Friday, December 06, 2002

Handicap or Handy?

As I was driving around WalMart the other night, I got to thinking about the ethics of handicap parking.

There’s an interesting moral question here. My son has cerebral palsy, and has to be transported in a wheelchair, complete with van and ramps. Now, sometimes, my wife or I will be driving that particular van and he won’t be in it. Are we allowed to park in handicapped spaces when the handicapped individual isn’t in the car?

Now there are some circumstances that are obvious to me. If he’s with us, but I drop them off at the door, I don’t have any troubles parking in a wheelchair spot, because I know we’ll probably have to wheel him out to the car when we’re done.

But if he’s not even there. If he’s with a babysitter or somewhere else.

On the one hand, the opportunist in me says, “Look. Raising a child with CP is no picnic. He’s sweet and lovable and fun, but it ain’t an easy life. If I get to spare myself a few feet of walking, then that’s just one of the few tiny little perks that comes with the struggle.” And that has a certain “ring of rightness” to it.

On the other hand, the generous voice in my head says, “Yeah, but If you park there, then when someone that needs it, like someone with a handicap and is actually there in the car, they’ll have to park farther away.”

And my other side says, “Hey, I got enough of a tough time without you adding more to it!”

“Bla, bla, bla, I never promised you a rose garden…”

“Ya, come over here and say that, you wusss…”

Um… Guys… I’m trying to blog here…

But they both have some valid points.

And there is a third consideration as well, and as it adds to the conversation in my head, it tends to tip the scales. I think that it’s important for people who are both not handicapped, nor have anyone close to them that are to have a certain amount of confidence and respect in the idea of special parking and other services for those that need them.

So, what would they be saying to themselves if they see someone drive a van up to a wheelchair spot, and then watch an obviously healthy man (albeit portly) get out of the car and stride into the store? Hasn’t that diminished their confidence in the system? Hasn’t that removed his respect for those that do need it?

So, with all those, and many other (mostly irrelevant) thoughts going through my head, I tend to park elsewhere when I’m driving the van alone.

At least I get to win one argument in my head…

Mark Hansen

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