Chelsea Rarrick, WTVR Channel 6 Richmond, VA - July 9, 2014
This looks like a fairly typical local news story about disabled / handicapped parking … maybe a bit better than usual. It seems like it covers two sides of the same coin … people who misuse handicapped parking permits, and people who wrongly assume that any driver who walks away from a car parked in a handicapped spot must be misusing a handicapped parking permit.
One thing I think is missing from discussions about handicapped parking is that there are several distinct ways it benefits disabled people.
The most obvious is that it allows us to park closer to the entrance of the place we are visiting, so we don’t have to wheel or walk as far as we would if we had to park further away. For some, it is important because the way we move is harder than walking. For others, it’s that we are limited by pain or endurance in how far we can walk without a significant rest.
A somewhat different benefit is that when handicapped spaces are present, it reduces the chance that we won’t find anywhere at all to park. For many of us, just going out is big production that consumes a lot of physical and mental energy. It’s hard to explain to non-disabled people how demoralizing it is to get yourself out to your car, drive to the place you need to visit, and then find that because there is no parking available of any kind, you will have to go home again empty handed. And, your will probably have to do it all over again soon, because you still have those errands to finish. This is less likely to happen if the right number of handicapped spaces are properly placed and marked.
Knowing that handicapped parking spaces are available gives us added assurance that we can go out and successfully complete our errands, without becoming so exhausted that we can’t move for days. By extension then, if handicapped parking were to be eliminated somehow, or if a disabled person lost their permit for some reason, it would cause us to go out less, and be more “home bound” than necessary.
Put another way, handicapped parking gives both practical and theoretical benefits. It makes a more active life physically possible, and psychologically a little less scary.
So, yes, we REALLY DO need disabled parking.