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MARTHA MUZYCHKA: Respect in short supply with blue zones

Blue zone parking. - Stock
Some people are oblivious to the fact that blue zone parking is reserved for those who need it. — 123RF Stock photo

Last Saturday, my husband and I ran multiple errands. At one point, we stopped for coffee.

While looking out the window, I saw a truck park partly on a blue zone spot and partly on the walkway leading to the shops. About a minute later, having completed the errand, the truck driver departed. About a minute after that, I saw a cab come up and do the same.

Both instances took only a minute, the same excuse proffered by a driver whose bad manners and illegal act went viral on Facebook earlier this week. In that case, that driver parked on the entirety of the zebra zone designated for people who need the extra space to accommodate ramps and wheelchairs.

Lisa Power Mackey, the mother of a child who uses a wheelchair, was unable to use her ramp as the illegally parked truck blocked the passage allotted for this purpose. She was also unable to get her child in the van safely by any other means.

This is not an unusual event. I have seen people park in blue zones outside daycares, banks, drug stores, restaurants, etc.  Several years ago, before I had a cellphone with a camera, I witnessed a driver park every day in a blue zone outside a children’s summer camp. Their vehicle did not have a blue permit.

On the third day, I ran into this person as they approached their car. I asked them if they knew their spot was a designated blue zone. “Yeah, so?” was the reply. I told the driver they needed a permit as this was a spot reserved for people with disabilities. “Well,” they said, “you can f--k off.”

It occurred to me that if I got this kind of reaction, what happens when people with disabilities try to draw attention to the issue?

Turns out they get all kinds of reasons to justify illegal and disrespectful behaviour. In P.E.I., the Council of People with Disabilities told the Journal-Pioneer, they’ve heard “I have to pick up a heavy item,” “I didn’t know I can’t park here” and “I’ll move if someone needs the space,” among other reasons.

The idea that people with disabilities need to live their lives on abled people’s terms is pretty presumptuous.

While many people supported Power Mackey in the comments on her post, there were also quite a number who said she should just back out into the laneway, assuming the issue was as simple as that. To do that though, she would have to leave her child unattended, creating an even more unsafe situation. As it was, that is exactly what she had to do with the assistance of Costco staff.

The big picture problem is that most of the egregious examples of rudeness, insensitivity and illegality (a ticket for parking without a permit in a blue zone can cost you big bucks!) demonstrate an ableist lens. Or as one of my favourite sayings goes, to the person holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Ergo, if you don't have difficulties backing up and pausing traffic, then no one else will either.

But that’s foolish and dangerous thinking. I am struck by the lack of consideration and the sheer thoughtlessness that people bring to their interactions with individuals in society who may be different from themselves.

Here’s a good example: last spring, I read a tweet (since deleted but preserved via screenshot) by Daniel Lawson, who said “disabled parking should be valid during business hours 9-5 Monday to Friday. I cannot see any reasons why people with genuine disabilities would be out beyond these times.”  The tweet was retweeted by Jennifer Roseman, who said, “We’re disabled, Daniel, we’re not werewolves.”

The idea that people with disabilities need to live their lives on abled people’s terms is pretty presumptuous. It doesn’t take much to be responsive and respectful. Nor does it require a huge amount of work to be kind and considerate.

The next time you have a quick errand, be mindful where you park. Be respectful of the ways an inclusive society ensures everyone can access the services available.

Martha Muzychka writes and lives in St. John’s. Email: socialnotes@gmail.com


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