Ever notice that it’s really hard to find handicapped permit parking at retirement homes? Just about every one I’ve been to has “Residents Only” parking up front, visitor parking in back forty, and no handicapped permit parking.
A couple of years ago I was scheduled to perform at a local retirement home. As is my habit, I drove by a week earlier to scope out the access (never, never assume that a place designed for people with temporary or permanent mobility impairments is going to be accessible – this includes nursing homes, hospitals, doctor’s offices, physical therapists’ offices, etc.). This home is in a densely built up area next to a busy intersection, and there was very little parking, all of it marked “Residents Only”.
So I went back to the office and called them on the phone.
“Hello, Happy Acres Retirement Home,” says a chipper young voice.
“Hello, I’m going to be visiting your facility and would like to know where your handicapped parking is.”
“Oh, residents can park right out front.”
“Yes, but I’m not a resident.”
A slight regret creeps into her voice, she has experience with would-be non-resident parkers. “Then you’ll have to park on the street, or in the county lot a couple of blocks away.”
Now call me a coward, but somehow I don’t like parking on a busy street and unloading my chair into oncoming traffic. And it was winter, so given the city’s track record on snow clearing, a couple of blocks away wasn’t going to be very practical, either. “Well, I use a wheelchair – is there somewhere closer I can park?”
Her voice brightens again. “Oh, residents can park right in front.”
“But I’m not a resident.”
Over the phone, I can hear the gears in her brain crashing to a halt. “I suppose,” she begins hesitantly, “you could park in the firelane.”
I try to sound surprised. “I’ll probably be there for over an hour – you don’t mind someone blocking the firelane for that long?”
She has found her track again. “Then I guess you’ll have to park on the street or in the county lot.”
Since clearly she is going to be unable to break out of her conviction that wheelchair user = resident (or inmate, as I like to think of them), I thank her for her excellent suggestion and hang up.