Pondering Illicit Usage of Accessible Spaces…

I was driving back from dropping Kid off at school today, and I noticed that a delivery truck at the public library was using the accessible parking and accessible ramp as parking and loading dock space…

We have been having some conversations about accessible parking spaces and the policing of those spaces, and the blocking of those spaces and/or using of those spaces by persons who do not need them or have the right to them.

What thoughts, have you, gentle readers, on this particular use of these spaces? I have seen this in other places around our base, though I can’t recall if I have seen such a thing in other non-base places, because I have just begun to notice them (perhaps this is a product of some kind of privilege of mine). Even if it is early morning, should delivery vehicles be taking advantage of these spaces like this?

About Ouyang Dan

is an extremely proggy-liberal, formerly single mommy, Native American, invisibly disabled, U.S. Navy Veteran, social justice activist and aspiring freelance writer currently living in South Korea on Uncle Sam's dime. She has a super human tolerance for caffeine and chocolate and believes she should use those powers for good. She said should. She is not a concise person, and sometimes comes on a little aggressively in comments. Sometimes her right arm still twitches when military brass walks past her, but she would rather be reading YA Lit or pwning n00bs. She can be found being cliche about music, overthinking pop culture, and grumbling about whatever else suits her fancy at her personal website, random babble.... She also writes about military issues for Change.org's Women's Rights blog. If you have something interesting to say email her at ouyangdan [at] disabledfeminists [dot] com. Lawyers in Italy looking to hold lottery winnings in her bank account may wait longer for reply.

28 thoughts on “Pondering Illicit Usage of Accessible Spaces…

  1. I find this one difficult… I can see far more why someone would need to unload in a space near the building than a TAB person just wanting to shave 30 seconds off their trip, so I’m less instantly clear on what I think… I think, broadly, that it would be better to have a separate loading space. But if this is not available, during non-opening hours I’d reluctantly say that the disabled parking is an okay alternative. During opening hours, however, I’d say that’s absolutely not okay.

    My view might be a little affected by my special pet peeve, which is cars parking across the cycle lanes near my house. I can understand trucks doing it to unload, and PWD doing it for accessibility reasons, but not TAB people. So I’ve already got a situation were those two subgroups get the same mental tick of approval.

  2. Speaking as someone who is able-bodied, and whose line of work involves a fairly regular requirement to load and unload large amounts of heavy equipment without the use of carts, hand trucks, or other stuff-moving conveniences:

    The only time I see using disabled parking spaces (or other accessibility features such as ramps) for loading/unloading area as legitimate, is when the establishment is closed for business, and no one is going to be using those spaces any more than they will be using any of the rest of the parking lot.

    If that’s not the case, well, I’m perfectly able-bodied, and perfectly able to carry something heavy a few dozen more feet. It’s really not the end of the world, and my laziness, or desire to have slightly less achy back and knees the next morning, doesn’t justify taking up space that’s intended for the specific use of people who don’t get around as easily as I do.

  3. Well, since you asked, TAB’s misuse of accessible parking really pisses me off. Everyone says “It’s just this once,” or “It’s just for a minute,” or “I’ll move if someone asks me to”–as if it’s safe to assume that someone with mobility issues is going to have the energy to park their car far away, walk up to the building, find the person illicitly parked, possibly risk getting into a confrontation with someone hostile, then walk all the way back to their car and park in the newly-freed spot, assuming the offending vehicle was actually moved. It reminds me of the whole “We’ll provide access when someone asks for it, but we don’t have any employees/customers/patrons with disabilities right now!” thing, which basically ensures that nobody ever asks in the first place, so it’s self-reinforcing.

    Of course, the most offensive response of all is “What’s the big deal?”, but many people are self-aware enough to not actually say that, even if they think it.

  4. It would depend on a number of things – is there a loading dock area that should have been used instead, was the library open to the public when the delivery truck was using those spaces, were there any other businesses close by and open whose customers/patrons would have needed those spaces? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then the delivery truck needed to move out of the handicapped parking spaces.
    Handicapped parking spaces are not meant for delivery drivers to use, that’s what loading docks and delivery entrances are for. If they have to use the front door, then use regular parking spaces and leave the handicapped spaces for the people who need them.

