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Disabled Parking is a Game Changer for Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
01/14/19  12:09 PM PST
Disabled Parking

Our son can walk, and so can my husband and I, so it probably just seems silly, or even entitled, that we use a designated disabled parking spot at the front of the lot. Why would we go through the effort of having a doctor fill out a certificate every few years and stand in long lines at state offices to get an accessible parking placard for our child with a disability?

Like many people with Down syndrome, my son, Ben has hypotonia, low muscle tone, so he lacks endurance and fatigues easily. He also has multiple health conditions, and at any given time he could be experiencing a health flare up or be recovering from a medical procedure.

At the two children’s hospitals that we frequent for appointments and procedures, the walk from the parking ramp to the offices is lengthy. Ben might be able to make it into the building and up to the offices, but it’s a big might. Often, we cluster appointments together, making for a long day. By the time he has had two or three appointments and ends the day with a blood draw, my son is exhausted. We use his wheelchair for such outings, and even if he doesn’t need it first thing in the morning, by the end of the day, he absolutely does.

The same goes for a trip to the zoo, the park, or any other family outing. On those days my son needs to use his limited energy for play, rather than a long walk from the parking lot. We let him hop out of his chair, run and jump and play, and get back in when he’s ready. Since he spends so many days sick or attending appointments or procedures, family fun days are even fewer and more precious, so we want to savor them. If we can add an extra hour to a family outing by using a wheelchair and accessible parking place, it seems foolish to do otherwise.

The next logical question is that if we have a wheelchair, then why can’t we just push him the extra distance to a regular parking spot? Sometimes we do, especially if my husband is with us. However, the extra space next to the disabled parking spaces (also known as accessible parking spaces) means that on the days when Ben needs it, we can push his wheelchair right up to his door of the van, and help him in. If the weather is in any way inclement, the parking lot can be especially difficult to navigate with a wheelchair. Though it should go without saying, we don’t abuse this privilege by using the placard when it isn’t necessary.

The importance of disabled parking for kids with disabilities might not be obvious, but it’s real. For both the parents and the kids, whether for medical appointments, pleasure, or even running errands, accessible parking is a game changer.

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.

Follow her on Facebook.

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