By Jill F. Bamber, CTVI, MEd, MOM
Let me introduce myself. I’m that lucky mom who gets to use those convenient parking spots right in front; you know, the ones that are often empty and right by the door. But you see, parking there is more than convenience for me. I have a son who is disabled.
That spot puts us close enough to the door that my son can use his walker and walk in under his own power (independence is important, you know, and his favorite line is “I’ll do it on my own, Mom.”). Other days, we do need to use his wheelchair. Then distance isn’t as important, but extra space is needed. You see, my son’s muscles are spastic and get very tight. He doesn’t bend easily so in order to get him in and out of the car, the door has to be open all the way, whether he’s walking or riding. This is a huge part of the reason that there is that extra “dead” space between disabled parking spots. That extra space is really needed and besides, they aren’t quite as wide as a parking space. When you sneak into that spot for a quick pick-up, you are actually preventing the use of the two disabled spaces on either side; it’s as if you’ve parked in 3 parking spaces.
You are right; it is incredibly convenient to park up front. I can see my other child walk all the way to his coach without going far from my car. But then again, it’s more than convenience to me. If I have to go in with my other child or park elsewhere (I have to go way far away from other cars, remember, my doors have to open up all the way), I have a choice to make… am I going to unload equipment, unfold it all, and snap it together only to do all this in reverse when I return just a few minutes later, or am I going to bite the bullet and just carry my son in. Have you ever bought the economy-sized bag of dog food at Sam’s Club? It is 37.5 pounds of dead weight. It doesn’t help you carry it; it can’t wrap its legs around you and hold on. Well, my son is 55 pounds and growing every day. You would probably frown upon me if I slung him over my shoulder like a bag of dog food, but he too is dead weight and a large load to carry on my mommy frame. I’d carry him to the ends of the earth if I had to, but, frankly, I’d rather not.
My son would give anything to be out there playing with his siblings, his friends, and your child. Due to his disabilities, that will never happen. He loves to cheer from and follow along the sidelines. He dreams of the day that he can cross that white line and join the game. Every game he asks, “Today, can I play with my friends, too?” I would give anything to say yes, suit him up, and yell, “Hey, Coach, he’s going in!” I would give anything, including those special tags and that up front parking space. You see, it’s more than convenience to me.