Walk a mile in my (handicapped) shoes and you’ll honor handicapped parking

Years ago, when I was dating a man who was a paraplegic and in a wheelchair but could drive, I became incensed when a nondisabled person took a handicapped-parking spot. My sweetie laughed and laughed and said, "It happens all the time, and you learn to let it go." Now, almost 35 years later, I am disabled (trouble walking far) and still get overly righteous, not just for myself, but more so for those who really struggle.

The fact is, there are more and more of us wobbly elders, and you can't always tell who needs that coveted spot. Yet, I also know that there are folks who use a relative's or friend's handicapped parking card, saying, "I'll only be a minute" (you know who you are!). That's a lousy excuse, folks, especially if you are depriving a person in a chair, or one with a cane or a walker, from easy access to the door. Please think twice when you abuse that handicapped-parking privilege: You may really need that special spot one day.

— Kathleen Crow
Asheville

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13 thoughts on “Walk a mile in my (handicapped) shoes and you’ll honor handicapped parking

  1. entopticon

    I completely agree that it is certainly bad to park in a handicap spot without a permit, and it also certainly bad to use someone else’s permit under false pretenses. That said, I think that you also have to be more careful about judging a book by its cover. For you to assume that you can tell whether or not a person is disabled just by looking at them, is plain wrong.

    I have a rare disease that attacks my nervous system, but a person can’t easily tell that by just looking at me because I don’t use a chair or a cane (for now). At any given time I am in great pain, but there is no way for you to know that by just looking at me. One of the unfortunate side effects of the disease, is that if those afflicted try to push through it with too much physical activity (it takes very little) while it is in a bad phase, it can cause very serious, permanent nerve damage. That’s why my doctor gave me long term handicapped parking. If I am having a particularly good day, I will often park further off to leave the spots open.

    The important thing to remember is that it is certainly NOT your place to second guess someone else’s doctor. If someone has a permit, their doctor gave it to them for a reason. Please don’t just assume that if a person doesn’t look disabled to you, that they must have gotten their permit under false pretenses or that they are using someone else’s permit, as you seem to be doing in the above letter.

  2. Cheshire

    I strongly agree. I’d like to add that not all who wobble are elderly. Due to a hit-and-run 3 years ago (anniversary was Monday/Tuesday) I use a cane, and sometimes a wheelchair, to be get around…spinal damage.

    The striped-off areas around disabled parking spots, believe it or not folks, are PART OF that spot as well. It’s not fair game for parking because you want to be next to the door. There’s a reason that area’s striped off. Now if we can just get the lovely law enforcement officers throughout Buncombe county to care enough to enforce handicapped parking, that’d be peachy.

  3. hold up

    hold up, entopticon, she SAID,

    “… you can’t always tell who needs that coveted spot. Yet, I also know that there are folks who use a relative’s or friend’s …”

    don’t vent on this valid attempt to enlighten those abusers who do EXACTLY what kathleen says, borrowing tags and knowing that they were not given through a doc, or who had talked their doc into a shady tag. MANY DO! and it’s despicable.

  4. entopticon

    Hold up, hold up. My point was that unless she is psychic, she has absolutely no idea of whether or not someone is physically handicapped or not, as she claimed. I have every right to point that out.

    Don’t vent on my valid attempt to enlighten those who are ignorant of the fact that they should not assume that they know whether or not someone needs their handicapped permit by looking at them. The people who shoot dirty looks at someone who is already suffering, because they don’t believe that they are handicapped, should be ashamed of themselves. It happens all too often.

    I already made it perfectly clear that I believe that it is very bad to take someone else’s permit and use it as your own. As for your claim that someone could talk their doctor into just giving them a handicap permit for no good reason, I think that is hogwash. Educate yourself on the issue before just making stuff up. Doctors do not hand out handicap permits like they were tic-tacs. Of course it may be possible that on some rare occasions under extraordinary circumstances there have been people who were able to mislead their doctor, but the vast majority of people who have permits have them for very good reason, and it is extremely misguided and ignorant of you to suggest otherwise. You can’t fake MS, a broken leg, or virtually any condition that a doctor would actually recommend a handicap permit for.

    It certainly isn’t your place to second guess someone else’s doctor. In fact, doctors tend to be somewhat strict about it. I have long term handicap parking because my condition is ongoing and deteriorative, but it is very common for a condition such as reconstructive knee surgery to result in a permit for just a few weeks.

  5. GabrielV

    I didn’t read Ms. Crow’s comments as second guessing the wisdom of a doctor’s opinion. Instead she was chastizing those individuals that are misusing the priviledge granted to someone else, truly in need. She didn’t accuse anyone in particular, instead it was a plea to those individuals with some vestige of a conscience to correct the error of their ways. While it is true that vast majority of permit holders utilize for conditions that are both personal and painful, there are a sprinkling of those that abuse the system. And yes, I personally know some of those too.

