Let’s end the stigma around the placard, and the need for accessible parking.  I’ll never forget the first time I hung it on my rear view mirror and proceeded to get out knowing people may think ‘oh she’s young why does she need a placard’ only for them to see me lift out a 20+ lb wheelchair and then my 40lb child, and then the dreadful responses of ‘oh that must suck to have a handicapped child’.

Firstly, a more accepted term today is ‘child with a disability’ or ‘child who uses a wheelchair’.  Secondly, why couldn’t the world think, at least she has a placard to get her son who may have poor circulation from not being able to walk to the door quicker, or at least she has more elbow room so she doesn’t ding 5 more cars (kidding that never happened) but seriously, are we just wired to say and think the most negative thoughts when it comes to change or different?

What thoughts go through your head when you see a placard? Do you look at the symbol in stalls and think it’s just for ‘seniors parking’?

A parking placard allows people who cannot walk 50 metres (164 feet) to use disabled parking stalls.

A person with a temporary disability, such as someone receiving chemo treatment or other medical treatments can be issued a temporary permit to provide accessibility during a specific timeframe (these are red in colour). This is a reminder that not all disabilities are visible and you do not need to be a wheelchair user to have access to accessible parking stalls.

Did you know there are different kinds of accessible parking spots?  Some stalls have a striped “access aisle” on the passenger side that is at least 5 feet wide, allowing room for a ramp to deploy, while others are just your standard 8 feet.

According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, more than 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over (22% of the population) identify as having a disability, and it is expected actual numbers are likely higher. That is 1 in 5 people, not including children or caregivers who may need accessible parking.

Things to know about keeping accessibility in the community

Removing snow from a sidewalk also entails removing snow all the way down the accessibility ramp (curb cut) to the road.  Snow should never be piled here, these curb cuts help people with mobility challenges to cross the street.

I’ve learnt from the adults in the disability community how challenging this really is and a friend could not access anything more than a block away last winter because the City of Edmonton continued to pile snow at the curb cut.

The same goes for curb cuts at store fronts and schools, there’s always an access ramp and it should never be blocked by a running or parked vehicle.

Do not put discarded shopping carts in a disabled parking space or the striped loading zone beside it.

Never park on the striped lines/no parking area located beside a disabled‐accessible parking stall. It’s an important loading and unloading zone for those using wheelchair lifts and/or assistive devices to get in and out of their vehicle.

Don’t assume that the child or person can’t walk, they may be able to walk for short periods or use a walker for assistance.

Preferred Terminology

In speaking with adults of the disability community, it is agreed that the term ‘handicapped’ is very much a dated and NOT so much a preferred term today.  You may notice some parking spaces still say Handicap Parking, but newer ones are just the symbol.

A preferred term is ‘accessible parking’, in some States they call it ‘universal parking’.  The same goes for accessible bathrooms, the term handicapped is NOT recommended.  Stalls available to persons with disabilities is also ok.

If you are a new parent or person with a disability in need of accessible parking

It can be done at any time by talking to your doctor and filling out the appropriate paperwork. We did not have Vincent’s wheelchair prior to getting a placard.

Residents of Alberta

Step 1. Fill out an application


Step 2. Get the application approved

The application may be approved by an authorized healthcare provider, such as a:

  • physician
  • occupational therapist
  • physiotherapist
  • surgeon
  • physical therapist

To the new parent who may feel embarrassed to hang that placard on the rear view, know that you are not alone in going through the waves of emotions.  Your child see’s you are brave, and anything to help make appointments or loading and unloading just a little bit easier is well worth pushing through the awkwardness.  It all becomes a new type of normal eventually!

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