Thursday, February 6, 2014

Disabled Parking: We Don't WANT to Park There!

The decision to apply for a disabled parking permit was not an easy one. I cried because I knew we needed it and I was angry because we needed it. I also feared that because Evie appeared "normal" and didn't have her wheelchair that people would question our parking in a coveted (dripping with sarcasm) disabled parking spot and confront us. I've heard horror stories about that happening. I wasn't concerned about crying in front of strangers as much as I was worried I'd end up in jail after knocking someone's teeth loose (did I mention I was angry?).

I read about Florida's process for obtaining a disabled permit, received the appropriate forms from Evie's pediatrician, had a state ID made for her, paid the fees, and with a heavy heart and giant chip on my shoulder walked out of a local DMV with a blue parking placard. It sucked! It still sucks!

The rules for obtaining, using, and renewing a disabled placard are fairly simple. The permits are registered to a specific person and if they are not in the vehicle then you are out of compliance with the law. Registration and ID must be available for verification if asked.  When it is expired, go through the process again. If you don't go through the proper channels and don't have either one of these options:

1. Hanging Blue (permanant) or Red (temporary) placard; which, should be displayed on your rearview and the permit number must be visible (some people lay them on their dash).

 2. Disabled License Plate (which must be on a car registered to the disabled individual)

(Florida also offers a version for Disabled Veterans)

Then you DO NOT get to park in a disabled parking spot! No exceptions!! EVER!!! If you are caught using someone else's disabled permit you can be (and should be) fined (those fines vary state to state) and the person it is actually issued to legally can loose the privilege (that's right it is a privilege, not a right) of having it.

My moral compass goes beyond that point. If I am with Evie and another adult and I need to just pop into a store for a moment I DO NOT park in a disabled parking space. If she is not physically going into the store with me then I have no right to use that space (rain or shine, sick or well). My legs work just fine. I do not have a heart condition. I do not have a respiratory condition. Walking just a bit further will not worsen my condition…in fact it may actually help it. I tell you all this because since receiving Evie's permit I see people abusing the privilege to park in a disabled spot or just refusing to abide by the laws concerning them.

Just because you borrowed grandma's caddy for a quick trip to pick up her meds, DOES NOT mean you can park there.

Just because you are going to a crowded event and don't want to park in the south forty, DOES NOT mean you can park there. Some attendees at a Nascar event learned this lesson the expensive way.

Just because your spouse/friend/family member has a legal permit and you are diving their vehicle or have their placard without them, DOES NOT mean you can park there.

Just because you are pregnant, DOES NOT mean you can park there.

Just because you are injured or don't feel well, DOES NOT mean you can park there.

Just because you are making a quick return to Toys R Us, DOES NOT mean you can park there.

Just because you are waiting for someone at the doctor's office, DOES NOT mean you can park there. EVER!!!
I was witness to this just this past week. The woman was casually reading a magazine and sipping coffee. I looked her car over and saw no permit…anywhere! I almost confronted her, but did not feel I would be able to contain my anger (but I did give her a pretty stern stare down). I told the front desk admins and they went to inform her she needed to move her truck. She was already moving it before they could get to her. She knew she was in the wrong and that I caught her.
I do not even WANT to park there!!! Do you think we are secretly gloating that on Black Friday we have permission to get the "good" spots? We have to jump over so many hurdles can you just act like decent human beings and give us this one?

Be warned… Karma is a heifer! Heaven forbid those of you that think it is ok to use those spots just for a minute will ever actually need those spots for legitimate reasons. Someday that may be the case. Then you will understand the frustration people like me, with a disabled toddler, family member, or friend, feels on a regular basis.

This is NOT a victimless crime. You ARE hurting (maybe not physically…actually it does hurt some of us physically) someone else who needs that parking spot.

Don't believe me then do this simple exercise:

Buy a 20 pound sack of potatoes (or two 10lb bags). Park two rows away in the middle or farthest distance away from the entrance of the store. Exit your car, grab your purse, the shopping cart cover, and a toy (whatever essentials you need for a trip to the store with a young child). Now heave that 20 pound bag onto your shoulder or carry it on your hip (with one arm) and walk to the entrance.

This still isn't the best representation of what it is like taking Evie into a store if I have to park farther out then necessary. While walking she pulls my hair, grabs my neck, loses her balance and falls backwards/sideways, and screams in the process. She is 3! I am not carrying a 6 month old. I can not stand her on the ground and tell her to hold my hand. I wish I could. Yes, she has a wheelchair (64lbs). Yes, I could take it out of the back of the van and place her in it. If you've ever tried to grocery shop with a wheelchair then you know that this comes with its own set of hurdles to jump. It is not practical. If you want to get a taste of what that is like take a stroller into the grocery and try to maneuver it and a shopping cart.

If you see someone illegally parking in a disabled spot or using a placard illegally, you can help become a part of the solution. Don't be silent. If you have a smart phone download the Parking Mobility app. It generates a report that goes directly to the town or city to notify them that there is a problem. I do not recommend you confront the driver directly (yes, I know how tempting it is). Ever!

Please stop abusing disabled parking and permits. I beg you. The majority of us have them out of absolute necessity. We don't want to park there. I would rather be able to park anywhere else, but there.

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