Meg Casey
Most Able Disabled title
Most Able Disabled logo

"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

wheelchair in snow
wheelchairs are not ATVs
photo by Daniel Ortoleva

Handicapped Road Hazards

Inconsiderate Snowplow Driver

February 16 1983

Dear Meg,

I hope you might be of help my children and I find a solution to our present dilemma as you have done for us before.

My husband must go for dialysis treatments three days a week due to kidney failure from a diabetic condition. We have been going for these treatments for the past six years. These trips are very important. We don't miss them because doing so would be a matter of my husband's life or death.

Over the years his diabetes has caused a loss of sight, heart failure, kidney failure and the amputation of one of his legs this past summer which has also left him with the problem of inaccessibility in his own home while using his wheelchair.

You helped us earlier this year to find information so that my son could build the ramp we now use to get my husband in and out of the house for dialysis appointments.

Right after we fixed that problem, winter came along and dropped another blockage in our path, snow and the city snowplows!

The weekend's snowfall of February 5 and 6 started it all off. My son and daughter were in front of our house shoveling out the driveway, so that we could move the car closer, and an extra wide path opening round in front of the house, so their father could be easily taken to and from the car.

As they were working on this the city snowplow came along and pushed the snow off the street right into the space that had just been cleared. My son went over and explained to the city worker operating the machine about his father's problem and just what he and his sister were trying to do. He said "OK" and that he would do the best he could.

The plow went down the street clearing a path in the road but, coming back the men dumped another load of snow directly on top of the first one pushed into our driveway! They then proceeded to round the corner and pushed the snow back into the sidewalk path. It was intentional and the men were laughing as my son and daughter were yelling furiously after them when they just drove away.

Monday morning my son came back down to dig us out before going into work himself but between the time he had gone and I had gotten my husband ready to leave, the plow had been back on the streets and closed us in again!

I called the Public Works department and told them how important it was to get to our appointment. The girl promised to give a message to the foreman and send some men to get us out in enough time for us to be in Bridgeport for my husband's treatment by 9 a.m.

When no-one had shown by 2 p.m. I called back and the same girl said she would relay the message again but offered no guarantees. She said I should write a formal letter to the head of Public Works. I think I know the circular file they would put us in then so I told her I was going to call Meg Casey and tell her about the whole thing.

Please, is there anything at all to be done so you don't have to go through this nightmare every snowfall? I hope you can straighten this out, especially with the forecast for more snow.

Thank you for your time,

Carmela

Dear Carmela

I'm really appalled by the lack of consideration and compassion shown to your family's situation which could easily have led to the loss of life in a prolonged circumstance. I'll certainly try to help you anytime you call me.

After getting all of the facts in your story, I called the Public Works Department. As the chairperson of the Milford Independent Disabled Person's Committee I alerted them that we were aware of what had transpired. I too was put in touch with a foreman but wasn't given any more encouraging replies than you were given. The message would be posted but no guarantees were given.

I informed the gentleman that I would be following the proceedings with the promise of snow in forecast; he didn't think that much could be done. I asked the man who was going to be responsible for the loss of life in this case. No reply came to that. I also told him I would be in touch with the mayor and that the incident would be written up in my column in the newspaper.

I spoke with Mayor Jagoe's office explaining your trouble and the treatment you received and was assured that the mayor would be informed.

Later that afternoon I received a phone call confirming that the assistant to the mayor, had called the Public Works and that your driveway would be kept clear.

However, Carmela, I recommend that he don't relax your guard on this issue because things simply don't iron out so smoothly around here. To ensure yourself that these promises are indeed fulfilled, keep on calling their office every time snow is predicted. This will keep you fresh in their minds and your messages at the top the list.

If there ever there seems to be a slackening in the service at either end, please don't hesitate to call me!

Handicapped Parking Enforcement

December 22 1982

Dear Meg:

Every time I go to the shopping center I see cars parked in those handicapped parking spaces that I just know don't belong there because perfectly healthy people jump out and skip merrily into the stores.

They are just grabbing up the best spaces because they are too lazy to walk a bit farther. I think it is disgusting!

It would serve them right to have their cars towed away and I don't know why they are not. Let those selfish people see how far they have to walk then!

I have gone right up to some of those people to make them move and have been told bold as you please to mind my own business! The other rude remarks I wouldn't dignify by repeating.

Honestly Meg, what is being done about this and what can concerned citizens do to help our disabled friends out?

A Concerned Citizen of this community

Dear Concerned Citizen:

What is frustrating is the half-hearted enforcement of the laws concerning handicapped parking spaces and their proper usage by our local police department.

