, but for a good 12-15 months of those 3 years I was literally unable to feed myself, care for myself etc) I have faced quite a bit of indignation, rudeness, stares, and comments from people who took one look at me and judged me healthy, or not deserving of using a handicapped spot. They always questioned why I dared park in a handicapped spot and it did not matter whether I had a placard hanging in the appropriate spot that was visible to them. Even when I used a cane, I was accused of faking it to get a good parking spot. It was only when I began using a wheelchair more often than not that people stopped hassling me. Now, in spite of learning to walk again, when I go out with my family and friends, I tend to use my wheelchair because I walk rather slow and tire easily. I regained the ability to walk after being told I would not walk again but, it is limited. If I am going to be going somewhere that a lot of walking is required, my wheelchair (as well as my crutches) go along for those places I can’t reach in my wheelchair. Despite pretty good laws on accessibility, not everywhere is bound by that law. Many historical buildings are not required to be handicap accessible. That’s just the nature of historical buildings.

    To be honest, now that I use my wheelchair when I am out more often than not, we seldom park in a handicapped space. My husband and I see it this way, by parking farther away, I am leaving that spot for someone who may need it more than I do. I have wheels and someone to push me so the extra distance is not a burden on me (or my husband) and that leaves the spot for someone who may have an invisible disability and has trouble walking long distances. Even if I were alone, I’d likely still park farther away if I were using my wheelchair simply because that extra distance would be a bit more exercise for me.

    Don’t get me wrong, having people who are not disabled park in a handicapped spot is highly annoying, especially when they took the last spot. But who am I to judge them? Having been judged in the past, I am a lot more careful about judging people. We never know what another person is battling that we cannot see. I finally got to a point where if someone wanted to insist I did not have any reason to park in a handicapped spot that I started to say I’d be glad to wait while they called the police to report me, but that the officers might not like being called to a place where a person was legally parked in a handicapped spot and might view it as a false report. Needless to say, no one took me up on that offer. I only think I said that to one or two people but it was fairly effective.

    Unfortunately, in the past, things didn’t always resolve so well. I had one man tell me he was a Chicago police officer and was so tired of dealing with people like my husband and I. He was vacationing in South Carolina when he saw my husband park in a handicapped spot and he watched us get out. We were at a shopping complex that also has a number of restaurants, nightclubs, etc. We were having a date night to celebrate our anniversary and were just going to go to dinner and maybe a movie. Needless to say, the rudeness of that man was enough to make me just want to go home and go out at a later time. Part of his problem was my husband’s appearance. He has long hair, which last I checked did not automatically make him a criminal, but is unfortunately still negatively judged by some people. The man did not even give us a chance to explain before he launched into a tirade about “people like us” who abuse the system and take parking spots away from people who REALLY needed them. He went so far as to accuse me of stealing the placard from someone one. I was rather sarcastic when I said “Yeah I stole it from my grandmother who’s been dead 20 years but I’ve somehow managed to keep it current.” He kept trying to get in my husband’s face and that was not happening. I don’t care that my husband is more than capable of handling himself, the jerk’s problem was with ME not my husband, so if he felt the need to get into anyone’s face, he could get in mine. Even seeing the surgical scars and how my hands had been affected by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), which I was diagnosed with at the age of 7, did not seem to affect this man. He literally had his hand balled into a fist and kept bringing it up as he screamed at me, so I finally dared him to hit me. Not my finest moment I admit.

    Being diagnosed as a kid, I have had so many people tell me so much utter nonsense about JRA that I usually laugh it off. I’ve been told there is NO way a kid can have arthritis, that I was not in pain because I looked ok, that I did not deserve to use a handicapped spot, and a number of other things. Normally, I just brushed off the comments, stares, etc. Or I made some funny comment to try to lighten the situation yet still get my point across. I even told one woman that she should go back in time and tell my 7 yr old body that I could not have JRA and let my diagnosing doctor know as well. And I was even able to do it in a way that we both laughed it off. But this man, coming out of nowhere and trying to blame my husband for what he did because of my disease just made me angry.

