I’ve been expecting it for a while, but today if finally happened. I had my first disabled parking space confrontation.
Anyone who has a disabled parking permit seems destined, at some point, to encounter one of two types of people. The first is the parking permit enforcer, who feels it is their personal responsibility not only to make sure you have a permit to park in a disabled space, but also if they believe you should be entitled to have the permit in the first place.
I’ve read some dramatic accounts of parents of children with disabilities who have been confronted, harassed and abused by people who questioned if they deserved a permit. There seems to be a widespread belief that you should only have a disabled parking permit if you are (a) elderly, (b) the driver of the vehicle, (c) have an immediately obvious disability. None of this is true, obviously, but it means that those of us who have a permit for our child or who have a hidden disability are vulnerable to being challenged – even when we quite clearly have a permit to park there.
My only experience with an ‘enforcer’ so far was far less dramatic. I had just pulled into a spot at the hospital when a woman in the car behind me rolled down her window and asked if I knew I had just parked a disabled space. I said yes and flashed her my parking permit; she nodded and drove on. She was obviously a bit fast off the mark – if she’d waited a minute longer, she would have seen me stick the permit on the dash and start to unload Miss Z’s wheelchair. It was a bit jarring to be asked – especially since she obviously thought I was in the wrong – even though she obviously hadn’t seen Miss Z in the backseat, so it wasn’t a completely outrageous question
The second type of people you’re likely to encounter are those who park in disabled spaces illegally. Some people seem to totally disregard the signs and park wherever they like. But most people I encounter parked illegally are “lingerers”. They’ve just pulled into the space because they’re waiting for someone, or they’re talking or texting on their phone, or they want to load something in their car.
Lingerers really get on my nerves because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong because they aren’t ‘really’ parked in the space, they’re just lingering there – which doesn’t do me much good if I need the space for Miss Z.
Nowhere is this worse than at the place where Vegemite has ballet lessons. Its a multi-level gymnasium with a limited number of parking spaces – including one disabled spot – underneath. There are a lot of parents who seem to think that it is fine to park in the disabled spot, so long as they are just waiting to pick up their child.
So, today I turned into the car park and the car in front of me pulled into the disabled spot. There were no other spaces free and I had Miss Z in the car. I hate confrontation – I’m not even a big fan of being assertive most of the time – but I didn’t have much option. So I caught the woman’s attention (she was a lingerer and obviously planning to just sit in the space and wait) and informed her that I had a wheelchair user in the car and had a disabled permit, so needed that space. She moved – although she didn’t look terribly happy about it. I was just relieved that I didn’t have to argue with her.