So I know I’ve told you guys about my recent obsession with handicap parking spaces.
I’d like to say that there’s been some improvement in this area, but that would be a lie. If anything, I’ve become more aggravated by the whole thing. Everywhere I look, I see people parking in loading zones, blocking ramps with their cars, or non-vans using van spots when there are plenty of other spots available.
So the other day when I saw that someone had parked their SUV in such a way as to completely block the graded entrance to the local gas station, I snapped. I whipped out my cell phone and took a picture. Please don’t ask me what I thought I was going to do with that picture–I had no idea–but I felt better having documented the offense.
A few days later I met bicycle man, and that’s when things started rolling down hill in the wacko department. You see, Charlie’s Feldenkrais lady works in the French Quarter. If you’ve never been to New Orleans, the French Quarter is like an old European city with narrow street and not nearly enough parking. It was built, ya know, pre-car. Around the corner from the Feldenkrais studio are the only two handicap spots in the area.
With only two spots, you can imagine it’s hard to get a chance to actually park in them. Well, last Friday I couldn’t find a place to park anywhere. I didn’t have money for the garage, there were several broken meters, and since it was a gorgeous day in the middle of tourist season, there were people everywhere.
So I dropped Charlie off and proceeded to circle around looking for a place. That’s when bicycle man appeared. He biked up to the his van that was legally parked in a handicap spot. He got off the bike, folded it up, and then loaded it into the back of his van. Then he drove off.
I was incredulous. I mean, he had a handicap license plate, but was this man actually handicapped? He had the strength and vitality to both ride a bicycle and load it into his van. I figured it was just one of those things. It wasn’t
The next week the very same van was parked there again. This time I found a spot, but rather than going into Charlie’s appointment, I hung around waiting to see if bicycle man would appear–and he did. Again he rode his bike, folded and loaded it himself. I did it again with the camera–took a couple of pictures. Again, not knowing why, but feeling better for documenting the event.
I was recounting this story at lunch later, and my Dad said, “well, he still might have been disabled.”
And I mean, he’s right. The man could have had a prosthetic leg or something, but it got be wondering about the bigger issue–what do we, as a society, think of as disabled, and is that reflected in our current policies regarding handicap parking spaces? For me, it’s directly related to walking distance–how far am I going to have to haul Charlie and is it worth it? If we’re taking the chair it’s less of an issue, but for places like the supermarket or Target, it’s nice to be able to park and then use a cart when we get inside.
But my definition isn’t the same as everyone else’s–mine is colored by my own experience. We all define it differently. A person who breaks their ankle is considered disabled in Louisiana and gets a one-year pass. I broke my ankle when I was thirteen and never would have considered myself disabled. There’s a boy at Charlie’s school with a broken leg and he’s also got a one year pass.
When I find myself, yet again, parking in a regular spot. Or worse yet, when I see an elderly person limping painfully across a parking lot. I think that if we can’t find accessible parking for Charlie who is the quintessential definition of disabled, then who is getting the spots? I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen someone with a wheelchair using a handicap spot. Actually, I think I’ve seen it once.
So what do you guys think? Are there just too many disabled people and not enough spots? Do we need more spots? Are we overly-generous with our definition of the word? Do you think there’s a lot of tag abuse? I’d love to know your thoughts. . .