You’re rushing, it’s raining and the supermarket car park is unbelievably packed. You’re only popping in for a couple of things. You’ll be a few minutes max, but there’s nowhere to park. Then through the drizzle you spot it, an empty space tantalisingly close to the entrance. It’s a disabled bay, but you’re going to be really quick. Surely it won’t matter if you park there just this once?
Well actually, perhaps it will. And in a bigger way than you might imagine. Whilst to you that space means missing a wet walk across the car park, it could be a big inconvenience to someone who’s blind or uses an electric wheelchair. How big an inconvenience? Well take my friend Carrie* for example…
Carrie and Tom’s story
Carrie’s a busy woman. She’s a single mum, works part-time and has a 14-year-old son called Tom. Tom’s a great kid – cheeky, alert, loves his iPad like most 14-year-old lads. Except Tom has cerebral palsy and this affects him physically. He can’t walk; he can’t talk and he has very limited mobility.
Carrie posted this on Facebook the other day:
‘Have just been screamed at by a woman in a car park because as I wheeled Tom past in his chair I pointed out she was in the only disabled bay. Apparently leaving two kids and a teen in the car to go shopping made her entitled!! Tom just ignored her rants and so did I. “You got the car parking space Mrs – do you want my son’s disability to go with it??!”’
Carrie and Tom had stopped at a supermarket on their way back from a trip out. The car park was really busy, but there was plenty of parking available on the street nearby. However, Carrie can’t park on the street because Tom accesses the car via a ramp at the back, and she’s been blocked in too many times to chance it happening again.
She eventually found a narrow spot in the far corner of the car park. The kind you’d avoid in a Matiz, let alone if you drive an adapted vehicle that Carrie describes as a van. So why had someone without a blue badge felt she needed that disabled spot so badly? And why did she get so angry when she was challenged? The conclusion Carrie came to was simply this – inconsideration.
Parenting a child with a disability
We all struggle as parents sometimes. Tantrums in shopping centres, juggling work, school and play dates, unexpected bouts of sickness at awkward times. Undoubtedly, there are times when parenting is difficult for everyone.
However, for parents of children with disabilities it’s even harder, with so much more to organise for just a quick trip to the shops.
For Carrie, life isn’t just a matter of managing work, school and after-school activities, she has a diary of appointments that she needs to keep track of. Tom’s condition requires regular visits to a dietician, physio, and neurologist, amongst others. Plus, he needs surgery every so often to help keep his muscles straight.
Out and about
The logistics of going out are fairly mind-blowing too. Tom’s condition requires equipment such as feeding syringes (Tom is PEG fed) and neckerchiefs to keep his clothes dry. They try to stick to places close to home because changing is a big issue. Carrie needs to check that places have a private changing area with a change stretcher, and ideally a hoist as it takes two people to lift Tom now.
But when we spoke, Carrie wasn’t complaining. She described their situation very matter-of-factly and was upbeat. She hardly grumbled, apart from when she spoke about people who take up parking spaces they’re not entitled to.
So next time you’re in a rush and tempted to take that spot, think about people like Carrie and Tom. They already have plenty to deal with, without losing one of the few perks that make their lives just that little bit easier.
*Names have been changed.
Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Chartwell and I hope it raises awareness for the issues that parents of disabled children face every day. Image credit: Steve PJ