I know every school is different, but in my experience, most school parking lots only offer a couple of accessible spots. These spots, by law, can only be used if you have a handicapped tag. When it comes to school due to the limited number of accessible spaces, these spots are intended for students with disabilities and for people who are actually getting out of their car.

I have a child with a physical disability who requires adaptive equipment. Since kindergarten, she has used either her wheelchair or her walker to get around. This means that every day when we go to school, I load or unload her adaptive equipment. And for as long as she has been in school (she is now in sixth grade) she has been either the only one or one of two students who require an accessible spot. Interestingly, I cannot count the number of times we have gotten to school only to find all accessible parking spaces taken.

We were fortunate that the first Principal my kids had was proactive about making it clear to other parents and grandparents those spots were specifically reserved for students. There were several grandparents and parents who had their own tags, and while they had every right to park there, they would not get out of the car but rather wait for their kids to come to the car. There were only two accessible spots and the Principal, as gracious as she was, would allow them to park in the staff parking lot but requested they not take those spaces.

Our second Principal did not see accessible parking issues as a priority, and the accessible spots were often taken. When I brought this up, her solution was to add another accessible spot right besides the dumpster. Yet it was not unusual to find other parents parked there, too. When I brought this up, again, she said we could park in the school loading area that had a clear sign that read, “No parking allowed.”

At another elementary school, there were four accessible spots. It was not unusual to find parents parked there waiting for their kids. Sometimes parents would “pull in” across the “empty spots” and take two of the accessible spots. Sometimes they parked there, “really quick.” All the while leaving me to wait for their kids to get to the car so they could move. We were often one of the last to leave (because loading the car does take some time, too).

On one occasion, I had to get out of the car and approach a parked vehicle. I knocked on the window and they rolled it down.

“Do you have a handicapped tag?” I asked.

“No.” The woman said.

“I’m going to need you to move. I have a child with a physical disability and we need this space.”

At this point the mom replied, “Step away from my car!”

I did, I even raised my arms in surrender. Her reaction scared me.

She did move and I was able to park. But in truth I was shaking.

Yet these things happen all the time.

All the time!

Cars park in the loading area, which when you have a ramp or use a wheelchair, that area is necessary.

Cars park taking two spaces while they drop off or pick up their kids.

Cars park blocking the accessible places.

Cars park for “just a minute.”

Which is never just a minute. It ends up taking several minutes. We have to wait for you, then park. Then we have to unload the wheelchair, attach the motor, and hook her backpack.

And when spots are taken and I ask people to move, people get angry!

And honestly, it is quite intimidating to have a stranger yell at you for asking them to please move from a spot they are taking illegally and for “easy access.”

I know the spots are conveniently placed. That is because some people, who have bodies that need the accommodation, need to have those spaces. They are supposed to provide easier access for people with physical, chronic or medical conditions.  People who, unlike you and your typical child, cannot walk long distances across large parking lots.

So please, please, please, please be a decent human being and remember those spots are for people who need them, people with handicap placards, people who will be very thankful you are not making their day more inaccessible and difficult.

And for the times I have to get in the regular line, and then I create a “traffic jam” for several minutes while I help my kid in the van, then I have to remove the motor from her wheelchair, then carry her wheelchair into the van… please don’t get angry, impatient and yell at me. What about instead you do that to the entitled parents who decided to take the accessible spots where we could have been out of your way and not brought the line to a halt for 7 minutes.

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