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:






  1. Thank you for writing this post. My grandma has a handicap tag bc it is difficult for her to walk long distances and when I take her places I always park in a handicap spot without thinking twice. But now I will. I’m sure there have been times that we have used one of those spots when we didn’t REALLY need to. Seriously thank you! I dont know anyone in a wheelchair and if I hadn’t read this I would never have considered how mobile my gma really is.

  2. Love this Kelly!, I hate when people take those spots and seemingly don’t need them. now granted. we don’t always take a handicapped spot. we take what we can get and hoof it to the destination. but I am 100 percent behind you on your mission to get people to stop this!!! its terrible and really unfair.

  3. I can hear Samuel L. Jackson’s voice now…haha. Seriously, thank you for reminding us.

  4. This makes me so mad! Most of the people I see using handicapped spaces are elderly and even though they appear to be walking fine, they are old and it does take them some time to get inside. Every now and then I see someone who is not elderly hop out of the handicapped space and sprint into the store and it makes my blood boil. I can only imagine how you feel when this happens. I can’t believe you didn’t say something to the surfer. What a jerk! (And I love patenting the Samuel L. Jackson voice yelling “MF”! Certainly the patent office would speed that one through the process!)

  5. I have a mother-in-law that is 96 and uses the handicap placard when we shop. I always feel strange and wonder what others are thinking when they see me coming out of the store to get the car and pick her up at the door because she did too much walking and is to tired to walk back out to the handicapped parking space. I have come to realize that we all misjudge at times and can only hope that if I see someone able to walk from a handicapped parking place, I will not judge them but tell someone of authority about it and hopefully they can handle the matter with whatever is appropriate. If I were approached by someone working for the store and asked about parking in the handicapped area, I would gladly introduce them to my mom proudly and not take it the wrong way. I on the other hand am sure that many others will be angry they were caught using a placard that was not for them and the appropriate ticket will be issued.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this. I have the headache everyday of people taking these spots while they wait for someone, eat, or run in to get a coffee. I have even see UPS drivers park in handicapped parking to make drop offs. There is not enough being done to control this problem. The new app “parking mobility” is a life saver and highly recommended. Police officers don’t want to be bothered and could care a less. We have to take this matter into our own hands. EMPATHY is what is missing from this world.

  7. I don’t need a wheelchair and I don’t know anyone personally who does, but this outrages me on your behalf. Especially since you’re in the US, where there actually are handicap spots and facilities! What happens if you park over two spots to give extra room for the lift? Do they ticket for that?

  8. Agreed on the handicapped spots.

    My “interesting story” has to do with the “expectant mother” spots in Great Falls at some of the shopping centers. I know I’m being totally entitled by talking about this but they were soooo helpful when I was pregnant with Daniel and then after my (emergency premature) c-section when walking was still hard. One time, a couple teenaged boys took the spot and I (who looked like Shamu had taken up residence in my belly even at 7 months) asked them politely exactly when they would be having that baby.

    They moved pretty quickly out of my way.

  9. If you do want to visit Historic Williamsburg, come during Christmas. There are many events on the streets (which are wheel chair accessible) and if you call ahead, they may have a bus running with a wheelchair lift. There’s also a street market on Saturday mornings until noon that is wheelchair friendly. And eating in the shopping district or non-historic areas will not only save your sanity (those old buildings don’t have lifts), but also some money.

  10. My mom is 92 and I talked her into getting a handicapped sticker this year because there were so many places she couldn’t go and we couldn’t take her because of the parking. This post opened my eyes to people who need handicapped parking more than she does, but it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t need it too.

  11. in response to Laura from the Midwest and Mary who are referring to handicap tags for the elderly – if the person needing the tag is the one who is driving the car and they take a handicap accessible spot, no problem. I think we have issues when there is a perfectly capable person who is with them doing the driving and they still feel the need to take the handicap spot. You can drop your parent at the front door and then go park in a regular spot and they’ll have even less to walk. I, however, cannot drop my ventilator dependent daughter who is in a wheelchair at the front of the store and leave her there while I go park. If there isn’t a spot – I have to leave. I don’t even care about how close the spot is to the front of the store. My only concern is having enough space to be able to use my accessible van and get my daughter safely in and out of the car.

  12. (chattering teeth) I seriously debate ILLEGALLY using handicap parking when I am 8+ months pregnant and my newborn is under two months….I’m sorry for even thinking about it! And I won’t!

  13. You are preaching to the choir. I go through this with my disabled child on a weekly basis, beyond annoying.

  14. I have a license plate with the blue tag. I need it because of my bad heart. I parked in a handy cap space at my condo and was hauled off to the impound the next morning. Had to pay 389.00 to get it back. In the middle of the night the people from the office wired an additional sign under the the blue sign, “No over night parking”. It that legal? Nowhere do I see it being legal even on private property. Can anyone help?

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