You know who they are. You’ve seen them. But rarely does anyone speak up (including myself) and say anything to these people for fear of retaliation, verbal abuse, or simply that you just “don’t want to get in anyone’s business.” The people who are abusing these spots are in fact not disabled nor traveling with the person for whom the placard is intended. They just want a spot closer and more convenient to their destination, or in some cases, free parking. In some areas (such as California) a handicap placard trumps a metered space, and parking is free. It is the disabled advocacy groups who are trying to change that so that everyone pays. Great idea. That's only fair.
Do you realize that as of November of 2013 there are over 500,000 issued Handicap placards in the Bay area alone? It’s as if there are more handicap placards than there are parking spaces. Are there really that many people who are in need of those spaces or has the poorly-designed system lured in fakes and abusers?
Sure, my husband’s type of injury-quadriplegia- is a slam dunk for qualifying for a placard, but for us there is a reason why we need those special spots. In our case it’s really not about being closer to our destination. I’ll be the first to admit that as the pusher of the wheelchair I can certainly stand to get some extra exercise, so parking a bit away isn’t the issue. It’s all about having enough space, which the disabled spots provide, to open the car door all the way in order for us to get my husband in and out of his chair. That simple.
So when you see a 17 year-old pulling up in a handicap spot at Guadalajara Grill in order to get their take-out order, or a 25 year with 6” stiletto heels pulling up in front of Jamba Juice to quickly get in line at the expense of someone else’s opportunity to park there-such as ourselves, who need the spot legitimately---I have a problem with that.
Who is eligible for a placard? An authorized medical provider has to verify your impaired mobility and eligibility requirements. They are:
- Your mobility is severely disabled because of a disease or disorder
- You’re restricted by lung disease, specifically with a forced expiratory volume (FEV) for 1 second, when measured by spirometry, is less than 1 liter or your arterial oxygen tension is less than 60mm/hg at rest.
- You’re missing or lose the use of one or both hands.
- You have a significant impairment, are missing or lose the use of one or both legs.
- You have vision issues, such as low vision or blindness.
Do you think everyone who is parking in those spots suffers or is transporting someone who suffers from the above? Just because you are in possession of a placard doesn’t give you the right to use it if you are not disabled or are not transporting someone who is. I never park in a handicap spot when my husband isn’t with me, and others shouldn’t either.
So what are we to do? You can’t assume that the person who is parking in the disabled spots isn’t disabled, because maybe it’s not apparent (as would be the case with someone suffering from lung disease or a heart condition). Even when it is apparent that someone is abusing the spot, confrontations don’t accomplish anything. They may claim that “I had hip surgery awhile ago and I need that spot.” Our hands are tied. In terms of financial penalties, the only person who can do anything about it are the enforcement agencies. I rarely see a car parked in a handicap spot that doesn’t have a placard hanging from the rear-view mirror or with a handicap logo on the license plate. People are smart enough to at least do that. But what about the story behind the placard? If agencies responsible for enforcement took the time to verify that the placard matched the person who was issued the card, the coffers would be so much more full, and the spots would be readily available.
As for the doctors (and that includes, surprisingly, midwives and chiropractors) who readily hand out the forms…ask yourself…does the person for whom you are authorizing the placards really need it? Do they fit the description of someone who is entitled? Those blue placards allows the person to enjoy the privilege for two years before it has to be renewed, 6 months for the red placards. The buck stops with you, so please as a favor to those who are in desperate need of those spots, show some restraint.
As for the rest of us…Teach your children, your friends, your family, that it is not okay to use Grandma’s placard to get a coveted spot at the movies, or a free spot in a metered spot in the downtown area. Show some consideration and compassion for those who are severely disabled. They don’t have much, please don’t take away one more thing away from them…