Handicapped parking at a premium

I remember when handicapped parking was handicapped parking. Now it seems that in many places, it’s just a handicap. I remember when people would want to go to an event with me just so they didn’t have to walk far from the parking lot. Of course, there were fewer handicapped parking spaces then, but there were considerably fewer people with handicapped parking privileges.

I remember the stories going around about the able-bodied that dared to violate our parking spaces, like the man who parked in a handicapped parking space at his favorite bar. When leaving his car and entering the bar, he would fake a limp. He did this so he wouldn’t have to stagger far to his car six to eight hours later. Well, one night “Limpy” staggered to his Ford Bel-Air and drove down the street straight into a Dodge Omni full of nuns. Now, after serving five years in jail and having his driver’s license revoked until 50 percent of all NASCAR dads vote Democratic, “Limpy” walks to Mass in guilt, limping on on his nearly 5-year-old artifical legs.

Most able-bodied people are sympathetic about our parking privileges and even ridicule and harass violators when they see the perpetrators in the act.

Times have changed; many people in my parents’ generation need handicapped parking. The baby boomers are aging and falling apart physically faster than their parents’ generation. Then there’s the techno boom that makes it possible for the majority of the disabled older than 18 able to drive. What you end up with is a lot of young, middle-aged and elderly disabled drivers on the road. It doesn’t make the roads any less safer, but it turns handicapped parking areas into a war zone!

The number of disabled drivers has gone up proportionally, but the number of handicapped parking spaces has not increased proportionately, especially at health care facilities. Mix an abundance of disabled drivers in a city with not enough handicapped parking, then throw in frigid weather and a lot of snow, and you’ll end up with Roll Rage.

I’ve achieved Roll Rage status at Colonial Village, Showplace 16 and SwedishAmerican Hospital. On any given Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., you’ll see all kinds of dirty tricks in the handicapped parking zones. The rage now is to park in the striped-off forbidden area on either side of the handicapped parking space. It’s not just able-bodied people who do it; gimps are pulling this one.

The handicapped parking has been scarce at SwedishAmerican Hospital in the daytime, and people are resorting to parking in the striped forbidden zone. About two weeks ago at Swede’s on a Thursday, there were no handicapped parking spaces, but an area outside the striped forbidden zone and the curb was enough room for me to park and exit from the right side with the fold-down ramp. I need a good eight feet on my right side for the ramp to extend and me to get off and on the ramp. I got off the ramp, locked up and headed for the hospital. I felt sure no one would park to my right, as there was just enough room for me. Wouldn’t you know it, though, when I came out, some butthead in a pickup had parked to my right with half his truck on the pavement and half over the curb in a small snowbank.

Security got his plate number but couldn’t track him down. Then an hour later, Dad showed up, and while squatting in the spot where my wheelchair would sit when I drive, he backed the van out so I could get in. Because of not being familiar with my van, I wouldn’t let the valet on duty or security back my van up; it was too dangerous. Only my father had enough experience doing that. Had he not shown up, that good old boy’s pickup would have gotten a tow.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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