There are certain actions people do every single day that whether they realize it or not make it more difficult for those of us living with a disability. There are laws in place to address some of them but there are also some other examples that aren’t written rules but that everyone should attempt to abide by. Often it is adults that break these, and it is in front of children. This in turn teaches them that it is ok to do these things.
Here are some examples of things that if you don’t have a disability or should keep in mind.
Do not ever park in a handicap parking stall unless you have a sticker/disabled license plate. There are no excuses for this. It is so frustrating when someone is parked there because it’s convenient for them, they just need to run inside quick to get something or they just don’t feel the laws apply to them. Unfortunately, I see this happen, especially at my children’s schools, every single week. I personally can’t walk on crutches on the snow and ice, so I can’t walk my child up to school. I need to park as close as I can to the buildings to make sure that I can get inside as safely as possible. I try to educate people and ask them not to park there. I have talked to the school about it and they have sent out reminders, yet people still do it. I am going to be writing a letter to the editor of our local paper to try to educate more people but have also talked to our local law enforcement and told them about how often I see it and that I have started to take pictures of people’s license plates that are parked in stalls without a sticker or plate. They told me I can call them, and they will address it with the person whether it’s a warning, asking them to move or ticketing them if needed. I would rather not get people in trouble but to get them to change their behavior. I hope that by raising awareness it will help.
Even if you have a sticker and you are having a good day it doesn’t mean that you have to use it. I have had a sticker since I was 15 years old and, on the days, when I felt good I wouldn’t even use the handicapped parking unless I had to in case there was someone worse off than I was. Remember though that just because someone may not look disabled to you it doesn’t mean that they aren’t. They may have pain that you can’t see, or they may be able to walk into the store quickly but half way through they run out of energy and need their car parked close. As long as they have a sticker or disabled plate they have the right to park there.
If you are in the bathroom and there are other stalls open leave the handicapped stall open and available. I often see people use it and hear kids admit that they use it because it’s a bigger bathroom. While this is true it is for those that need assistance or to fit a wheelchair/ scooter into the bathroom. If there are no other stalls left and there isn’t a person that needs assistance use it but try to be quick.
I have also been to schools that don’t have doors on their handicap bathroom stall. I can see how this may be easier for those working with the students to get in and out of the bathroom, however it is a public place, so privacy is a huge concern. Would you want to use a bathroom without a door on it?
If you see someone who looks like they may need assistance don’t be afraid to ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no. I have been told that people are afraid they will offend me if they ask me for help. I hate having to constantly ask for help so it’s a welcome relief when someone sees me struggling and offers to help.
If you see something in your environment that you feel would be helpful for people living with disabilities don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate. The more voices are heard the more changes will be made.
If you oversee designing, building or setting up a store or devices consult with or better yet have someone with a disability on your staff to evaluate whether it is helpful. Also have someone with a disability go through your business to see whether it is disability friendly. If you don’t have a disability you won’t be able to look at it through the same lens as someone who does.
Remember that kids are always watching and learn from your behavior. Be a good role model and show them how to help make others lives easier whether you are around or not.