On January 14, 2015

Grab that handicapped parking space!

By Scott Funk

Political correctness aside, I have always complained about parking spaces for the handicapped. Yes, it’s rude to admit, but who hasn’t pulled into a crowded parking lot and steamed at the sight of three perfectly good spaces right in front, except that they have that wheelchair logo sprayed onto the asphalt?

If you count all the handicap-reserved spaces you see in a day, it almost seems impossible to imagine there are that many physically challenged people in the state, let alone out shopping on that exact day.

However, now I’m having trouble getting around because of osteoarthritis in my right hip. Recently, I picked up my own handicapped parking tag. Well, let me tell you, it has changed my attitude about handicapped parking spaces.

At first, I didn’t use my privilege. I can get around OK with a cane, but when the snow got deeper, negotiating the piles and puddles became more uncertain. Then came the ice and I started looking for that welcoming wheelchair symbol.

The other day I was on my way to Costco and my heart skipped a beat when I realized I could pull into one of those special spaces right in front. My heart lifted in anticipation of the ease of parking I was about to enjoy.

There must have been at least 20 handicapped spaces, and every one of them was filled. There were even people with handicapped plates waiting for a turn to get one. I ended up having to search the lot for a place to park way in the back. I put my handicapped tag in the window anyway, just to make a point.

It now seems Vermont is packed with physically challenged people. Almost everywhere I go, there aren’t enough special spaces. So, I am still complaining about handicapped parking: there isn’t enough of it, at least not enough where I go.

Many columns ago, I wrote about the best way of describing people who are handicapped. I heard it on the BBC. A lady in a wheelchair was asked how she preferred to be described. She replied, “Presently handicapped, because most people, if they live long enough, will eventually be handicapped, too.”

When I wrote about her I didn’t really think it applied to me. “People” really describes others, right? Not you and me. If I had gotten my way earlier there would be even fewer handicapped parking spaces than there are. But now I need one. I’m glad no one listened to my complaints before.

Aging in place–it doesn’t happen by accident. Still, if we are lucky, it does happen to all of us, complete with a world of complications we may know about but can’t imagine will ever happen to us.

Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families.

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