Tag Archives: wheelchair

Handicapped Parking, Apparently Not Just For The Handicapped Anymore

Dear person with the handicap placard hanging from your rearview window,

I see you’ve pulled into the only handicapped spot by this entrance to the Boardwalk. You feel the need to take this spot despite being healthy enough to get out of your car, change into a wetsuit, grab a surfboard and carry it unassisted to the beach. I have carried a surfboard five steps and wanted to die so I can kind of understand why you might want to park closer to the beach. But seeing as you’re at least ten years younger than me and totally ripped I doubt you’d have been out of breath if you parked your car back a couple blocks and left the handicapped spot for someone who didn’t obviously snag his grandmother’s placard.

Maybe your grandmother likes to share her placard with everyone in the family. Maybe it was your sister that pulled into the handicapped spot next to our family at the zoo. We arrived before the zoo opened and got a great spot. While the front of the zoo is wonderfully accessible, the parking lots further back in the park are a bit bumpy for Fulton’s chair. I’m sure the young mom and her friend who were healthy enough to load up a car full of small children and haul them around the zoo all day could have made those same little feet walk an extra 100 steps to the regular parking lot, but I don’t know, maybe the allure of using the placard to get a great spot next to the food court trumps the needs of families like ours.

I wasn’t going to rant on and on about parking spaces until I took all the kids to the library yesterday and saw the first few handicapped spots, which are the most van accessible, taken up by a pickup truck and the sprinkler company. Maybe these people don’t realize that when you take the van accessible spots you make it much harder for someone like me to use my van with a side lift. Maybe you don’t realize that when someone parks next to me, my totally tricked out handicap van is worthless. I might as well park it in the drainage ditch out back.

Once when I took Fulton to physical therapy, all the handicapped spots were taken, so I parked way out in the far side of the lot with no one around. We unloaded, in the rain, and went in. As we left and walked to our van, still in the rain, I realized one other person had parked in the side lot, directly next to my van and blocked my lift. Despite all the signs on the side of my van saying “DON’T PARK WITHIN 8 FEET : WHEELCHAIR LIFT”. I had to leave Fulton in the lobby and move the van. Obviously, Fulton was thrilled to see his mother run off and drive around while some strange woman offered to stand next to him and make small talk. (I have since considered patenting a device that will yell, in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice, “Don’t park next to the MF van MF! Can’t you read?” any time someone tries to slide up next to us. [And if you don't know what I mean by MF, don't ask.])

I know many people not in wheelchairs who need handicap license plates or placards because walking is a real hardship. But I also know it’s possible to get handicap tags for a variety of other reasons. (See #9. Got a doctor you like? Together I’m sure you can get that handicap tag.) But I’m going to say people in wheelchairs need those few spots more than many of you. I think once someone has a tag, their instinct is to just take a handicapped spot, even if it’s the last or only van acceptable spot, even when the row directly behind them is mostly empty. I can’t unload my family in that spot period, and I can’t squeeze a powerchair through parked cars.

I don’t want to be some spokeswoman and get up on my soap box and rant about discrimination towards the disabled. (Or is it better to say “differently abled”? See I’m not PC enough for this job.) I would just like to open people eyes to the fact that 90 percent this world is not accessible for people in powerchairs. When you park out of habit in a van accessible spot because “I have a handicap tag” you are making it harder for my son to just get into a building. You will sit there idling, waiting to pick someone up or just, I don’t know, eating a sandwich and stare at our van as I work the lift and unload Fulton three rows back. Will I get parked in by the time I need to leave? You don’t care you just think “Oh what a cute kid in a wheelchair” while I try to drive him around your car and up the ramp placed next to that spot for people like him, not people eating sandwiches in their cars.

I wish everyone knew someone in a wheelchair. I didn’t until Fulton received his. And then I realized how this world is not designed for them. I have many more years ahead of telling Fulton, and Teddy, they can’t go there or do that because there’s no ramp or no parking. A little bit of consideration from other handicap drivers who are still able to step up a curb, walk between a row of parked cars and use the entrance with steps would honestly make a big difference for families like us. And perhaps a two tiered parking system could be put in place; spots for wheelchair vans only (no other handicap tags allowed)  as well as other handicapped spots.  At least at larger shopping centers, malls, medical offices etc.  I have no allusions about ever successfully visiting Historic Williamsburg from here on out, but I should at least be able to get into Target.

In conclusion handicap placard stealer, next time you are considering taking the last van accessible spot because you’re running late or “will just be a minute” please remember this face:



Filed under Life With Fulton, Most Popular, SMA Posts

Lent Is The Perfect Time For Field Trips

This photo shows my family outside the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center with our bronze pal Abe Lincoln. It’s one of only two shots we managed to take and it was probably the only time I smiled all day.

