Respect The Wheelchair Van Parking Spaces!

wheelchair van parkingI drive a side-entry BraunAbility Entervan which allows me to drive my electric cart down the ramp and off to the store, church, etc. I need about one and a half parking spaces to do this. What I really need is a van accessible spot. You’ve probably seen these spaces before…they’re marked off with hash marks that give a little extra space for people like me to load and unload.

Well, last week I couldn’t find a van accessible parking space because other vehicles were parked in the only spaces that would work for my wheelchair van. This happened to me five times last week. Two were sports convertibles, two were mid-size sedans, and one was an SUV – some with and some without handicap parking tags – but all people who clearly did not need to be in the handicap spaces designated for vans.

I very politely tell them to please choose a different handicap spot, and then I deploy my ramp so they can see why this spot is a necessity. And sometimes, when the situation calls for it (and depending on what mood I’m in), I make a call to the police department.

By the fifth time this happened, I’d had enough. I decided to call a few area police departments to set the record straight. I didn’t get the answer I was hoping for. They said as long as a vehicle had a handicap tag, they could park in any marked parking spot.

I tried to explain to them that a parking spot designated “van accessible” is a necessity for those of us who depend on them to lower our ramp and drive down them with our electric carts or wheelchairs. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal to many people – especially to others who have handicap tags for their vehicles. But it’s a huge inconvenience – even a safety hazard – to those of us who are driving our accessible vans independently. Most of the time I end up parking at the end of a lot and covering the distance of the lot in my scooter, which is dangerous in itself.

Unfortunately, even if I manage to park in a handicap van accessible spot, sometimes a smaller car will squeeze into the spot with the diagonal stripes, and then I’m stuck with no way to get into my vehicle at all. Unbelievable! Last week, I had to ask the manager at two stores to page the owner of the vehicle who was in my space. The driver never came; instead, a store employee had to get in my vehicle and drive it out of the parking space so I could even get inside.

These days, if I happen to see a driver who parks in a van accessible spot, I turn it into a “teachable moment.” I very politely tell them to please choose a different handicap spot, and then I deploy my ramp so they can see why this spot is a necessity. And sometimes, when the situation calls for it (and depending on what mood I’m in), I make a call to the police department. If the police aren’t ticketing for this offense yet, it drives home the message when an officer is waiting for an offender to come back to their illegally parked vehicle!