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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Restoring Faith in People

I truly was bothered by my experience over handicapped parking that I wrote about. Today I was doing errands and came across a common problem--shopping carts filling up handicapped parking spots. One strip mall in Connecticut is particularly bad in this regard.  The strip mall has a Trader Joe's, big box office store, and Rite Aide among other smaller shops. As I was pulling out of handicapped parking I saw a woman leave her shopping cart. I thought do I or don't I? Do I really want to risk being called a "bitter" man whose soul is rotten? Wow, what a difference a day makes. I rolled down my window and said excuse me, "Do you know that if you leave the cart with all the others it will make the spot useless for most people with a disability"? The response was "I had no idea. I am sorry. I will never do that again." I added that I have asked store owners to try and stay on top of the carts blocking handicapped parking. No change has taken place. This woman replied "I am going to complain every time I go to Trader Joe's. I will also move the carts whenever possible". This seems to be the appropriate response if not a bit over the top. Friendly and pro active is a good thing. Even if she never complains and simply moves one cart from handicapped parking progress has been made. Perhaps she will tell others. In my dreams a veritable snowball going down hill will be created.  I will never see a shopping cart in handicapped parking. Sadly this is grossly optimistic but a man can dream. And I want to note I did not make a single complaint about why twenty plus years after the ADA was passed into law I still need to educate people about disability.


Eric Fischer said...

We all have our own particular level of awareness or frame of focus. I find it difficult to believe she was truly oblivious to the act but rather was so embarrassed and tried to overcompensate. I nearly got into a scuffle the other day with a man, who naturally had a loud voice as he stood not one foot away from me and proceeded to bellow into the phone. I told him to not shout in my ear and that it was not very considerate for the others standing there as well. His first response was, "so leave". Next was, I didn't do it on purpose but when I said, look around you once in a while and you will find you are not alone in the world. His response was, "you look like the kind of guy who needs a quiet place, you know what I'm talking about, indoors where they give you medication."
I thought, what a sad little man who thinks aggression is the answer every time.

Middle Child said...

A good response - I do things like this - going and complaining - politely to start with. Sometimes my kids used to get a bit embarrassed but they are following suit these days. You take the risk of course of some thug wanting to take a swipe at you - I still have in my glove box some paper signs we would put under the windscreen wipers of those we knew where parking who had no disability. Had to be careful as some people are really frail but can still walk but when you see a carload of tradesmen hope out and run across to the cafe for lunch... or a group of teens do the same - I figure if you can run you don't need it...

Elizabeth McClung said...

"I want to note I did not make a single complaint about why twenty plus years after the ADA was passed into law I still need to educate people about disability."

I imagine black americans wonder the same regarding the 235 year old entrenched constitution statement about equality when MIT studies show that simply having an african american name on your resume makes it almost twice as hard to get a job interview.

I have found, personally, that individuals who consider the implications of actions or inactions outside of what affects them directly are rare. Sadly that includes those who enforce the law also. As regular fines to Trader Joe's when the space is not available for use would likely cause it to be added to the daily work tasks.

Before using a wheelchair, I did not consider myself entitled, nor particularly anti-disability. In tutoring and employment I worked with those with disabilities for 20+ years. But I wouldn't have cleared the parking space unless asked. Those weren't my friends, wheelchair users were not part of my experience so I wouldn't have even noticed. Now I thank stores who have aisles large enough to wheel through.

I don't know if people can or will ever want to be culturally aware of all the needs, often already a law, of the people around them. Even in the disability community there is often disinterest in the types of accessability needed for those with disabilities not similar to our own. So for myself, in the hopes of changing the standard behavior is a mix of the carrot and the stick. The law is the stick, and I can try to influence as the carrot.

This is not to say that I don't get angry. But if I use my chair to smash merchandise in store where the aisles are far under ADA standards, I am sure that the law regard vandalism will be brought against me long before the owner of the store faces costs or charges about systemic inequality towards people with disabilities.

Moose said...

At a former job, in the winter, the snow was shoveled and left in the blue borders of the handicapped spots. Because "cars don't park there, so what's the difference?"

It took a bunch of complaints before that stopped. More fun: my boss refused to accept "I cannot safely get out of my car" as a valid excuse to work from home. I was using a quad-cane and still slipped and fell in the lot a bunch of times.

Jo Kelly said...

It is common sense! One does not need to be educated or have any kind of awareness training to see that the designated parking is the LAST place you should be leaving your cart. I give people shit for it all the time, especially when the parking place for carts is one aisle over and would take all of a minute to return properly. Laziness! Even the "I have to get my loonie back" didn't work all that well - in Canada most places you have to plug a loonie in to get a cart then you get it back once you've returned it. It did make the situation better but not completely.

Jo Kelly said...

Sorry to my American friends! A loonie is a dollar.

william Peace said...

Eric, If I could un-invent one thing in my life it would the phone, especially cell phones. And yes we all have a awareness frame of reference.
MiddleChild, Your comments reminds me of my son when he was little. He suppported me when I would lodge a complaint. Fast forward and he now does the same thing. Makes me proud.
Elizabeth, Good point r.e. black people. Obviously this is the case with any population that is subjected to discrimination. More generally when a person with a disability is discrimnated agaist there is a disconnect between "the disabled" as a catergory and the person subjected to discrimination. No one is "against the disabled". Yet when discrimination takes place, where a person with a disability has such an experience it it thought to be singularly unusual and dismissed as an anomoly. This was at the root of the terrible NPR story anti-disability rhetoric.
Jo Kelly, You canadians and your coins! What a pain in the ass. We americans love our dollar bills.
Moose, I have no doubt your emplyer has no idea he is being discriminatory. Stories such as yours are maddening. I once had an employer pain my office and provide a great desk as an accommodation. This was not necessary or requested. Yet when I asked about a bathroom I was told there was one on a different floor. It took 10 minutes to get to the bathroom. An accessible bathroom where I worked was instantly dismissed as too costly.

Taradharma said...

I was in a wheelchair for a mere three months several years ago. Boy did that experience open my eyes and expand my awareness. I was in a building that had accessible restrooms on the first floor only, and I was on the second floor. Luckily, my job as a construction project manager enabled me to correct this situation when the bldg was undergoing seismic upgrades. Ditto the cracked and root bound walkway up to the building. Got that sucker fixed too. Maybe everyone should spend a few months in a wheelchair!

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