  5. This particular use ticks me off more than any. In my area the number one reason I cannot get a disabled spot is because of vehicles parked across, usually two, empty disabled parking spots. It happens frequently, and though I should complain to the place of business / delivery company, I never have the energy.

  6. The whole point of handicapped parking places is to make public places more accessible to people with walking-related disabilities. Simple, right? A public library is a public place, so it needs that kind of accessibility. This situation is different, because the library is NOT a public place before it opens in the morning. The doors are locked. Nobody goes in unless some kind of particular arrangement has been made (like for this delivery person, and the staff member who went in early to open the door and accept the delivery.)

    If “early in the morning” was just a few minutes before the library opens, then it could have been a problem. Somebody might have showed up right at opening time, wanting to use the library, and been unable to get to the door because the accessible parking and ramp were still blocked. But if “early in the morning” was long before opening time, I don’t see the problem. When you aren’t allowed to go through a door, requiring a ramp to get to it is just silly.

  7. adrian: no. the point of disabled reserved parking is that those spaces are reserved for the use of people with disabled parking permits. period. if the library or place of business or whatever determines that a loading zone needs to be reserved from parking spaces then they’re welcome to do that but not from the legally mandated disabled reserved parking.

    it is this kind of exceptionalist bullshit that leads to my having to speak angrily to people who are just using the disabled parking for a few minutes while they pick up / drop off someone or something and they are all defensive and pissed off that they are being called on using the disabled reserved parking for purposes other than that which it is meant for.

    it does not matter if the establishment is open for business or not. the disabled parking is reserved for those who have permits.

    and fuck your ‘just silly’. there are other reasons a person may need to use the ramp even after business hours. perhaps the person had materials to return and the after-hours return slot is by the door and can be accessed only by the ramp or the stairs and the inappropriate and illegal use of the reserved parking and the blocking of the means of access prevented that person from using the facilities because that person was disabled by the actions of the person making the delivery.

    you are wrong. there is never a valid reason for a vehicle without a parking permit to use the disabled reserved parking. there is never a valid reason to block access for some people (those who use ramps) and not others (those who use stairs).

  8. I would say no, it’s never okay, anywhere, even if the place is closed. The spaces are reserved for people with the proper stickers or placards, and a disabled person may want to use those spaces even after hours (when returning a book, putting a bill through a mail slot, looking in the windows at whatever’s for sale, etc.) I also think that making an exception emboldens anyone else who sees it to think that they, too, can make an exception for themselves, including during regular business hours. People can be incredibly childish; if they see a truck making a delivery before hours, and then park in the same space during the day and get called on it, they’re apt to say, “Yeah, but that’s not fair! The man in the big truck got to park in the space? Why can’t I? Whaaaaaa!”

    Who wants to deal with that? Better to keep it simple.

  9. I do not think that TABs should use parking spaces, ramps, etc designated for use by disabled people only. My sister, M, and my good friend, J, have disabled parking placards, since they both have Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome and often have trouble walking. It makes me very upset to see people without a disabled parking placard parked in space designated for disabled people. When M drives me around (I have chronic fatigue and often cannot drive), I get angry when we are forced to park in the back of a parking lot, simply because some jerky TAB does not care about people with disabilities. J once yelled at someone for parking in a disabled parking spot on one of the days she had to use her walking cane. The man just looked at her and said, “Damn angry cripple.” The general lack of respect for this issue angers me greatly.

  10. “This situation is different, because the library is NOT a public place before it opens in the morning. The doors are locked. Nobody goes in unless some kind of particular arrangement has been made (like for this delivery person, and the staff member who went in early to open the door and accept the delivery.)”

    Or the staff member who’s about to arrive to help set up (or all of the other examples listed). Weird how some people in this thread have not had it occur to them that staff might need accessible parking, too.

