Sunday, February 15, 2009


There are only 6 parking spots in front of my children's school, and 3 of them are disability. The side lot for administrators and teachers stays full, of course. Other parents must use side streets and walk a long, long way sometimes.

Friday, at my kids' Valentine's party, someone had used one of the three disability parking spots in front of the school without having a tag or plate (you can put your tag on your dash if you can't reach--none there either). I know that people forget sometimes, but when mothers are loading and unloading materials for parties, chances are....they also park in the access aisles at such times. As a friend told me, I'd never park in the disabled spots in front of the school, but I have parked in those striped areas where they could make extra spots (!). Another friend and I immediately protested and explained--her brother-in-law uses a wheelchair so she's fast on the draw. Apparently people just don't understand. I wish drivers' education and handbooks explained the "why"--just saying "don't" is apparently not enough.

My lift operates at the rear of my vehicle, making parallel parking difficult. Even if I can find a place with some extra room (less than a car length) for the lift, it operates from the right side of the vehicle (which allows me to use access aisles for safety) and I can't easily get the lift in and out of the car when I park against the sidewalk, not unless I park the wrong direction, meaning I will get ticketed and really not a good idea on a one-way street. My kids go to school in the 'hood (really, not joking; the GT school was put there to bring in extra resources and the neighborhood kids included). The sidewalks and streets are in disrepair, slanting to the side, and are not wheelchair navigable.

Yes, I should have got to school earlier, as I usually do, to park and use the lift. Fortunately my husband was with me or I'm not sure I could have attended the kids' parties. He parked in front of the school and helped me out and reparked streets away. After school, one parent with a valid tag had left and my husband reparked. Along comes Illegal Parker, a mom with a young kid and a toddler. Furious, I wheel faster than my husband can catch up over to her and chide her for parking there, letting her know that without my husband's help I could not have gone to my kids' party because of her. She gave me a "so?" reaction, looking me up and down and wondering why I couldn't just wheel further. So I actually had to explain about the lift. Her reaction--just a brief shrug and half-hearted, "I'm sorry," not even a real apology. I still don't think she understood all the places were full and that we hadn't been able to park there earlier.

The fine is up to $1000 for parking illegally in disability parking. Maybe next time I will call the police. Something's really wrong with people like this. I wanted to say to her, as Wheelchair Dancer once said to someone, "what kind of person are you?"

It's true I could have parked in the fire lane myself if I had to, but I think I'd be more likely to be towed for that than she would have been. Anyway, I finally ordered a bunch of tags that explains the problem and the penalty and will keep tape in the car to post them. I know there are bumper stickers people order, but people do sometimes forget tags. I have a great dislike for vandalism and wouldn't want to cause myself problems, though fantasizing about these bumper stickers is really nice.

I'm sure people notice that often all three places are empty. What they fail to notice is sometimes they'e also all full. People self justify because there are "extra spaces," forgetting that the next person can't get in and that when a parking lot is more full, all the disability places will be taken. Very often I can't get one, though in most places I don't have to parallel park and can park elsewhere.

Last week when the older driver in front of me, in a smaller car, parked in a van space and walked into the medical building--I could not use the disability parking place next to him because of the long sidewalk on the right side--I could not use my lift. I truly don't understand why he parked in the van space. I'm not a fan of parking in regular spots in dimly lit parking garages, where the cars whirl by at high speed, kind of like the plastic cars on my kids' old Fisher Price garage.


yanub said...

Sounds to me like a good project for the PTA would be to petition the city and school district to repair the sidewalks around the school so that parents can safely and legally get their kids to and from their cars. This would relieve the pressure on the few designated disability spots. It isn't right that civic failure should cause people with disabilities to bear the brunt of the entire community's loss of access. Seriously, there has been a diminished sense of public responsibility for public infrastructure these past 30 years an "everyone for themselves" mentality has taken over.

FridaWrites said...

Agreed--good sidewalks benefit everyone. There are a lot of families with young kids across the street and kids walking home. There's also often a lot of broken glass.

I doubt the city would care, though--they fired my mom (and other older workers) a year before she retired and withdrew her benefits package, including retirement. We're in a different city than the school (started as a tiny town included in a larger school district).

FridaWrites said...

Plus the school district vans parked in the disability parking all the time, the buses block curb cuts at public events and field trips, etc.

yanub said...

Wow, Frida. Even more reasons for community activism. What terrible treatment of your mom and the other workers. Maybe they'd like to put their knowledge of civic administration to work in the cause of safer streets and access.