By: Jeff Butler, Vantage Mobility International
Since 2008, March 1 has been acknowledged as National Wheelchair Day. It was founded to celebrate the freedom that wheelchairs give to those who use them, helping them to overcome any mobility issues and travel as they please.
However, many wheelchair users run into accessibility issues when trying to go about their daily business, particularly when they are using their Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) to park and access a business or public building. I’ve heard many complaints and frustrating stories from our customers who are so excited to experience greater independence in their new WAV, but then are unable to park at their destination because of uninformed or negligent drivers and unnecessary barriers.
For able-bodied drivers, there are many things that you can do to ensure that someone driving a WAV has full accessibility to their destination:
- Never park in an accessible parking spot. Even if you think it’s going to be “just a minute,” you are taking away often the only parking space that allows WAV drivers and passengers to safely make it to their destination. These spaces are close to the building entrances for more than just a matter of convenience, they are provided to ensure the safety for everyone.
- Don’t abuse or misuse an accessible parking permit. Maybe you have an expired accessible parking permit used during an injury, or you know a friend or family member who has one. Using an expired permit or one that doesn’t belong to you continues to take away access for someone to park their WAV.
- Avoid obstructing accessible parking spaces. It may be tempting to leave your shopping cart in the wide open space surrounding an accessible parking space, but doing so will prevent a WAV user from being able to exit their car. Many WAVs are equipped with side entry ramps that need the extra space provided to fully deploy. Without that space, the passenger is unable to use the parking spot to exit the vehicle and must look for other options.
- Be considerate when parking next to accessible spaces. When parking near or next to accessible spaces, make sure that your car is not obstructing the path of a WAV to be able to fully use the space and deploy their side-entry ramp. Giving a little extra space will also ensure that there are no accidental bumps or scrapes to your vehicle, as well.
Remembering these tips will ensure that wheelchair users and WAV drivers can experience full freedom and independence, keeping with the spirit that Wheelchair Day was founded on.
Jeff Butler is a Paralympic silver medalist and a motivational speaker. Jeff is also a contributing writer for Vantage Mobility International (VMI), one of the largest manufacturers of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) and wheelchair vehicle conversions. To learn more, go to jeffpbutler.com and vantagemobility.com.
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