Cerebral Palsy, Parenthood, Transportation

Handicapped Parking and Cars

I feel like I am coming down from a high caused by running around town, taking care of the fam, for the past two plus weeks. Today is my first day in the library in about a week and a half. It feels goooood to be sitting in the quiet with only the whir of the heater next to me, and the slight hum of the traffic outside the large window which allows a constant stream of gray sunlight reflecting off of the snow snow snow.

There has been a lot going on at our house (and around the world). I have specific subjects to report on but also just need to take a moment to breathe and collect my thoughts. The past two weeks have seen us at Sick Kids twice, for different procedures. We’ve had a couple trips to Bloorview Kids Rehab too for various clinics. Not to mention some therapies and seizures in the mix as well as working towards getting a car. Our very own car. Which we just brought home last night.

Do you know how difficult it is to get financed for a car when you are new to the country, have been out of the continent for a decade, and only have a visa for three years, which is now down to two and a half? Even if you plan to stay longer, it’s not in the paperwork so you certainly can’t get a loan for longer than the time remaining on your visa, minus a couple months so they don’t have to worry about you leaving early. As if. So imagine then finding a car that you can afford to pay off in this short time. It also needs to be a car that drives well in Canadian (and Michigan) weather. It needs to be a car that can not only fit a wheelchair/adapted stroller, but one that these items can easily be lifted into and possibly fit more than just that. The Nissan we were renting is not any of those things.

We recently got a handicap parking sticker for our rental car. Sebastian’s PT at school filled out the application for us. For those of you that think it’s awesome we can now have the big, close parking spaces, it’s bittersweet. Yes, it will make life a bit easier, but only after that initial feeling I had when I took a look at the form the PT completed to see phrases like ‘permanently disabled’ or ‘life-long disability’ or ‘severe impairments, unable to move independently’. So we got it and I don’t always use it. I always have it with us, but sometimes it’s not necessary to use it. Like at school where there is only one spot and at least a half dozen other parents that need it in the morning. If there is another space with room next to the car I try to use it, especially on the days where I’m just going to hang out at the library. Sometimes there’s just not enough spaces and we have to hope there is at least a spot, any spot, in the parking lot.

Let’s discuss the smaller car issue. Before winter hit, Sebastian and I took hour long bus rides to get to therapy and school. Sometimes the bus rides were longer. And the wait in-between busses got harder to bear as the winter chill set in. We discussed our need for a car and looked into purchasing and leasing a new one. It was not possible. We then decided to rent a car long term for a couple of months while we looked into the possibility of purchasing a used one. We got a midsize car because renting a cross-over was NOT affordable AT ALL. I mainly use Sebastian’s regular stroller for trips and school. Although we did get an adapted stroller donated to us, it was in need of a few adjustments and repairs so we didn’t take it out an about. And now I know how impossible it is to get that thing apart and into the trunk.

You see, despite using the regular stroller, I still have to have room next to the car to put Sebastian in, it’s not safe to do it behind the car, and it’s certainly not easy to get him in and out and his bag sorted without space next to the car. Another useful reason for handicap parking spaces, they are bigger. Yesterday I took Sebastian to Bloorview for a seating clinic (more on that next time). I needed to take his current adapted stroller (Kid Kart), that we mainly us for meal times, to the clinic to see if it could be fixed up or if we would go another route. Getting it from the house to the car was a challenge. The seat had to be unattached from the base and the base folded. I did this on the porch and carried each piece to the car. Both had to be shoved into the trunk while Sebastian watched cartoons inside. And then both had to be maneuvered out of the trunk and put together in the parking lot at the hospital. I was thankful for that extra space next to the car and realized that due to the size of this stroller, it would not be possible to put it up next to the car had we not been parked in the handicapped space. Not to mention how unsafe it would be to do behind the car in a busy parking lot. It was really frustrating putting it together and then taking it apart and re-stuffing it into the trunk (boot for you Brits and Aussies).

I finally got settled into the car and this woman walked by and gave me the dirtiest look. I could see it on her face. ‘How can you park here with such a small car?’ I wanted to cry. Not because I actually care what she thinks, but because it is so freaking hard to take apart an adapted stroller and shove it into the freaking trunk of a mid-sized car, not to mention needing the strength to lift it up. Then I looked across the way at the line of SUV’s parked in the other handicapped spots and saw a mother transferring her child from the SUV to his wheelchair and I think, it doesn’t matter what kind of a car you have. This is hard. Sometimes it’s harder than others. Everyone cannot afford an SUV or a van that has been adapted. But they need the space just the same.

My solution? Create more handicapped parking spaces. Or advocate for them if they aren’t there. NEVER park in a handicapped spot unless you have a sticker. And don’t judge someone before walking a mile in their shoes. We all know that saying. Let’s remember it. Get mad at the person in the spot without the sticker, not the person with the smaller car. Or don’t get mad at all. Really, it’s such a waste of energy that we generally need for things like taking care of our kiddos or having a good laugh.

Oh, and we got a 2005 Subaru Forester. The adapted stroller fits in the back with as much room left as it takes up. And the rest of the stuff going on? Well, I think there will be another post or two today for that.

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2 thoughts on “Handicapped Parking and Cars”

  1. Kara,
    I can totally relate to your handicap parking tales. My sister has had an incurable disease since I was like 12 and she looks perfectly typical but it is an internal disease combined with a severe life-threatening sun sensitivity. I would often drive her places. Drop her off at the door and park in the handicap spot with her plaque displayed. One time in Howell, at the old Arbor Drugs (I think that was the name), I did this and was dashing in and a person stopped me and said “Handicapped parking is NOT for the mentally handicapped” indicating that she thought that I didn’t appear to have a disability and that I was abusing the space. I have never been so enraged in my entire life. I shouted at her that what if I had a heart condition etc? I will never forget it. When my family moved to Minnesota, my sister has grown weary of the hassles with the handicapped parking and let hers expire.
    I just wanted to share that with you and that I enjoy reading your blog. It is wonderful how you can be a voice for parents like yourself. Just so you know, if I was walking by I would have offered to help you manhandle the stroller 🙂
    Take Care-
    Laura

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  2. You have every right to park in the disabled spot. I’m in the process of organising a disabled sticker for my 3 yo son who has cp. Whenever we go to playgroup or other group activities we have his pram, support seat, table & chair etc. Don’t make excuses or feel guilty about what you need to do to get Sebastian around. I can’t believe how similar my son Daniel and his disability is to Sebastian’s. I go for anything I can to help my son and stuff anybody who wants to pass judgement!

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