Friday, March 27, 2009

Blue Line Specials

They’re at the ends of the aisles in parking lots. They have blue lines. They have Blue signs. They’re "special" spots. They’re handicapped parking spaces.

My rant? There aren’t enough handicapped spaces, people who don’t need them use them, and people regularly block the spaces.

"Handicapped" spaces are close to the doors of business because people with physical disabilities need to be close. Maybe the person has a disability that impairs the ability to walk, maybe the person’s balance is bad—making it more likely they’ll fall—and be hit by a car, maybe they use a wheelchair—putting them lower and harder to see by the cars zooming along. Maybe the person has a heart or lung problem making it hard to walk, or a back or arm problem making it difficult to carry things—like packages.

Handicapped spaces are also close to curb cuts or ramps, making it easier for wheelchairs, or people who have difficulty with steps, to get into the building. And handicapped spaces are wider than regular spaces. Those diagonal lines beside the spaces are part of the space. They are NOT another space or a motorcycle space. Let me repeat that. An area with diagonal blue lines is NOT A PARKING SPACE! Not even if you have a handicapped parking permit.

Self disclosure here. I used to have to use a power wheelchair. One with a motor and a joystick. You can’t put those things in a regular car. You need a van with a lift. And a very wide parking space. I learned very fast to park diagonally, so as to block the area I needed to put down the ramp. If not, I couldn’t get back in the van. In fact, I was blocked out of the van on a regular basis. Now I try to stay out of "van accessible" spaces (doesn’t mean they’re where vans should park, they’re supposed to be wide enough for a lift—they frequently aren’t, by the way). If someone parks in that blue diagonal area, or takes the "van accessible" space, someone in a van with a lift is in trouble.

As for the more narrow diagonal blue areas, try to unload a wheelchair sometime—and slide over into it. The door has to be completely open and the person in the car has to be able to get into the chair.

Contrary to popular opinion, there isn’t always a "caregiver" who goes with a person with a disability to help and park and do things. People with disabilities can and do live regular lives and go places alone—or with other people with disabilities.

While I’m at it, I’d like to dispel a few other myths: No, there are NOT "too many" handicapped parking spaces. In fact, there aren’t nearly enough. I’ve had to go home before because I couldn’t find a space close enough to where I was going. No, handicapped people aren’t lazy. And it’s not a "problem" for someone with a handicapped placard or tag to park in a "regular" space. Maybe they’re having a good day. Or they can’t find a handicapped space. Or maybe it’s the wife or husband or daughter or son or friend who’s using the car. Or maybe they just couldn’t find the space they really needed. And yes, people really do get upset about people with handicapped tags or placards parking in non-handicapped spaces.

And no, it’s not okay to park there "just for a minute." If you do, you might well ruin someone’s day. And if you are an able-bodied person and you’re bringing grandma to the doctor, let her out at the door and park in a regular spot. Leave the handicapped space for someone who needs it. ESPECIALLY at a doctor’s office. No, it won’t hurt you to walk a few more feet. Maybe you can forgo the treadmill today. And feel good about yourself.

I don’t get why some people resent people with disabilities, but I know they do. True story: A man who uses a wheelchair was asked by an able-bodied coworker if she could use his handicapped placard (he actually had a handicapped driver tag, but she assumed he had a placard) so that she could do her holiday shopping. In an effort to educate, he asked what he was supposed to use—since she’d have his placard. She said that handicapped people didn’t need to be in the mall during the holiday season since they were "just in the way."

Thank God most people aren’t like that.


  1. I didn't know that about the blue stripes but now that you mention it I can definitely remember seeing cars parked on them!

  2. Thanks for trying to educate the masses. I always look for the special tags on the cars in those spaces to make sure they belong. And I never use the handicapped stall in the bathroom. I mentioned that to my mother-in-law one time and she said that it had honestly never occurred to her that she could some day cause a real problem for someone in dire need - she tells me she follows my advice these days. People always look at me funny when I just stand there waiting for another stall to open and ask me if it is open. I tell them it is but they'll feel really bad some day when they come out to see a woman in a wheelchair.

  3. Cheryel,
    It's definitely a challenging situation. I was a caregiver for my mother and we were so grateful when there was a parking space available for her. Sometimes she used a chair and sometimes she was able to walk (it depended on the day) but she always needed to be close. Thanks for sharing about your situation.


  4. How true. I was at the grocery store yesterday and someone in a monster SUV stopped in the parking lot, blocking all of the handicapped and expectant mother's spaces. They didn't park in them, just blocked them waiting for someone to come out of the store (turned out to be a very healthy 20-something guy). What if I was handicapped or a mom with an infant and I couldn't get to those spaces? The inconsideration of some people boggles my mind sometimes.

  5. A great post! We often have problems with people at our apartment complex parking in the handicap stalls and, as you said, there are never enough. Here, there is only one stall in front of each building, and one by the side door of some buildings. Not only do people insist on parking there illegally, but they frequently fail to pull all the way into the stall, blocking the bottom of the ramp/sidewalk. We've complained to the office, but they are as blase about the situation as many of the tenants.