To some people I think Disabled parking signs must appear to read ….”Parking for Blue badge holders AND People popping quickly into the shop, lazy, waiting to pick someone up, using the ATM or unable to find any other spaces, ONLY”!
The disabled parking bays are always the best. Close to the entrance, extra wide and often free of charge. I appreciate how tempting these spaces are, particularly if you are in a rush or the car park is full. However, to a person needing a wheelchair these wide spaces are essential, or if walking a long distance is a problem, a space close to the entrance is a necessity. I’ve actually driven away from places before because I can’t park in the disabled bays. I try to convince myself that all the spaces are being used by blue badge holders, but I know they’re probably not. I’ve seen people blatantly walk out of shops and back in to cars which are not displaying a badge, and they don’t care at all.
It’s the same with disabled toilets. I’ve waited outside them for ages before, only to see people come out with various things, including, toddlers, a mahoosive guitar and loads of clothes they’ve been trying on (I’m convinced those clothes were stolen, but I’ll never know). My wheelchair often can’t fit into the normal cubicles and there’s not always a safe place to leave it. I know that some disabled people need the toilet urgently, and waiting could cause them unfortunate problems.
The good news is that getting cross about parking spaces means I’m on the road again. (Yay!) The DVLA took my licence off me after I became ill, and then returned it to me with a clause saying I must drive an automatic car with hand controls. In August 2014 (11 months after I last drove) I had a two hour driving lesson, where I learned to drive purely using my hands. I’ve been driving for twenty five years, so to suddenly change what I’ve been doing all these years didn’t feel natural at all!
The driving lesson was invaluable, as a week later I picked up my new car. I was shaking like a leaf and sweating profusely as I drove it off the forecourt! My Dad is one very brave man for sitting in the passenger seat as I drove the 20 miles back to my house! I cross my ankles when I drive to stop my feet trying to get in on the action! My right hand controls the break, accelerator and indicators, whilst my left one steers with a steering ball. Wow, that ball can turn corners fast, I feel like a boy racer! After many sharp breaks and wheel spin accelerations, my hands have now got to grips with how much pressure is needed, and it is starting to feel natural. The down side is I often can’t thank other drivers for letting me out of junctions etc, as both my hands are occupied. I hope they notice me nodding my head and smiling! I don’t drive far because of my fatigue, but the freedom of having a car, and the feeling of being behind the wheel again is amazing.
I genuinely don’t think people mean to be cruel when they use the disabled bays or toilets. I think they are just being thoughtless or may be in a rush. They probably don’t appreciate the effect they could be having on someone who really needs them. That’s one of my reasons for starting this blog. I want to share awareness of the awful illness that is Guillain-Barré syndrome, and how life can be for a newly disabled person. Maybe if people are more aware of the difficulties and struggles we face perhaps they’ll park somewhere else or use a different toilet. Then they can walk that little bit further, happy in the knowledge that they are fit and able to do so!