    I’m on the “no excuses” camp. If the library needs a loading bay/dock, they need to build a loading bay/dock. Blue parking isn’t general-purpose “I’ve just got a package”/”This is just a quick delivery”/”But it’s really heeeeavy”/I’ll just be five minutes”/”But I’m official!” parking.

  11. If the delivery person’s job requires a ramp, why don’t they have a ramp for deliveries? Occupational safety is relevant to everyone, and it shouldn’t be a case of driver’s safety impeding safety and accessibility for others (same for the trucks in cycle lanes).The delivery truck drivers that deliver to my workplace have commented several times that they appreciate the lack of stairs and open layout. Accessible design benefits everyone.

  12. I’m definitely with the majority here in saying that it’s not okay to use the parking space unless you actually need the parking space because you’re disabled.

    I think the ramp is a completely different situation: Where, when you use the accessible parking space you’re depriving someone use of their needed accessible space, as long as you check before you get on the ramp you very much are not depriving anyone of anything.

  13. I think there’s a difference between using the ramp and what was mentioned, which is blocking the ramp. I’ve personally had to deliver in an environment where making a heavy delivery meant either unloading a cartful of water-bottles onto a ledge and climbing up, or a long detour, and thought, “what do their disabled workers or customers do about this?”. It was quite a recent building as well — it looked like 1980s or early 1990s. (The Disability Discrimination Act didn’t pass here until 1995 and much of it wasn’t in force until 2004.)

  14. Hmmm…

    I don’t seem to recall mentioning that the library was closed.

    *rechecks post*

    Nope. Didn’t say so.

    In fact, it had just opened.

    And if Adrian, and any more of the Exceptioneers want to really know, the library happens to be in a strip of places that shove and share accessible parking where it isn’t the easiest to access to begin with, being really near the intersection, and difficult to get in and out of already. Add into this that the truck didn’t just park in one but was blocking them off. Any illicit usage is not OK. Even if the Library is closed, other places really nearby on the base are facilitated by that accessible parking. The after hours return slot is facilitated by that accessible parking. Staff who work in the library (like lauredhel already pointed out) are being erased from this conversation, as if they don’t have to park somewhere if their identity as a disabled person and a library employee are not mutually exclusive.

    Add to that, when I used to bartend, all of my distrubutors used to deliver beer in trucks that had their own ramps and hand carts for the purpose of moving heavy things easily, like kegs and cases, up stairs so they didn’t have to block accessible areas. Even if they didn’t, I have no objection to using a handcart on a ramp if they are not blocking the accessibility of anyone. Heck, I’ve used strollers and wagons on the ramp. Park your truck in a non-accessible space. Occupational safety is indeed a great responsibility. Make sure you are practicing it. Use a handtruck for heavy, difficult loads. I’ve even had to yank them up stairs. It is not the right of a TAB to block access to an accessible space for their own convenience. Ever.

  15. I wasn’t saying that a delivery person should think of their own safety before accessibility – I was saying that good design benefits everyone. No-one has the right to block access. Sorry if that was unclear.

  16. I was pretty much with there, Liliacigil. I can’t speak for every one else. My dad and grandfather were beer distributors. Good designs help everyone.

  17. I seem to have misunderstood the situation described in the original post. I’m accustomed to schools opening before 8am, and libraries opening after 9, so I thought the library was closed, even though Ouyang Dan had not specified one way or the other. And I’ve never seen a library in a strip mall, sharing accessible parking with other businesses. (Not driving tends to keep me away from strip malls.) I apologize for not being more considerate.

  18. It’s not a strip mall. It is a shared parking lot on a military post.

    And here is the thing that you are not getting.



    Why is this difficult to understand?
    It doesn’t matter where, when, or why.
    Accessible parking/spaces are off-limits if you are not in need of accessible parking/spaces. If you are not disabled, you are not in need of these spaces and should not be blocking access to them.

    It really is that simple.

