Roger Barbee: There’s a reason it’s illegal to park there
In case the reader is not aware of my prejudice, let me inform him or her right off that I have a sore spot for the people who park in spaces reserved for those with handicaps. Perhaps it is the fact that I use a wheelchair and must park where there is space for not only my van but the side ramp which allows me to enter/exit it. Let me also state that I am well aware that not all handicaps are easily seen. Someone may need the special space because he or she has a heart condition or some such problem. So be it.
However, in my 14 years of wheelchair living, I have seen many violations of these special spaces. Once I even saw a healthy woman, who is the wife of a paraplegic, park his automobile with the special tag in a handicapped spot and walk into a dry cleaners. I have seen healthy, young people park a handicapped-designated vehicle next to a big-lot store in Woodstock and bounce inside on their way to shop.
More times than I can count, I have seen over-weight or obese people use the spaces closest to the door of a business. Watching those people walk to the store, I had to wonder if it would not do them more good to walk a few steps for the exercise. Once I asked an able-bodied man if he knew he had just parked in a handicapped space as he was exiting his car. He looked at me and said, “Yes, what of it?” He then strolled into the grocery store. I have often wondered if he was upset to come out and find a tire of his car missing its stem and very flat. Once, my daring wife approached a young man who had just parked his motorcycle in a handicapped designated space. He glared at her and mumbled some expletives, but he pushed his motorcycle to a legal space.
Not only does illegal parking in such designated spaces cause me agitation, the mis-use of ramps and curb cuts is a problem at times. Sometimes, a driver will park in front of a curb cut, which is the only way for us to get onto a sidewalk. Or a ramp will be too steep, making it more difficult to not only go up, but to come down. In fact, the too steep curb cuts and ramps I find dangerous to come down because of their steep angle. So, as the reader can surmise, I am not the most objective and understanding person when it comes to the topic of handicapped parking spaces, ramps, and curb cuts.
But just as I thought I had seen or experienced it all, I was dumbfounded this morning when I went to the Shenandoah County Government Center for business. I have never had a parking problem there. The designated spaces are well marked, placed, and there are plenty of them.
I parked at the end of a row of parked cars, taking a van accessible space for my van door. There are four designated spaces in this area–two have signs and the other two have the blue and white wheelchair insignia painted on the pavement. While pulling into the space, I noticed a white sedan with a red, volunteer firefighter plate over the front state license plate parked next to me. The driver had backed it neatly into the clearly-marked handicapped space.
Now, as I wrote in the first paragraph, not all handicaps are visible, and the driver may have a legitimate physical restriction that warrants him or her to park in such a space. If that is the case, I would not think that person could fight fires, however. So, after I took care of my business in another office, I went into the fire office near the spaces and informed a woman of the possible violation.
All I ask is that every driver be aware of taking a space that may not be needed. I often park away from an entrance in order to get the exercise and save a closer space for an elderly person, a pregnant mother with children, or someone who honestly needs the space closer to the door. There are always exceptions and special cases of course, but I still can’t get my head around a volunteer firefighter parking in a handicapped space.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.