Running errands with my son was a lot easier when he was smaller. I could scoop him up out of his car seat, stick him on my hip, and walk into a store. He could comfortably fit into the shopping cart seat, and I could go about my day. Now that he is 5, he’s almost 50 pounds and over 3.5 feet. He’s more than half my size at this point, and I can’t stick him on my hip and carry him for more than a few feet these days. Forget about fitting him in the shopping carts. He’s too long and cumbersome to be in a shopping cart safely.
With the help of his doctors, he was fitted for a wheelchair, and it’s been amazing for him and our family. We can go to events now without having to worry about him running out of energy, and his life has opened up in all the places we can go. At the same time, his Physical Medicine and Rehab Doctor or PMR doctor filled out paperwork so we could be issued a Disability Placard for parking. The state issued us a permanent placard that has to be renewed every six years.
I was excited to get the placard, and I was hopeful this would make traveling easier. As a teen and young adult, I use to stare at envy at the empty accessible parking spots that sat at the front of a parking lot. Now I have to time nearly all of our outings to make sure there will be lower amounts of traffic because these spots are in high demand.
Some retail and commercial planners do an excellent job of designing parking lots, so there are enough spots, enough space for van accessibility, and enough room to load and unload a chair. Other planners have me scratching my head on the choices they made in designing the spots. The worst offender of them all…..
Cruising up and down a Wal-Mart Parking lot, you will find a layout of parking spots that makes absolutely no sense. There will be one side where there are 3-4 spots side by side, and the other side will be marked off and have one or two places that are situated parallel to traffic. Not only does the layout make no sense, but there is an excess amount of space set aside for loading where no car would load or unload a chair. In a store that has likely hundreds if not thousands of spots, there ends up being maybe a dozen spots available for customers that have legal placards or plates. This makes getting a spot highly competitive.
A quick google search of “Disability Parking Spots at Walmart” will link you to numerous articles of fights and arrests that take place in the parking lot because of the lack of spots. If you don’t believe me, here are some links….Enjoy!
You can also pop on over to Youtube, and you will find dozens of videos of fights and parking fails at Walmart. In some cases, people will resort to parking on the diagonal yellow lines.
This photo was taken by a friend after a man parked there and promptly told my friend it was ok for him to park there.
The layout of these lots are terrible, but now let’s talk about the size of the spots. Unless you drive a compact car, many of the places designated for disability parking are not fit for vans, trucks or SUVs that are carrying wheelchairs. Imagine trying to fit a Ford F350 in one of these spots:
Clearly, a truck the size of an F350 won’t fit in these tiny spots, and it certainly isn’t helped by the fact that there is little to no division between the two spots. Throw in another car parking over the lines, and you are absolutely screwed.
We drive a Mid-Size SUV and have a hard time finding spots that will fit our car, and today we saw not a single spot available. We were forced to find a place in the back of the parking lot, unload his wheelchair, and then find a way to safely transfer him into the chair without him getting hit or obstructing traffic. There is a reason the loading areas are needed for kids and adults with chairs. My son’s chair is close to 40 pounds. When we take it out of the car, we need to put the chair together. Upon loading the car, the chair needs to be broken down and stored in our SUV. All of this takes space that a typical spot cannot support.
There have been numerous times I have driven around an entire Walmart parking lot, and I have stalked and waited for anyone to leave so I could get a coveted spot. I will also admit that when I’m alone if I can’t find a spot, there will be times we leave the store without going in. The only way I have been able to get around this issue is by using their online grocery pick-up. This option is fantastic, but there are times I need to physically go into the store and see the merchandise before I purchase.
Walmart is not a corporation lacking in funding. I cannot get my head around how they ever decided to make their parking lots this inaccessible and difficult to use. You would think given the fact that they pride themselves on having the LOWEST PRICES, they would realize that many of their customers may be mid to lower income with disabilities hoping to spread their paycheck a little bit further than a trip to Target.
While I will continue to shop there due to economic necessity, I plan to avoid the stores on weekends and evenings. The only way I am ever assured of finding a spot is in the morning when the stores are sparsely populated with customers. I wish Wal-Mart knew just knew how poorly they designed their parking lots and how difficult it becomes for their customers with disabilities.
With that said – Hey Wal-Mart, You are doing Disability Parking Wrong.