I love the idea of field trips. In fact, the flexibility to take them whenever the mood strikes is certainly a great perk of homeschooling. A few weeks back when we studied the Civil War, I concocted our trip and managed to convince my family it was a great idea. As my parents live near Gettysburg, tacking a day trip onto a family visit made sense. My mom even planned on joining us, which  meant the adults would not be outnumbered 2 to 1 as is usually the case. A mid-week trip, no crowds, great spring weather predicted, five usually well behaved children; surely, this would be the stuff great memories are made of.

It’s not until we’re 30 minutes from our destination and the baby is screaming non-stop,  the older kids are arguing over which audio book to listen to while my husband growls “There’s no use listening to anything because the baby drowns it out,” that I think, maybe, we were better off at home with a History Channel movie marathon.

But it also dawns on me, who needs a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to receive grace when,  for a lot less money, you can offer up the suffering endured while on a family road trip? The potential to shave time off purgatory is endless! Plus, I never remember to eat on a family outing since I’m always too busy feeding everyone else. If I call it fasting this trip could be the best thing that happens to me during Lent.

Upon arrival the first stop is always the bathroom. Then we need to eat because sitting in a car for more than 10 minutes somehow sucks all the nourishment out of my children. Then the bathroom again, before onto the sights. I’m always a basket case, trying to keep everyone together like an official tour guide, with only limited success. Especially in the case of my 3 1/2-year-old who sees any new open space and drives off in his powerchair faster than my husband or I can run. Strangers think it’s cute to see a toddler in a powerchair until he joyfully plows over their toes in his mad dash towards the handicap exit.

We opted for only the museum admission and stayed a bit before heading out to drive part of the auto tour. I had carefully downloaded podcasts to listen to and selected interesting tidbits from the guide map and Junior Rangers Guide to share along the way. However, most of what I said was drowned out by my oldest son constantly yelling, “Canons! There’s a canon!” the first half of the drive.

As it’s difficult to unload and reload everyone in a timely manner from our van, and the weather was a bit chilly, we opted to only get out and walk around at a few spots. I had pre-selected a few nice, flat, open areas.  However, when we approached the summit of Little Round Top ( a.k.a  massive pile of large rocks) my husband insisted it was too important to drive pass, would be fine for my son’s wheelchair, and parked the van. I unloaded the baby, convinced we’d be on our way in five minutes and took off after the kids without the stroller. A half hour later, I was still lugging my own giggling boulder down rocky side paths and across plenty of handicap accessible paths I couldn’t see from the parking lot. Despite my aching arms, and thighs and everything,  I had to admit, it was a beautiful view, and a fine decision on my husband’s part. Renewed and invigorated, we headed out to the cemetary where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. Snacks and beverages were distributed on the way and the baby, in his enthusiasm for history promptly threw up all over his coat and last clean outfit.  For the rest of the day he smelled of sour apples and insisted on being held or carried by me.

By now, the last of our rations gone, we toured the National Cemetary. My subdued “SHHHH, KIDS!, THIS IS A CEMETARY! SHOW SOME RESPECT!” resulted in chasing my children out of earshot. And no one, not even my mother, wanted to hear my dramatic reading of the Gettysburg Address.

Finally, we visited the museum again despite an overwhelming urge to just head home. But we were determined to get the value of the admission if it killed us. While very informative and containing tons of interesting artifacts, the museum held little interest for the two youngest. I carried the baby, who tried to smudge every piece of glass, while herding the others through the dimly lit labyrinth, eagerly looking for the exit signs. (I pretty sure my mom was hanging back on purpose. We almost had to send a St. Bernard in to find her.)

And what family trip is complete without a stop in the gift shop placed conveniently next to the exit? My children save money for such occasions and I’ve given up trying to guide their purchases. Although sometimes I can’t help it. “Really Edie? Another doll? Addie, don’t you already have a harmonica I won’t let you play in the house? Yes Byron, you can buy that overpriced piece of junk from China, just don’t aim it at me.” And because I’ve taken two minutes to “council” the older kids, the younger two have crept off and are manhandling the Webkinz on the clearance rank.

Finally, as they prepare to close the shop, we hit the bathrooms and head home.  I reflect on the day and hope I didn’t nag or worry or squelch my children’s general love of history. Despite the stench of sour apples still emanating from the second bench seat, the children and my mother are genuinely happy. My husband declares the day a success and then quickly tells everyone to be quiet while he’s driving. As we head home in rush hour traffic, I use the time to plan our next field trip. Maybe a hands on style museum where, inevitably, someone will pick up a stomach bug. Or perhaps we can all go on a ghost walk that will send the kids scurrying into my bed after dark for a week. The possibilities  for sanctification are endless. I’m feeling holier already.

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