    I am proud of my husband. The last person who dared scream at me and get in my face to the point their nose was almost touching mine, saw what a temper my normally laid-back and easy-going husband would do to protect me if he needed to. That man (a relative) was over 6ft tall and approximately 250lbs, but my 5’9″, barely 125lb husband had him scared when my husband threw a single punch and shattered a windshield. Needless to say, I did not want my husband to step in that night because I knew it would mean assault charges even if he were trying to protect me simply because that guy was a police officer.

    The situation ended with the wife of the man actually hitting my husband with their vehicle as they drove off before the police got there. Pretty odd that he felt so strongly about us parking in a handicapped spot that he verbally assaulted me (and had I not stepped to the side at one point he would have spit on me as he was screaming, which is assault in some places), yet he did not want to wait for our local police department to show up to see that “justice got served” and that we got ticketed or something for illegally parking in a handicapped spot. Unfortunately there was nothing our local officers could do. It’s people like that man who give police officers a bad name. I’ve known a number of police officers and never had any problems or known any to act like that man. For the most part, police officers are hard working men and women who care enough about their community to “Protect and Serve”. One of my cousins was a state police officer and you could tell he was one who truly cared. I add that because I do not want to give the impression I have a problem with police officers.

    While bringing it to people’s attention that handicapped parking is not there for the convenience of someone who “just had to run in real quick” or someone who was tired after work and just didn’t want to walk that far (or any number of excuses I’ve heard given for why a non-handicapped person parks in a handicapped spot) is commendable, one MUST be very careful when doing that. You never know who may have an invisible illness that you are then unfairly judging. Trust me, it is not a good feeling to be seen as a person who fakes an illness for the parking benefits, even when it is someone who is trying to protect the needs of those who are truly handicapped. I have had times when I looked (and felt) just fine walking into a store, the school etc. and by the time I got my shopping done, battled the crowds at the two checkout lines open at a peak shopping time when lines are stretching up the aisles and then stood in line waiting and finally headed out to my car, I am hurting from head to toe. Even then. my pain and disability is not visible except to people who know me well. Growing up with pain and living with it for as long as I have, I learned to hide it from other people. So just because a person looks healthy you should not judge them for using a handicapped space. If you truly feel they should not be parked there, proceed with caution. Don’t be shocked if they are truly disabled and offended that you’ve judged them. It’s the judgement of others that prevents some people who do need and would greatly benefit from being able to park in a handicapped spot. That shows the far reaching consequences of judgement.

  10. Excuse me, would you please let me use this image in a school project about parking spots for handicapped people.

  11. Hello, just chanced by this post. I know you’re referring to a specific subset of people, but just thought I’d mention that not all people who are disabled are visibly so. A good friend of mine is very very sick but she is young (and attractive) and tries her best to not use a cane, walker or wheelchair. She gets harassed all the time when she uses her disabled parking pass. Another young friend has a severe reaction to the cold (cold uticaria) and that is the reason he has a disabled parking pass. It’s sometimes not easy to tell if someone really needs it or not. Anyway, I know what you mean though and the point you’re trying to make… but since becoming chronically ill myself, my view of the world has shifted a bit. Cheers!

  12. I’m young, early 30s…. I look healthy, but I have cancer. I am entitled to and at times use my handicap parking. I wouldn’t expect anybody who has not experienced this personally to understand, but I would expect them not to pass judgement on those who appear able bodied. Just as it peeves you about those seemingly being able bodies, it peeves us who suffer that there are so many presumptuous and rude people out there with those same thoughts as what you’re expressing.

  13. My mother has Parkinson’s Disease and has good days and bad days. She has a handicap parking pass because on those bad days, she can barely walk and needs me to support her until we get in the store or building. On her good days she looks okay but she’s not. Get your head out of your ass and stop being so oblivious.

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