It doesn't matter whether the violation is due to ignorance of the law or due to chronic laziness. If the cars were tagged and the drivers slapped with a stiff fine each time, word would spread rather quickly. It never ceases to amaze me how people smarten up when you're talking piggy banks.

This is a perfect opportunity to dispel any misconceptions and enlighten some of the more literate public as to what the state and local regulations are according to the Milford Police Department and the Office of Protection and Advocacy in Hartford:

Parking Spaces

Any HP Space put in on or after 1979 must be 15 feet wide with three feet of crosshatch. (Prior to 1979 - 12 feet wide). These spaces must be clearly marked by both the upright sign – easily visible – and the internationally used wheelchair symbol painted on the pavement.

The upright sign must be white on blue with the wheelchair symbol displayed and the wording Handicapped Parking Only Permit or Sticker Required, there are some slight variations in the wording. Handicap Parking Licence

Persons using these spaces must be in a vehicle that clearly displays either the special HD license plate or have the large handicapped parking permit in full view – face up on the dashboard.

A HP license plate is a regular plate with the capital letters HP – coming before a series of three or four digits. They can be applied for through the Motor Vehicle Department. A doctor's letter or recommendation on your behalf must also be submitted.

Handicapped Parking Permits

The handicap parking permit is a large card displaying the name and permit number of the disabled person whose name it was taken out, along with the expiration date.

This card can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle as often – and as long as – the disabled person is using it.

To be used properly, it must be placed in full view, face up, on the dashboard.

These cards can be applied for through the Motor Vehicle Department. The application is in two parts. One form to be filled out by, or for, the disabled applicant. The other requires a doctor's recommendation of the application to be filed.

Penalties for violating a handicap parking space are a ticket and a fine in the city of Milford.

Penalties for the misuse of a HP parking permit (such as by a non-disabled person taking advantage of the usage without the disabled permittee along are as follows:

  1. The violator is only guilty of an infraction in the cases of misuse, therefore a summons must be issued. A hearing is then held.
  2. There's a local fine.
  3. Possible suspension or revocation of the permit if it is proven the violation (illegal use) took place with permittee's knowledge and consent.

Any stores without upright signs are answerable to the police department and building inspector.

The police spokesman expressed concern about the frequent misunderstanding that the blue and white stickers with the internationally accepted symbol of the wheelchair handed out by the Veterans groups and various other organizations are legal handicapped parking permits. But these stickers are not legal. A permit card or a HP plate must also be displayed.

The parking lots are checked periodically during the day as part of the daily routine of the officer on each beat; or whenever someone reports a specific violation in progress.

All concerned citizens who would be interested in helping the disabled in the fight for open parking spaces are invited to stop down and see me at M.I.D.P. office – and pick up some un-official parking tickets to nab next offender they see. These tickets are strictly unofficial but served as a reminder that people have noticed their inconsideration and perhaps they'll think twice before doing it again.

If only people would realize that you don't have to be born handicapped to become handicapped. Sure it is only me today, but it might be you tomorrow.

Who Needs Handicapped Parking?

November 9 1983

Dear Meg,

The issue I would like to see you take up is the the alarming lack of courtesy which some disabled people display towards other disabled individual's needs.

The battlefield that this issue centers on is again the public parking lot, over the right to use Handicapped Parking Spaces. This surprising part is that my complaints are aimed at the very group of people who would be expected to show the most sensibility on the subject and practice it – The disabled themselves!

Now, my first inclination was to ask what Joker was handing out handicap parking permits for Halloween? But I decide to rephrase it. … It has been my misfortune to encounter "seemingly" able-bodied people parked in the handicapped spaces, then getting out of the cars walk away and into the stores with apparent ease. What disability warranted that permit? A convenient disability?

I am a quadriplegic and confined to the use of my wheelchair. The van I drive is equipped with a lift that drops down out of the side door of the vehicle. This enables me to get in and out my van independently and drive myself just about anywhere I want. Except for this week when I felt as if I'd have driven myself crazy faster!

In order to park my van I need the extra width allotted to the special parking spaces for the handicapped. Sometimes even these are not quite wide enough and I must squeeze as much out of those inches allowed us as is humanly possible. However, when my lift re-closes, once I am out of the van, a space may be left over the crosshatch section of the parking space's markings. It is a space that a small car might fit into. That was the case this weekend – Granted the other car had a parking permit properly displayed, but the owner parked improperly where there was no legal parking space and left another disabled person stranded outside her vehicle until they returned themselves! These people were walking and obviously able to maneuver in and out of places that other people with disabilities can't manage. Next …

On another trip I drove around looking for a free handicapped parking space, but could find none. All of the cars had legal permits on the dashboards. Two cars had gentlemen seated behind the wheels. I couldn't help but wonder why they both needed to take up those spaces when they were only waiting for someone to come out of one of the stores. Any space will do to sit in. Any other disabled person could be be picked up at the curb in front of the doorway to the store when they came out.

