Dear fellow Mum or Dad,
The school run can be the most stressful part of a parents day, what with unpredictably (or predictably) uncooperative children, running back to the house because you forgot the P.E. bags for the second week running, or simply struggling to make it there on time or be faced with the dreaded “attendance officer” as you try to sneak your child past the snooty receptionist, even when you’re just 30 seconds late. I get that, because I’m a parent too!
Like lots of you, I’m frantically legging it, literally dragging my poor child in the pouring rain because not all people have cars. Well, my version of legging it — in a powered wheelchair. But I have one extra thing to think about on the school run, as do many other disabled parents like me, and that’s you! Yes, you, and whether you will think of parents like me or disabled children when you decide each morning where to park.
Although I know in my heart you don’t park on the pavement just to be awkward or malicious, it’s hard some days to keep my composure as I try to explain to my 6-year-old daughter why Mummy has to get off the sidewalk and drive on a busy road in her wheelchair, and leave her to squeeze past your parked car and hope we both make it to the other side unscathed. A million thoughts go through my mind as I let go of her hand:
— Will somebody grab her the moment she’s out of my sight, like in the stories in the news? It only takes a second for a child to be snatched.
— Will I be honked at and judged by angry drivers as they see a wheelchair user in the road, not knowing why I’m forced to be there? Will this morning be the morning one driver doesn’t see me? Because let’s face it, I’ve been pretty lucky so far.
— How far will I have to drive in the street, weaving in and out of rows of parked cars because now I cannot even get back up, because those cars also block the curb cuts?
— What am I teaching my child about road safety here? Even though I know it’s beyond my control.
Want to know what’s even more frightening? When I have my 3-year-old strapped on my lap and I’m forced into the road because society just doesn’t think. This is my reality on the school run.
You can change this in two simple ways:
— Please be mindful of not blocking or otherwise parking on curb cuts; they are essential for wheelchair users!
— Please leave enough room for someone using a walker or wheelchair to get past your parked car. Just because you may not see us often doesn’t mean we won’t cross paths.
The Mum in the wheelchair at the school gate