Employers gave my family time off when I first had my stroke, but they did not do this indefinitely. Yet daytime visits to the doctor, therapy, and dentist that require waiting never end. There are trips that cannot be put off, like going to the bank, grocery store, and pharmacy. There are trips that take extra time like trying on new clothes. Driving stroke survivors everywhere makes it difficult for family to help us stay in our homes. Providing transportation is a source of stress that wears a family down. This puts a disabled person one step closer to a long-term care facility.
Long-term care costs $70,000 to $100,000 a year* so families spend their savings quickly. Guess what happens when I exhaust all my financial assets? I qualify for Medicaid and your taxes pay for my long-term care. If I were 90 I would not feel so guilty because how much longer could I live? But I am 70 so taxpayers could pay for my long-term care for decades. Being trained by an OT who is certified in handicapped driving, passing the on-the-road test, modifying my car, and driving safely for twelve years has helped me save thousands of dollars by staying in my home.
Handicapped parking is more than being close to the door. A wider parking space is also important. It is difficult to open a car door without hitting the car next to you in a regular parking space. Able-bodied people solve this problem by leaving the cart at the back of their vehicle and walking the bags to the open car door. This is a fall hazard for me because I have poor balance. The wide space lets me pull the cart up to my open car door to unload my bags.
A wide parking space is important for another reason. If I open my car door only two feet when I get in and out of the car, it is hard to maneuver a heavy leg brace that will not let me point my toes. A wide parking space is especially important for someone in a wheelchair. They need the car door to open widely so they can get in and out of the wheelchair that is sitting next to the car. A van with a side lift that lowers a wheelchair to the ground needs even more space.
Bottom Line: You want disabled people to drive and use handicapped parking because it helps us stay out of expensive long-term care facilities. The next time you borrow granny's handicapped parking tag remember -- you are making your taxes go up.
*To see what long-term care costs in your state click on this survey. Notice the column that shows how much inflation increased costs in a five year period.