As I backed up to position my van to enter an open spot I found, a car scooted into the space ahead of me. When two woman popped out – who could walk easily – I learned out my window and asked them if they realized they were in handicapped spot. The driver yelled to the other "put the card in the window." She did, and both ran into the store!

Meg, it really seems to me that the proper usage of both Handicapped Parking Permits and Handicapped Parking Spaces need to beat re-explained to the masses.

All of a sudden everybody is qualifying for permits.

Sincerely E.M.C.

Hello E.,

You really had a fun week, haven't you, I agree with your assessment of the abusive distribution of the Parking Permits. All that is needed is doctor's statement that a person's physical condition is such that would require special consideration as not having to walk long distances. Closer screening must be done.

As for the handicapped parking spaces this is a controversial topic among the disabled but the original intent of the Handicapped Parking Space was to assist the handicapped driver. Anyone who has a permit and is able to walk the distance or is able to get in and out of a vehicle without using the additional room to open doors wide, doesn't need a HP space.

Examples: The blind person doesn't need a permit, a one armed amputee doesn't need a permit, the deaf person doesn't need a permit, etc.. These are people able to walk normally.

Disabled passengers can be dropped off and picked up at the door, in most cases, if their disability hinders their getting in or out of a car in standard size space. The exceptions being those people who are unable to be left alone while the car is being parked by their companion. I would hope that disabled individuals would be more aware and considerate of their actions than the average person. But that just goes to show that they're only human too. Therefore, the next time you find someone disabled parking in violation call the police and have them towed away, "just like anyone else."

Better luck next time!

Accessible Sidewalks

August 1 1984

Dear Meg,

My request is that something be done to make downtown Milford more accessible to those people in wheelchairs. The sidewalks are really rutted and full of holes, making trips on them not very safe. The curb cuts meant for easier getting on and off the sidewalks are:

I wrote to Mayor Jagoe, just recently about all this. So, hopefully, the two of you working on this can make trips around Milford, and to Milford Hospital safer trips for people in wheelchairs.

Sincerely,
Ceil

Hello Ceil,

In regards to that those suggestions for curb cut locations and the additional special markings of them, I will also submit them to the mayor of Milford Ad Hoc Committee which is set up to address these issues specifically for the disabled of the city.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to notify all of the proper authorities of your special needs. By doing so you not only help yourself but countless other people with similar difficulties who might never be helped until someone like you speaks up and makes the rest sit up and take notice.

The ad hoc committee members are in the process of trying to pinpoint key locations and intersections in the city that need to be attended to first – as far as curb-cut installation or curb-cut repairs are concerned. Without your personal input into matters such as this it is impossible to meet the specialized needs of everyone who needs it. Unless we know about something, you can't begin to help.

Help us help you by writing or calling in the soon as possible so that the changes can at least be started before winter!

Curb Cuts

March 28 1984

Milford is looking to make the streets and sidewalks in the city more accessible and safe for its disabled citizens. Curb cuts are going to be properly installed on the streets and key intersections where they are needed and or would be most effective.

Because it is not possible to correct every corner in town at once, we want to be sure to pinpoint precisely which are the most important streets and intersections to be done now where disabled individuals either live, work or travel throughout the day.

Any assistance you could give in notifying the public of our plans would be greatly appreciated. The direct input of the people for whom these curb cuts are meant for would ensure a successful completion as soon as possible.

There is no method available for identifying or locating the people who have disabilities with the city. That is protecting your right to privacy. Therefore, it is up to each individual him or herself to speak up and reach out to help modernize our world. By helping yourself you may help someone else. Please call in with information today so that things can get started.

Meg Casey wrote her handicapped issues column for the Milford Citizen newspaper. After she died some of what Meg covered was included in the community concerns column, "Gripevine". The last edition of the Citizen published 10 years to the day after Meg died alerted dog walkers to be mindful around the curb cuts. Wheelchairs picking up dirt (and other stuff) soil the hands of their riders.

The addition of curb cuts to residential streets continued in 2016. Work started on the most important intersections in 1984.

previous chapter | next chapter

© 2015 to 2017 site design by Daniel Ortoleva
photographs and other content courtesy of the Casey family unless noted
blog posts and art by Meg Casey
originally published 1982 to 1985 in the Milford Citizen newspaper