Accessibility Ignorance

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[image description: a parking space with the disabled access symbol painted on it. The space has been blocked off by fencing and is covered in construction debris]

This is what the disabled parking spaces in a shopping center near me have looked like for the past six months! There is construction being done to the facades of some of the shops, and the construction company for some reason decided that fencing off all of the disabled spaces was fine. I am not even sure if any construction is even still actively being done or if funds have run out and the project is on hold.

I realize some people out there may not understand why this matters. So let me break it down for you all:

Disabled parking spaces are positioned right at the front, which means:

  • We can expend less energy getting ourselves into the store and then back out to our car later; saving us from extra fatigue and pain.
  • Those of us using wheelchairs don’t have to navigate crowded parking lots where drivers might not see us because being seated makes us lower to the ground.
  • There is a cutout in the curb

Disabled parking spaces also have extra space around them, which means:

  • space in which to load and unload our wheelchairs/walkers/scooters/etc. from our cars
  • some disabled folks use a ramp to get in and out of their car in their wheelchair and need that space to unfold the ramp. Otherwise, they can’t get out of the car.
  • Not having to try to squeeze between two parks cars while using a wheelchair/walker/scooter/crutches/etc. in order to get to the sidewalk. We can’t always fit between two closely parked cars. Even if we can we have to worry about our mobility aid scratching the cars or getting snagged on one of the cars and breaking something off of our mobility aid.

I am not a full-time wheelchair user. Sometimes I walk with a cane or a rollator. Around my own home I usually walk unaided unless I am having a really bad pain or fatigue day. I use my wheelchair (named Wanda) so I can go on longer outings. Wanda gives me the ability to stay go out and enjoy the world much more than I could if I had to try to walk everywhere.

^ Point being; I can unload my wheelchair out onto the sidewalk if I really have to, though I get a bit winded doing so. No matter whether I am walking or using my wheelchair; the further away from the store I have to park the more energy I have to expend and the more symptomatic I will get before even getting into the store. Parking up front means I am much more likely to be able to complete my errands before I get too worn out and have to go home.

I looked for a sign on the fence with the name and phone number of the construction company, but there wasn’t one. Is there somewhere else I should call about this? The city hall offices perhaps?

Couldn’t they have at least temporarily marked out the next closest set of spaces as disabled parking spaces and loading zones until the construction is finished? I feel like that would have been a reasonable solution.

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