Handicapped parking: Empathy expired?

I am a downtown employee who uses an electric wheelchair. I disagreed (and still do) with the decision to require handicapped drivers to pay for parking. The financial hardship that accompanies the most severe disabilities is being ignored. One in three disabled Americans live at or below the poverty line.

A few individuals abused parking privileges. Now the rest of us are being penalized. [Furthermore], no solutions for the parking issue were created prior to the implementation of penalties.

[But] wait: Correction. There is a solution in the form of the pre-purchased parking passes that the city is offering. And they’re a total joke.

Each pass costs $5 and is valid for five hours. You mark the little numbered bubbles that correspond to the year, month, day and time, display the pass in your window, and you’re good for the next five hours. Since parking is $1 per hour, this is fair, no?

Well, no. The pass is only good for a single use, and you pay $5 for each pass regardless of how long you actually stay in town for. If you’re just running errands for an hour, you’ve just lost $4. That might not seem like a lot but, using conservative figures, let’s say you come downtown an average of three days a week — that’s $15 per week, $60 per month and a whopping $720 each year. If you don’t stay in town for the full five hours, that’s a lot of [wasted] money.

I wonder if City Council and the downtown businesses who pushed for this penalization might have given the issue more thought if they had spent even a day trying to live their lives with dignity in the face of an overwhelmingly anti-disabled society. Having lived in Third World countries, Europe, tiny New England towns and cities from Los Angeles to Boston, it saddens me to say that it is in Asheville that I’ve experienced the most outright hostility towards the handicapped.

Sorry. Next time I’m born, I’ll be sure to do so without this pesky disability.

— Katherine McCrory
Asheville
Editor’s note: The city of Asheville is aware of this limitation to the passes and is looking into a way to allow them to be used for less than five-hour increments, according to parking services manager Harry Brown.

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9 thoughts on “Handicapped parking: Empathy expired?

  1. Bjorn

    Nice to see discrimination is alive & well, the obvious thing to do is ticket those without official Handicapped Parking Permits instead of inconveniencing people WHO MIGHT want to spend money downtown. End the institutional discrimination against handicapped people!

  2. missanne thrope

    you don’t have to use the five hour pass, you can put a quarter in the meter and enjoy fifteen minutes, just like the rest of us.

  3. Katherine McCrory

    Missanne Thrope… Many individuals with disabilities have weak upper arm strength and find reaching the meters extremely difficult.

    As such, many of us cannot put a quarter in the meter “just like the rest of you.”

    To preempt the inevitable follow-up comment, many disabled persons drive vehicles that are adapted (example: with hand controls) to compensate for leg and arm weakness.

  4. Cheshire

    Sure, I’ll just pop a quarter in the meter. Wait: my chair doesn’t fit between the spaces if there’s another car parked there. No problem, I’ll just go 5 spaces down to find a ramp for the sidewalk. Nevermind the hill grade and the narrow road lanes that put me rubbing elbows with parallel parking and moving traffic…and this is assuming I can reach the meter from a sitting position, reach around and feed a coin into the back of the meter, calculate how much time I’ve paid for since the displays point slightly upwards and are on the street side….

    Yeah, just like the rest of you. No reason to think twice about it.
    (Take the sarcasm as “food for thought” as I’m intending, not malice.)

  5. Cheshire

    Oh, and for those of you who prefer to park one spot, pay the meter for an hour or two and walk back and forth to the several places you want to go downtown: I challenge you to do a lap around downtown at least once and see what you think afterwards. Park somewhere without a meter or in one of the parking decks. Go get some coffee at either Malaprop’s, Izzy’s, or Double Decker. Go to the civic center. Head over to a pub, Jack, Thirsty Monk, maybe the Yacht club. Stop at an ATM. Go to a gallery. NOW you can go home…assuming your arms can still function at all.
    …And only after you’ve done this can you even begin to start drawing comparisons about doing stuff just like everybody else.
    Anyone up for the challenge? Depending on whether I trust you or not, I might even be willing to let you use my manual wheelchair.

  6. The Advocate

    Katherine,

    May I suggest that you ask someone passing by to assist you with putting your change in.

    As a downtown employee– All other downtown employees have to pay. It is the price you pay for working downtown. I would think that one would inquire about parking prior to applying for a job downtown as many pay the fee to park in the parking decks etc…

    Are you asking for equal or special access?

    I have a daughter in a wheel chair so I understand your struggles, and I am for equal access.

  7. Katherine McCrory

    The Advocate… Isn’t the idea independence insofar as possible?

    Meters exist that are lower to the ground so as to enable disabled access (in fact, there are numerous solutions that were mentioned during the initial debate on this issue but not implemented). While I disagree overall with the decision to require the handicapped to pay for parking (a conversation I consider too lengthy for this particular response), to me the issue now is that there *are* options for the disabled that were, essentially, tabled for later discussion while penalties were implemented immediately. Why not implement parking penalties *after* these solutions were put in place? That would seem far more equitable.

    I am surprised at your suggestion (particularly as you say you have a daughter with a disability) that I wait and ask a passerby for help. Ignoring the necessarily vulnerable situation this puts someone in… Would you care to know about the times I waited in the cold and rain for a person to help me – to say nothing of the people who stopped, listened to my request for help and walked on (that’s always good for the ego) – or perhaps the times where someone has ignored parking signs and parked in such a way as to block the ramp to my car thus requiring me to ask a total stranger to get in and drive it to another location?

    In sum, the issue is not so much that the disabled are being asked to pay for parking but, rather, that equitable solutions were not implemented although they exist.

    Furthermore- spare me the condescension that you “understand my struggles.” You understand it no further than you understand your daughter’s. What you understand is how her disability makes you feel and *that* is a very different thing.

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