My wife and I have just returned from a work related conference and I have two experiences I want to share and ask for your help. I have written before about traveling as a caregiver and using a handicap accessible van. Two things kept happening to us on this trip that I want to share as a frustration and something you can help with.
The first experience, which we are experiencing more frequently it seems, is wheelchair accessible parking being inaccessible to us. I am not saying the spots aren’t there (well, occasionally we find places that have no accessible parking spots which is actually illegal depending on the size of the parking lot). What I am talking about is people parking in or overlapping the lined area that is set aside for wheelchair ramps. Motorcycles sometimes park in them, people with large trucks who park near the lined areas often overlap them, and some people just park very poorly and then overlap the lined area.
That lined area is set aside for accessible items like wheelchairs, walkers, lifts, and ramps. When someone parks in the lined space beside an accessible parking spot there isn’t enough room for the person in the accessible vehicle to safely enter or exit their vehicle. We have a van with a side wheelchair ramp. Other people have similar ramps, or lifts that slide out, or just need space for their wheelchair or walker to be beside the vehicle. Multiple times on this trip I parked in an accessible parking spot with a lined area beside it. We used it for our ramp to lower and Angie to exit the vehicle. Three different times this week we came back to find someone had parked in the next parking spot and overlapped the lined area. We did not have room to lower the ramp. I had to pull out of the handicap parking spot and move the van to a different location to lower the ramp and allow Angie to enter the van. All three times, the person who parked their vehicle had other parking spot options and had room to park in their spot without overlapping the lined space.
The second experience that frustrated us this week were businesses that claimed to be accessible but then had blocked their ramps or blocked their doors that were accessible. We were in tourist area in North Carolina, walking a boardwalk and could only enter two of over a dozen businesses. The most frustrating was one that had a wonderful ramp but when we went up the ramp and got to the doors they had a sign to use other door and had shelves against the door inside, we could see them through the glass doors. The other doors were up two large steps, inaccessible to our wheelchair. Another location had stuff piled on their ramp with signs to go around and use the stairs. We will not be returning to this location as it was not friendly to our wheelchair. Note, when businesses are not friendly to wheelchairs, they are also difficult for people with strollers.
I just wanted to share with you our experiences to give you a glimpse into the challenges of traveling with Multiple Sclerosis and what I must manage as a caregiver. Please encourage businesses you frequent to provide accessible parking and accessible entrances. Also, please respect accessible parking spots, providing them plenty of room.