Wisconsin lawmakers are considering raising the fine for handicap parking abuse from $350 to $500 and raise penalties for anyone "who produces, copies or sells fake parking cards." A spokesperson from Disability Rights Wisconsin "says the tougher fines and stricter enforcement will help discourage people who continue to abuse these cards."
This weekend after I lowered the ramp on the side of my van and started to roll down, a man whose SUV was parked in the adjoining handicap spot walked toward the driver's side door of his car, stood there tapping his foot and told me to hurry up, that he needed to get into his car.
I was down the ramp by then. I turned my wheelchair, looked at his car and saw no handicap placard or license plate. I realized I could have called the police to report the car, but he was going to leave as soon as I left, so that wouldn't do any good.
So I said "Well, since you have a disability, you understand that this" - and I pointed at the blue hash marks- "is for van access, right?"
He said "No, no, I need to leave."
I began to raise the ramp on my van - slowly. I continued "I'm just saying that since you're disabled too, you understand that these spots are for those of us who have specialized equipment. You do have a disability, right?"
My ramp was raising up in the air. The man looked toward his wife, who was in the car gesturing him to go, but he couldn't get into his car and so he said "Yes, yes I'm disabled or I wouldn't be parked here."
"Exactly," I said. "That would be illegal for someone who isn't disabled or doesn't have the right placard to park here. And certainly for them to rush someone who is disabled would be-" I hesitated and added "completely, utterly outrageous."
He looked at me, but said nothing. Inside the car, his wife had opened the driver's side window and leaned over to join in telling me to rush. He hushed her.
"So you understand?" I said.
"I understand," he said.
My ramp chose that moment to clunk into place. I hit the button to close the doors on my van, then locked it and rolled off.
"What was that about?" my mother asked as we went through the parking lot.
"Just a little disability awareness," I said.
And this kind of incident is why I'm all for raising the fines and better enforcement with the number of times I run into people who have no placard or plates taking up handicap spots, not to mention those who use others' placards illegally.