  19. What about cars left in front of the ramps/curb cuts, like a ramp on a sidewalk? They’re illegally parked in the first place, but the tickets aren’t enough of a deterrent. I’ve wanted to harm said vehicles for being so selfish, but I’m too scared to even leave a note saying that they’re being selfish because a student using a wheelchair was late to class because you blocked the way.

  20. lilacsigil, “Accessible design benefits everyone.” Doesn’t it just!

    When my husband was in the graduate architecture program at UCLA from ’77-’79, the drafting studios were on the second floor. One of the graduate students had to drop out after his first year, because he just got tired of either having to ask other students to carry him/wrangle his chair up or down the stairs — and having to sleep in the studio on one occasion, as he didn’t realize he was the last one there! ARCHITECTURE school, where access design is a fundamental concern, for anyone, disabled or not, using a building.

    I’m betting that none of the other students in the program that year ever forgot about accessibility when they became architects. UCLA completed an elevator addition to that building the next year, but the transferred student was happily attending UC Berkley by then.

  21. Ditto to almost all: I hate it when anyone parks in, or across, or blocking HP parking, ramps, and curb cuts. And to do it, a lot of the time, they do several of these things at once.

    And yeah, the folks who seem to be guilty of this most often — so often that it seems like it’s just UNDERSTOOD that it MUST be OK — are delivery people and cops. All The Time. ALL THE TIME! AUGH! And it seems like the businesses are totally supporting the delivery people in doing it, so they don’t give a rat’s ass.

    And the cops, well, who’s going to call them on it?? Who’s gonna risk their safety or freedom over it?? I once was trying to use an HP space, and an (OFF-DUTY) cop (who was parked in it) came up to my window. I help up my placard. He held up his badge with a menacing look (he was in plain clothes) and made it clear I better leave. What could I do? Too bad for me that I don’t get to go to the pharmacy and get my meds, the cop needed to sit around in that spot, which was his usual sitting-around spot (NOT because he had an urgent call at that location — I’d see him there regularly both on duty and off). It still makes me angry, and it was years ago.

    And yeah, often there is just one or two HP spots for a whole number of stores, and if it’s being used for unloading or loading (business reasons, not access reasons), which usually also means blocking ramp or curb or entrance, etc., too bad for us! OK, now I’m so angry I need to eat chocolate.

  22. I work in a library. We get deliveries either before we open or right as we’re opening. There’s a curb outside the library that the delivery truck pulls up to, and right next to it, closer to the door, are the disabled parking spaces. They are SEPARATE places. How is that so hard?

    It’s situated, also, so that people often illegally park in the *delivery* zone rather than the disabled spaces, when they just need to run up to the book drop and drop something off, or whatever. So I don’t mind so much if they do that, even though it’s not a good idea (we’re right next to the police station!), because it’s not blocking the disabled spaces.

  23. @notemily – Your comment reminds me: Usually for loading spaces for stores, there is very bold signage saying, “NO PARKING here between the hours of X and Y or YOU WILL BE TOWED at your expense,” or whatever.

    I think (?) that must cut down on people illegally blocking the delivery or un/loading spaces. (It certainly used to dissuade me in a big way.)

    I have noticed that some HP signs say, “$100 fine” or “$500 fine” for parking without HP or veterans plates/placards. Others don’t indicate what the consequences are for violators. My sense is that these spaces, proclaiming the big fines, are less likely to be stolen than the ones without the warnings, but I have no concrete evidence.

    Does anyone know or have this sense (or think it makes no difference)?

  24. @Sharon,

    About a half an hour from where I live, there’s this huge parking lot, with lots of HP spots, but every single one says $500 dollar fine. I have not once seen a single person using one of those spots who didn’t need it. Whereas the spots in which there is no sign (or even the blue painted lines for wheelchair accessible space on the side), people feel that it’s okay to use the spot for moving, hanging out, waiting for people, or flat out parked illegally, etc.

    As for the main point, it is never alright to use or block HP spots unless you are disabled. I have no problem with people using the curb cuts so long as they’re continuously moving and not blocking people’s way up/down it.

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