    Again in these public forums, it might be time to consider a little civility and mutual respect. Who knows…in so doing we might all learn something. God Bless You All

  6. entopticon

    GabrielIV, I did read it that way. Again, there is no way to simply know whether or not someone is handicapped or not just by looking at them, as implied in the above letter. Crow said she became incensed when she saw a non-handicapped person take a disabled spot. Unless she is psychic, or that person walked up to her and told her that they are not handicapped but they are going to park there anyway while her handicapped vehicle sits and waits for the spot to open, which I seriously doubt, she was assuming that she could tell their physical condition just by looking at them. And “hold up’s” post most certainly did second guess the judgement of people’s doctors.

    There was nothing uncivil about my post. I was perfectly clear that I am entirely in agreement that people shouldn’t use handicapped permits under false pretenses. It’s immoral and it is against the law, for good reason.

    To quote the above heading, walk a mile in my handicapped shoes and you might see things differently. Dirty looks from sanctimonious people who think that they can divine someone’s right to use a handicapped spot by just looking at them are an all-too frequent occurrence. I deal with it on a regular basis. You can’t always judge a book by its cover. Few people would guess the extent of my condition by looking at me. Don’t assume that you can tell by just looking at someone, as Kathleen Crow suggested in the above letter. Instead, if someone is parked in a handicapped spot with a permit, assume there is good reason for it, whether you think they look handicapped or not, instead of sanctimoniously scowling at them.

  7. entopticon

    Another thing worth mentioning on this thread, is that there is a remarkable lack of handicapped parking in Asheville. In light of the fact that the city is making efforts to plug itself as a good place for people to retire, that seems like very foolish public planning.

  8. Cheshire

    I was dismayed when I realized how little handicapped parking there is downtown after my injury…especially considering how everything is on a hill. I don’t go downtown anywhere near as much as I used to. Kinda makes me sad sometimes.

  9. entopticon

    This morning my wife and I went to the farmer’s market, and parked in a handicapped spot. While walking away from the car, some guy muttered to the woman he was with, “look, they don’t even have a handicapped sticker on their license plate.” I have a permit hanging from the rearview mirror like most everyone else who has a permit. Just an example of the annoying self-righteousness that I encounter.

    After that we drove into town and had lunch at Chorizo. Didn’t park in a handicapped spot because we found a spot where I didn’t have to walk too far. While dining outside at Chorizo, we witnessed a woman pull into a handicapped spot without a permit, put her hazard blinkers on, and proceed into the store next door. She came out a few minutes later and made a couple of trips with merchandise from the store to her car. Apparently she thinks handicapped spots are loading zones. I am not sure what made her think that using hazard lights makes it okay to park in a handicapped spot.

  10. COA Volunteer

    The City of Asheville recognizes the needs of disabled persons and has an active group of volunteers to make sure handicapped parking spaces throughout the City are available for use by legally permitted individuals.

    As a volunteer with the City of Asheville Handicapped Parking Enforcement program, I can tell you the NCDMV issues a registration sheet just like the one they issue with a license tag. The paperwork given with the handicapped parking permit states that the registration should be kept in the vehicle or on your person at all times. If you are legally parked in a handicapped space and a volunteer or an officer questions you, don’t be offended or get upset. They are trying to make sure that you or any other legal placard holder can use the spaces when you need access to them.

    Speaking of access…someone earlier brought up a good point. Legally, as defined by NC law, the striped zone is part of the handicapped parking space. If you park in or partially block the striped zone, you will get a ticket. Disabled people need the striped zone to be able to get out of their car or van safely and not worry about someone parking right beside them or being in the traffic lane. Some lift-equipped vans need the entire parking space AND the striped zone to be able to let the lift down and be able to get the wheelchair out without scratching the vehicle next to them.

    It is wrong, as some earlier posters have said, to assume someone isn’t disabled just because you can’t see external evidence of a disability. People with a heart condition or lung problems have difficulty walking very far. You can’t tell by looking at someone. As stated above, this call should be left to the doctor.

  11. Cheshire

    So…who are we supposed to call when disabled parking is abused? One example I’ve run into, both inside and outside of city lines, are business owners who treat the handicapped parking like their own personal space. I’m pretty sure “just let me know when you need it and I’ll move my car for you” and “if you’re not doing business in our store, the space isn’t for you” aren’t valid excuses for not having a handicap placard or plate.
    Yes, I’ve been told both of these on multiple occasion.

  12. COA Volunteer

    Neither of the “excuses” listed above are valid. A business owner may not use a handicapped parking space in their parking lot unless they are disabled AND have a valid handicapped parking placard. Also, a business owner is not allowed to decide who uses a handicapped parking space.

    Contact City of Asheville’s Parking Services Supervisor Penny Sams at 259-5759. Tell her what the problem is that you are encountering. Ask her if she can contact a volunteer who lives in that area to keep an eye out for the problem you are seeing. The volunteer can then take action or relay back information to Ms. Sams for Parking Services personnel to take action.

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