Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Mickey Mouse Club-bing

The State of Illinois passed measures to change their policy regarding handicap placards and parking meters.

As it currently stands, if you have a handicap plate you need not feed the meters. You can park at any metered spot and not have to worry about having to return in two hours to feed the meter or looking for specific handicapped parking spots. The city does offer those as well in case people with disabilities have trouble finding parking.

This policy has saved my family immeasurably. We have a disability plate so that we can park close to stores. Bianca, as I have written about, is an eloper. She also LOVES to go to the store. Leaving... not so much. Often times I have had to drag her out in the middle of a meltdown with the other two kids in tow, so being close to the store makes that all a little more manageable.

The current policy allows for us to save on the expensive lots in Chicago if we decide to go to the museums or Lincoln Park Zoo or even walk around the Magnificent Mile. I know saving $25 doesn’t sound like a lot, but every little bit helps when you have medical bills like most autism families do.

The problem is that the current system is being abused and due to a horrible contract signed by the Daley Administration that leased out the parking meters, the City of Chicago is held responsible for the financial loss of the city’s handicap parking policy. In other words, the company that owns the meters surveys how many paid spots are being taken up by handicapped plates and the city must REIMBURSE the company for lost revenue, a price tag that has totaled some $55 million dollars.

So in an effort to curb off the corruption within the system that was exposed in a 2011 investigative piece by the Chicago Sun-Times, the State passed a new and more selective policy on free parking. This new policy now eliminates my family and most If not all autism families from being able to enjoy the benefits of parking for free.

The new law requires that the driver live in Illinois (we live just across the border in Indiana, so we are out right from the get go) and meet one of the following requirements:

  •  Manage, manipulate or insert coins, or obtain tickets or tokens in parking meters or ticket machines in parking lots or parking structures, due to the lack of fine motor control of BOTH hands;
  • Reach above his/her head to a height of 42 inches from the ground, due to a lack of finger, hand or upper-extremity strength or mobility;
  • Approach a parking meter due to a wheelchair or other device for mobility; or
  •  Walk more than 20 feet due to an orthopedic, neurological, cardiovascular or lung condition in which the degree of debilitation is so severe that it almost completely impedes the ability to walk.

If you notice, the policy says nothing about having children with disabilities. If you have a child with a disability you no longer qualify for free parking. Forget autistic children for a second and imagine having to go by yourself with your wheelchair bound child someplace and how convenient it was to just pull up to ANY metered spot, park and be on your way.

Now who is to blame for this? Who should we direct our anger towards? The City of Chicago? The State of Illinois? Nope.

We should blame the abusers of the system. THEY should be the ones that feel our wrath. The State had no choice but to change the policy. Now the NEW policy eliminates many people that benefitted from meter exempt parking. In an ideal world, the State who put the initial policy out there in good faith and with good intentions should never have had to amend it. They were left with no choice because of the ABUSERS.

I bring all of this up to draw a parallel with the change in policy at Disney theme parks.

I know you are hurt and angry and pissed and WHY US?!? Haven’t we put up with enough already? We had a good thing going and now we are having it taken away! The old policy made it PERFECT for our kids. Just jump the line. No waiting. Limiting the meltdown window for our kids is so important and can make the difference between a pleasurable experience and a challenging/stressful one.

I get it.

The thing is, Disney is not the problem here. The State of Illinois and City of Chicago are not the problem either. Humanity is… or a lack thereof.

Disney appears to want to hear from our families. Today they are talking with Jess from Diary of a Mom who wrote a great piece on the subject for Huffington Post. Disney has gone on record to say that their policy is not yet set in stone and that it is evolving.

So be angry. I just ask that we direct our anger at the appropriate source.

If you have not already, please take time to watch my videos, "Fixing" Autism and Autism Awareness with Nichole337 and share them with your friends.

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