Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One Man's Annoying/Aggravating/Interesting Access Picture of the Week

I'm starting a new blog segment so titled above. Being a wheelchair user I encounter plenty of annoying, aggravating, and interesting access issues as I venture out in public. So I thought that I would start being more cognizant about recording them with my phone camera, etc. so that I can share them here. In doing so I thought it might enlighten people about these sometimes hidden, yet often significant obstacles, and hopefully people reading this might even start making some changes accordingly.

What I will no doubt post about the most are my frequent, frustrating encounters with handicapped/accessible parking issues. (I'll use those terms interchangeably because handicapped parking is the most commonly referred to terminology but accessible parking is becoming much more pc). To give people the quick skinny, I drive from my wheelchair in a minivan equipped with a fold out ramp. To get in and out comfortably I need about eight total feet of free space on my passenger side to have enough room for both my chair and my extended ramp. Therefore, using accessible parking spaces with a fairly large striped striped area adjacent to them is an absolute must for me to freely go out and about.

To kick things off I thought that I would post a few pictures I took during a recent trip to a mall to get a haircut. As you can see just below, the large SUV across the aisle from my van is parked crooked. Specifically, it is parked crooked across the yellow striped zone next to it. Now look at my van with my ramp fully extended onto the striped zone and then look back at how the SUV is parked. From my perspective this presents two significant access issues: 1) I couldn't park in the spot on the SUV's driver's side because I wouldn't have enough room to get out with my ramp, and 2) if that person parked crooked in that spot after I was already parked I would not be able to get back into my van for the same reason. Because getting someone ticketed and towed is far from expedient, in the vast majority of cases that I have had the latter occur I have typically had no choice but to sit and wait for the other driver to leave. That is also the primary reason why I don't venture out to busy parking lots in the cold weather months. This is a great first picture to demonstrate the aggravating parking issue that I encounter the most frequently. This theme will be revisited again later on.

Handicapped parking abuse is such a heated passion area of mine that when I was in law school I wrote a 55 page research paper on handicapped parking laws for my independent research class. The course requirement was 25 pages but I got caught up in doing it the way I wanted and making it the most complete project that I could. One of my long term goals in life is to somehow get the whole handicapped parking system much more under control and curb the rampant abuse. At some point I will post my own personal "Handicapped Parking Manifesto" that I've been kicking around in my head for a number of years.

But what should be gleaned from pictures like these is that when people don't park within the lines and/or park crooked onto the striped zones next to accessible parking spaces it can make them very difficult to use at the least, highly inaccessible and unusable at most. Not to mention a total day ruiner. Those striped zones are absolutely necessary for proper access for people like me who use wheelchairs and they should be left clear of all barriers all the time, even if we're not always seen using them.

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