Respect the Space! is a campaign to bring awareness to our schools and neighborhoods of the importance of Disability Parking. Throughout the community, Disability Parking improves the lives of children and adults living with disabilities. How you may ask? It’s just a space close to the door. It’s much more than that to someone with a disability. It means safety as well as accessibility.
The Americans with Disability Act, enacted to provide access for persons with disabilities to all public facilities, specifies the regulations for accessible parking. All public and privately owned facilities are required to provide disability parking spaces proportionate to the overall parking spaces. Law enforcement will ticket anyone using a space without the disability designation. If the person who is issued the parking permit is not with you, you are not permitted to use the disability space.
So we all know that. Right?
Well…some people do. It seems that some drivers think it’s okay to park in a disability parking space when they do not have a disability parking permit, nor a person with a disability with them when they do have the permit. (“Oh I just borrowed Grandma’s from her hip replacement last spring. You know how parking is at the stadium.”) People may argue that there are always plenty of disability parking spaces, and maybe no place else to park. (Think the mall during the holidays.) But what these drivers are not thinking about is the family that pulls into the parking lot 5 minutes after they park in that last disability parking spot that has a child with cerebral palsy, who uses a wheelchair, with them. Now that family is not only nowhere near the accessible entrance, but they also do not have the safety of a van-accessible space for loading and unloading their child and the wheelchair.
Or take the family that has a child with autism. Perhaps they are on their way to a doctor’s appointment. The child is not only scared, but may also have behavioral challenges getting from the car to the building without incident. That space means the difference between possibly endangering the child and parent vs. a short walk to get inside the building.
So how do we gently remind drivers to “Respect the Space”? Well, we could call the police every time you see someone parking illegally. Those tickets would make an impression I bet. Or They could hear the mother of a child with profound physical disabilities say for the hundredth time “I’d give anything if it meant my child didn’t need a disability parking space. I’d happily walk a mile to the mall front door if my child could walk beside me, holding my hand.” Or instead we could educate everyone, introduce them to someone who really needs the space. And well, respect the space, and the people who need them.