Disability Parking and Intolerance

My sister and niece had arrived from out-of-town to spend two days at Ronald McDonald House and then enjoy a Thanksgiving weekend with family.

We decided it was time to do something fun – something we don’t get to do very often together – and that’s go shopping. We drove to one of our favourite stores at the Southpoint Exchange Mall and looked for an available handicap parking spot. After finding none available, we had to double-park.

Immediately, we received dirty looks from an older couple who were just pulling up to park in a stall in front of her. I figured they must not have seen the handicap sign hanging but my sister said, “I get those looks all the time.”

We proceeded to open the sliding side door in order to get the ramp down for my niece to exit in her wheelchair. She is totally dependent on her mother and it is not an easy process to unhook the chair, fold down the ramp and organize all the items that travel with her. Even after seeing what we were doing, the couple stared as if they were the parking police and then walked away.

After enjoying a nice time in the store we came back to a note on the driver side door that said, “Nice parking selfish.” I couldn’t believe it, but my sister could. She has experienced this time and time again.

parking-note

Despite a handicap sign clearly visible, people seem to jump to conclusions that this is just a selfish person taking up two parking spots.

Well, she is not a selfish person; she is a person who is constantly problem solving and adapting to her surroundings. If anyone is guilty of lacking consideration for others it is the mall for not providing adequate parking for persons with disabilities.

As my sister pointed out, this isn’t a low-mobility issue where one could park in a stall one or two over from handicap parking, open their door and walk – albeit maybe in some discomfort – to the doors of a store. When no handicap parking spot is available, she has no other option but to provide the space necessary to safely deploy the ramp.

To those who stare and who leave nasty notes, I say shame on you! You don’t have all the facts and have no idea what it is like to consider your every move based on accessibility.

My niece might not be able to communicate verbally, but she knows what her mother goes through. An insensitive and intolerant world is not what I want her to encounter as she grows older.

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This was also published in a local paper under Letters to the Editor. My intention in writing this was to provide a reminder about the attitudes and challenges faced by persons with disabilities, parents of children with special needs and the impact it has on their families. I would also like to acknowledge all those who provide support and work tirelessly as advocates. The following are links to some of those services:

SPARC BC

British Columbia Support and Services Directory

Ronald McDonald House

BC Children’s Hospital

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