Reasons and Remarks - Handicapped Parking

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News September 2017

Now be honest, you’ve said to yourself, “Why in the heck are they parking there?!” I know I’ve said it. But you know what? Things are not always as they appear.

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Handicapped Parking

This is a subject that’s near and dear to most of us. It’s many times a sore spot and often an aggravation. We have all experienced pulling into a parking lot, looking for a space and seeing someone hop out of a car in a handicapped space and virtually run into the store. Now be honest, you’ve said to yourself, “Why in the heck are they parking there?!” I know I’ve said it. But you know what? Things are not always as they appear. Let’s look at excerpts from a couple state statutes regarding handicapped parking privileges. These are similar but should serve the purpose of putting you into a certain mindset.

  • Florida
  • Inability to walk without the use of or assistance from a brace, cane, crutch, prosthetic device, or other assistive device or without the assistance of another person.
  • If the assistive device significantly restores the person’s ability to walk to the extent that the person can walk without severe limitation, the person is not eligible for the exemption parking permit.


  • Arizona
  • Unable to walk 200 feet without stopping to rest
  • Unable to walk without help from another person or a brace, cane, crutch, wheelchair or other prosthetic or assistive device

I have on more than one occasion found handicapped parking all taken and parked at the farthest end of the lot, diagonally across two spaces so I could deploy the ramp on my van. I then make the dangerous push across the parking lot only to see someone exit the store with no “apparent” disability and get into his or her car parked in the van-accessible space. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but hear me out. 

If you’re one of our members with a spinal-cord injury or disease, it may never have occurred to you that someone may question your need to use handicapped parking, as many of you probably use a manual or power wheelchair and the need couldn’t be more obvious. But what about some of our members who can still ambulate?

Last week, I was in a Costco parking lot and a woman came running out of the store, pushing her cart to her vehicle parked in the space next to me as I prepared to exit my van. She proceeded to quickly unload her cart and leave it in the access aisle between the spaces, blocking my ability to deploy my ramp. I rolled down my window and nicely explained the situation. Her response was “I‘m disabled, too, you know.” 

I replied, “I wasn’t asking if you were disabled. I just need you to move your cart.”

She then proceeded to tell me she has multiple sclerosis (MS) and in the Arizona heat, traversing the entire parking lot can be debilitating if she’s having a bad day. I have many friends with MS and know the difficulties and fatigue extreme heat will cause them. Quite honestly, I had never thought about it in the context of handicapped parking. 

The woman proceeded to tell me how tired she was of having to explain her presently “invisible disability” to people to justify her need to park in a handicapped space. I believe she was completely sincere, as I had not even drifted in the direction of asking for an explanation. But it obviously weighed heavy enough on her that she felt the need to explain. I have, at times, found myself pondering how someone who can ambulate through megastores like Costco, or even Walmart or Target, without an assistive device met the threshold of need to be issued disabled parking privileges as described in the preceding statutes. I especially like Florida’s rule that if the assistive device significantly restores the person’s ability to walk, he or she is no longer eligible for a parking permit. I’m sure with all of the retirees/snowbirds in Florida, there are more hip and knee replacements than you can shake your cane at. I write this with the sincere hope of hearing from you, the reader. Please tell me of your experience, whether positive or negative, and you may see it printed in a future issue of PN. 


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Reasons and Remarks - Handicapped Parking


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