Disabled Parking Do’s and Don’ts

October 29, 2019
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What are the different kinds of disabled parking and how are they marked?

There are two different types of disabled parking spots that you might see in public or private parking lots.  Disabled parking places must always be marked with the international symbol of accessibility which is a blue sign with a picture of a person using a wheelchair in white. If the sign appears by itself, that is a standard car accessible parking space which may have an access isle of 60” between two accessible parking spaces, but not always.

 The other type of disabled parking spot will have the same sign but in addition you will see the words “van accessible” under the picture.  This space is specifically for disabled persons driving a van that has a side loading ramp which requires more space. These parking spaces have a larger access isle (96” wide) which is the area with slanted lines (usually blue or white) directly next to the van accessible parking space. 

If you are a disabled person, does it matter which spot you park in?

ADA law requires at least one disabled parking spot per every 25 spaces in a lot.  If there is only one spot it is required to be van accessible (according to the current law).  So, if you are parking in a lot with only one accessible spot it is open to the first person who has a placard or plates that allows them to park in that spot.  However, if you are in a larger parking lot with several accessible parking spaces, there is definitely some common courtesy that should be considered. Persons not requiring extra loading space for a wheelchair or walker should always park in the accessible spots that are provided that offer no loading space but are simply close to the building.  Only if those are full or not provided should that person park in a space with a loading zone. Even more, no one should park in a van accessible zone unless they have a van with a ramp for unloading unless there is absolutely no other accessible spot available. I have witnessed a person parking in a van accessible spot when there were literally 10 open accessible spots and half of them did not have loading zones.  That person did not take into consideration that a person with a van ramp cannot even get out of their vehicle if there is not a space for their ramp to drop and for them to roll down and past to safely exit their vehicle. 

Who can use disabled person parking?

Disabled parking spaces should be used ONLY by persons with the disability.  If you “borrow” someone’s placard so you can get a “good parking spot”, well there is nothing else to say but shame on you!  Please consider that when you do that, you are keeping someone with a true disability from having the parking space they need, and in my husband’s case, preventing them from even getting out of their car. Each state has its own forms and criteria for handicapped parking permits. Typically, the state’s DMV runs the program.  Usually, the DMV will need your doctor to verify your medical condition. If you’re visibly disabled and appear at a DMV office, the requirement of a physician’s certification might be waived in some state

My Biggest Pet Peeve about disabled parking

My all-time biggest pet peeve is when people don’t honor the lines of accessible parking!!! Just last week my husband and I were attending a gala for our local pregnancy health center when we pulled into the only available “van accessible” spot to see the very rude parking of the person in the space next to the loading zone between us.  Sometimes when this happens my husband has to hope he can stop or turn in time when coming down the ramp and sometimes he runs into the car with his foot plate or the blue side bar of his wheelchair as he turns. I never feel bad for that person if their car gets a mark on it because honestly, if you park like this you are just asking for a dent in your car in my opinion. It just doesn’t take that long to back up and park between the lines to be sure you are allowing the full loading zone for someone with a ramp.

Let me share some ridiculous stories with you of a people who actually defended their foolish parking that prevented my husband from getting back into his van once it was parked in a public parking lot.  The first story I will share took place at our church, but it was for a non-church related event. Each year in the city our church is located in, there is a wonderful firework display on July 3rd for the city’s birthday.  Our church parking lot just happens to be the perfect location to view the fireworks display so naturally many of our church members along with people from the community gather to watch the show.  The parking lot fills up closer to 9pm when the fireworks go off, but we get there hours ahead and have a meal and hang out with friends. This particular night it was pretty chilly outside so as soon as the fireworks were done my hubby headed for his van to get out of the cool air even though he knew it would be quite some time before he could actually get out of the parking lot.  A friend of ours walked with my husband over to his van only to find that someone had parked their car in the loading zone making it completely impossible for my husband to drop his ramp and get out of the cool night air. My hubby had a much better attitude about all of it than I did when I heard about it later. Eventually a guy comes up to get into the car parked in the loading zone and my husband very calmly said “hey man, your car is the loading zone and I can’t drop my ramp and get into my van”.  Then the guy actually had the nerve to say to my husband “yeah, I HAD to park her, you know?” My husband said he just shook his head at the guy. It is a good thing for that guy that I had no clue that was happening, I most certainly would not have been so nice. I was so angry when I heard this story. No apology or taking responsibility for what he had done, just a lame statement that was in no way true. He did NOT NEED to park there. I guess the part that bothers me is how inconsiderate people are about the needs of others, thinking only of themselves in the moment. 

Another great story took place last December when we were leaving from our company Christmas party.  Here is how the car was parked:

Here is what I posted on Facebook that night along with these two pictures:

{I love it when people park over the loading zone and see Bill trying to get in his van and act like it’s no big deal. Why are people so inconsiderate???

Apparently, the older woman driving had been drinking because the passenger in her car asked her if she was okay to drive!!!  She couldn’t park right sober so I would be very concerned about her ability to drive after having some drinks.

I told them they were parked in the loading zone to which they both didn’t seem bothered. The passenger told me “yeah yeah it’s okay”. I told her it was NOT okay because we would be stuck waiting for them if they hadn’t come out. I told her loading zones are for people in wheelchairs to get in and out. She then told me to go have a whiskey and shut up!!!}

I mean really? You can’t make this stuff up.  Some people seem to feel the need to defend their foolishness and not accept responsibility for their actions.  How can we ever expect the next generation to be kind and courteous and accept responsibility when some of the older generation is not modeling it for them?

I hope after reading this you will think more about respecting disabled parking spaces.  Think about the person that might be affected by the way you choose to park. Please take an extra 20 seconds to back up and adjust your parking position if you are over, on, or even very close to the lines for an accessible parking spot or loading zone.  I encourage you all, able bodied as well as disabled, to be considerate and demonstrate kindness by being courteous of the parking lines. 

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About the Author: Julie Davis

Julie is the wife of Bill Davis and serves as both his spouse and caregiver. Julie has learned to embrace the struggle and thrive in the midst of insurmountable circumstances with her husband Bill. She has a heart to bring hope and healing to spouses, caregivers, and paralysis survivors for the glory of God.

You can connect with Julie by joining TWP Wives of Paralysis Survivors on Facebook

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