Just like other couples without disabilities, we can get to where we’re going regardless of the weather and traffic conditions, as long as the parking spots for customers with disabilities are clear and available.
On a recent weekend afternoon, my wife and I headed to one of our favorite north side markets to do a little grocery shopping. As we swung into the parking lot, we were dismayed at what we encountered. A fair amount of snow from the previous snow storm had been plowed into all of the accessible parking spaces. There was literally nowhere for us to go. I maneuvered my equipped van – which has a ramp on the passenger side – as best I could. As circumstances would have it, the only option for parking was to place the van sideways and roll from my ramp into the lane of oncoming traffic.
Concerned for our safety, and the safety of others pulling in and out of the tight parking lot, we approached the store manager with a reasonable request not to block access in the lot. “That was the only place to put the snow,” was his response. Frankly, we were confused. There were plenty of parking spots for non disabled patrons, so a spot or two could have been used for a snow mound without much consequence. With the melting that had taken place by this point in time, the snow could easily have been shoveled by hand to clear the parking spots in question.
It’s a dilemma many of us with disabilities face. We need to buy goods and services and we have the purchasing power to contribute to our economy. And like all Americans, we are not limited by where we purchased those goods and services. But if we can’t park in the parking lot, we can’t get to the market and then we can’t spend our money. I suspect this store manager may not be concerned about our ability to shop there, but what about the grandmother in a walker or the father on crutches after knee surgery?
Why do I share this with you? I want people to remember that a disability can affect anyone – at any point in time – at some point in their lives. I also want to remind our fine establishments to give some extra thought to where they park the snow for the remainder of winter, or display the mulch this spring.
This experience hasn’t discouraged us. We just look at it as an ongoing opportunity to encourage the store manager and his colleagues.