For about as long as mankind has been around, there have been groups of people who believe they have a transcendent, special connection with the weather. Be it the ancient Egyptians worshipping Ra, the sun god, to receive a bountiful harvesting season or the Native Americans doing a rain dance to help their crops, there have always been individuals who seem to possess a kinship with the weather. Even today in the era of science and technology, there are a select few who have a connection with the elements. This has been a well-kept secret for a long time, but I feel it is time that the truth is revealed. As hard as it may be to believe, most, if not all, disabled individuals have a unique ability to predict human behavior based on the weather. More specifically, we have the capability of predicting how many handicap accessible parking spaces will be available out in public.
I first started to become aware of this special power that comes with my disability as a young child. I have been fortunate enough to have always had a vehicle that would allow me to travel about even though I use a power wheelchair. This naturally means that I have needed to use handicap accessible parking spots my entire life in order to be able to safely get in and out of my van, especially when I was younger. I quickly realized as a kid that I could predict with great accuracy the number of handicap accessible parking spaces that would be available at public places (i.e. Wal-Mart, the movie theater, the mall, etc.) based solely on the current weather conditions. If it was a beautiful day, and the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, there would be tons of open handicap parking. However, if the weather was less than optimal with pouring rain or a breathtakingly cold wind, all of the handicap accessible spots would be taken. While this may not be as cool as X-ray vision or being able to fly, any superpower is pretty cool when you are a 5-year-old boy.
All right, so I know that I don’t have a superpower (that you know about…) or some cosmic bond with the weather, but the fact that I can predict the amount of accessible parking that will be available by the daily meteorological conditions is an unfortunate truth of our society. As a physically disabled person, I know firsthand how inclement weather makes getting around in a wheelchair much more difficult, so I doubt that disabled people wait for the worst possible weather to go out and take up all of the accessible parking. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Since actual disabled individuals are not occupying these spots, this must mean that able-bodied people are illegally using these spaces just to avoid walking an additional 30 feet in bad weather. These people are not only breaking the law, but they are doing so on the days when people who actually are disabled need these spots the most.<br/><br/>
The fact that using a handicap accessible parking space without having a permit AND a disabled person in the vehicle is illegal, pales in comparison to what this says about our society. By illegally and selfishly using these spaces, people are completely disregarding and disrespecting the disabled community. For an able-bodied person, using a handicap parking spot saves them having to walk an additional 30 feet or so, but what it takes away from the disabled person who now cannot use that space is much greater. As I mentioned before, handicap parking provides a safe place for people with disabilities to get in and out of their vehicle. Especially for wheelchair users, this can take a few minutes and doing this in the way of traffic is dangerous since wheelchairs sit low to the ground and can be difficult to see, especially in bad weather. Also, if nasty weather makes it hard enough for an able-bodied person to get around that they park illegally, just imagine how much harder it is for disabled people. If you think walking an extra 10 yards in the wind and snow is tough, try doing it while pushing a wheelchair, carrying medical equipment, and holding an umbrella. Is not having to walk another few feet really worth endangering someone’s life this way?
While I try very hard not to complain about my disability and how hard it makes my life, and I don’t expect or want special treatment because I am in a wheelchair, I do feel like getting to park in a safe place close to the entrance is one of the small perks that comes with being disabled. For a lot of people with disabilities, just getting up and going out in public to live their lives is hard enough, that we don’t need to make things even more difficult by forcing them to load in traffic and trek across a busy parking lot in the rain. In fact, there have been times when I have purposely chosen to not use a handicap accessible parking space, so that people more disabled than me can use the few that are available. The next time you think about using your grandmother’s handicap parking tag to avoid feeling a little cold or getting a little wet by walking another few feet, I want you to remember that someone else’s grandmother is now going to have to transfer into her wheelchair in the street and then slowly make her way to the building, while trying not to catch pneumonia. Or at the very least, imagine my superhero persona, Handi-Captain America, with my cape billowing in the wind behind my wheelchair, using my superpower of being able to predict your behavior with the weather.