We've already talked about the who and when of accessible parking. Now let's talk about some guidelines for those of us who DO have legal access to those parking spots.
Let me start off by saying: none of what we're getting ready to discuss is law. If you disregard these guidelines, chances are very slim that you will be penalized for it. But here's the thing: someone else may face consequences if you do. Unfortunately, in my experience, far more accessible parking issues arise from those parking legally but thoughtlessly than from those parking without a permit.
First, permits are for people, not vehicles. That means you need to be with the person for whom the permit is intended in order to use accessible parking spots. No using your grandma's placard to park up close. No accessible parking for me when Collin is at home.
Next, mind the lines. A distinguishing characteristic of accessible parking isn't just how close it is to the front of the lot -- it usually also provides extra room for exiting and entering the vehicle. This space is marked by a section of diagonal lines between parking spaces. This is not free space. It is reserved space. That means it's not for parking in.
This may not always be convenient. Maybe the person who needs extra room to exit the vehicle is on the passenger side of the car but the diagonal lines are on the driver's side of the parking space. That does not mean you can park halfway in the space to leave room on the other side of the car. It means you need to back into that space.
The other bit of information not all accessible parkers understand (I certainly didn't before it pertained to me) is that not all accessible parking spots are created equal. Some are specifically "van accessible." What does this mean? Why is there no picture? How are we supposed to know what to do with this information? I shudder to think how many times I parked in the van accessible spot when we were still chauffeuring Collin in a sedan or non-adapted minivan.
Van accessible spots have a significantly wider reserved area next to the parking space because they are intended for adapted vehicles, which usually require deploying a ramp in order for one of the passengers to exit the vehicle. I want to make sure we all catch that: without a van accessible parking spot and an unobstructed area beside it, people riding in a ramp van CANNOT GET IN OR OUT OF THEIR VEHICLE.
So the final tip for insiders is this: leave the van accessible spots open if you don't need them. If ANY other accessible parking spots are available, use those instead.
There are always exceptions, I know. Some people have circumstances I can't account for and need to use accessible parking differently from most. (At least, that's what I tell myself when Collin gets parked out of our van.) But for the vast majority of us permit-holders, a small amount of thoughtfulness can make a huge difference in whether and how others can access a place we evidently think is worth visiting, since we're there too.