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The Frustrations of a Handicapped Parking Tag User on Campus

I have a disability called rheumatoid arthritis. RA is a chronic autoimmune condition that you can learn more about here:  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648  My illness is often unnoticed because I do not have any visible impediments (unless you look closely). I want to share some of the struggles I face when using my handicapped parking tag. 

 

1. The tag itself was difficult to obtain.

When I started college in the fall, I purchased a regular commuter parking sticker for the back of my vehicle, so I could park on campus. It was not until months later I received a parking ticket for parking in a handicapped zone. I was confused as to why I was fined because I had my handicapped tag hanging on my rearview mirror. When I went to the university traffic office, I was told state-issued hanging tags were not acceptable on campus, and I would have to purchase a different decal, pay the parking ticket, and have proof from my doctor I actually needed a handicapped zone sticker. Talk about a hassle! It eventually worked out in the end, but I think it was a much more difficult process than it had to be.  

2. There are not enough accessible spots on campus.

Several times a week when I go to park in a handicapped zone, all of the spots are filled. This leaves me to either park far away in student parking zones or to find an empty faculty space and cross my fingers I do not get a ticket. I take photos of the filled handicapped spots in case I get a ticket, so I can show why I parked in faculty parking. The university has a record of how many handicapped parking tags they have issued, so I think they should know how many spots they need. 

3. Not all of the spots are van-accessible.

I do not use a wheelchair to get around, but there are plenty of people who do. This is not a struggle that pertains to me, but it is a struggle that pertains to a lot of handicapped tag users. Have you noticed the diagonal lines beside some accessible spots? Those are for ramps so wheelchair users can get in and out of their vehicles. In multiple places on campus, there are no van-accessible spots for people to use. If someone cannot get out of their vehicle, he or she may not attend class or other events. 

4. I get strange looks from people walking by.

Like I have stated above, I do not have any visual impediments that would lead anyone to believe I need to park in a handicapped space. When people see me, they see a typical college student. However, what they do not know is every step is painful, so the shorter the walking distance is the better. I have experienced several times getting dirty looks from others as I am entering or exiting my vehicle while parked in a handicapped spot. I strongly believe that you cannot judge a book by its cover, and this definitely applies to invisible disabilities as well. 

5. Not everyone who uses the spots has a handicapped sticker or hanging tag. 

As I have talked about before sometimes I go to park in an accessible space, and there are no spaces available. After some observation, I have noticed that not all of the vehicles parked in the handicapped spaces have stickers or tags. Maybe they haven’t gotten a sticker yet, and they do need to park there. Maybe they just were running inside for ten minutes, so they parked there for convenience (which is not cool). I do not know what is going on in his or her life, so I try to not get too frustrated with it. However, it is rude to park in a handicapped space if you do not actually need it. 

These are a few of the struggles handicapped tag users face. I hope to have brought more awareness to those who do not use accessible spaces. I also hope to have let fellow handicapped tag users know they are not alone in the struggle. I wish you all the best!

Anna Claire Amidon

Louisiana Tech '24

AC is majoring in accounting. When she is not studying, sleeping, or shopping, she enjoys showing her horse Julio in dressage competitions.
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