Published: February 27, 2009
By SUSAN BOWMANHere are some thoughts I would like to share on the abuse of handicap parking. It is a new pet peeve of mine, and I've only had to deal with this issue a short time compared to some who have had to deal with these issues their whole life.I believe most people don't see a problem until the problem affects them personally. I never paid attention to handicap parking. I never knew the obstacles dealing with persons in wheelchairs. Until now… I became confined to a wheelchair in 2005 after a car accident. I don't think of my disability until I come upon an obstacle such as parking my handicap accessible van. On more than one occasion I have had trouble parking. The problem is either there are no "handicap van accessible" spaces available or the "handicap person" who does not know how to park properly and parks on the lines between the spaces. Whenever I am forced to park in a regular handicap space I have to squeeze between the cars, sometimes rubbing against their car to get out. Then there are the parallel "Van Accessible" spaces meant to cater to those who need space to let a ramp down so that they may exit the vehicle. I've seen non-handicap people simply using the space to wait on someone in the store.I've also noticed several thoughtless people driving cars with handicap tags that do not understand "Van Accessible." The "Van Accessible" space is designed for people who need space to let down a ramp to get out of their vehicle. A "Van Accessible" space has wider lines to allow room for the ramp and room to turn a wheelchair. The other handicap spaces with smaller lines are for those people who have smaller equipment or the simple need to be closer to the door. If those people who abuse "handicap" parking would stop and put themselves in the position of a wheelchair-bound person, maybe they would become more conscious of their thoughtless actions and the need that some of us (those in wheelchairs) have and are forced to deal with. It's not a choice to be confined to a wheelchair, but it is a choice to be thoughtful and courteous! Editor’s Note: This column is from Susan Bowman, a Lebanon resident who was critically injured in an accident on Interstate 40 in the summer of 2005. She lost both legs as a result of the severe burns she received in the accident. She has recovered and now works to raise awareness of challenges faced by amputees and others who have had traumatic injuries.