When people think of handicap parking, they may think of elderly people or those confined to wheelchairs. But handicap parking can be extremely beneficial for people with other kinds of disabilities; specifically, for people with neurological disabilities.
For parents of children with autism, going out in public can be difficult. Their child might react in a number of different ways depending on what’s happening in the environment around them. They could become distracted by something in the street and run after it, or, like Lincoln resident Max Petersen, could begin throwing a tantrum if it’s raining outside. Max’s mother, Cris, worked with Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz to propose LB976, which would expand the parameters for obtaining a handicap parking pass to include people with neurological disabilities or those who are responsible for them.
When the Nebraska Senate votes on this bill on Feb. 25, they should vote in favor of it to make it easier for all people with disabilities to get where they need to go.
The bill is simply an update of the existing legislation regarding handicap parking permits, and adds just one word: neurological. Instead of defining someone who qualifies for a permit as “any individual with a severe visual or physical impairment,” the proposed bill reads that “any individual with a severe visual, neurological, or physical impairment” will qualify for a disabled parking permit.
A neurological disability is any disability that affects the way nerves function in your body: this includes autism, Alzheimers, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Thirty-eight other states have the word “neurological” in their law for obtaining a disability parking permit. Adding this one word could help around 40,000 families in Nebraska who have children or family members with neurological disabilities.
If families of people with neurological disabilities are able to park in disabled parking spots, it would be much safer for them. Walking a long way in the street is dangerous for them because they could have autism and be easily overwhelmed, simply wander out into the street due to Alzheimer’s or be unable to move out of the way quickly because of Parkinson’s disease.
If the family has a disabled parking pass, they can park much closer to their destination and have a lower chance of being overwhelmed, distracted or harmed on the way there.
While there is not much pushback to this bill, some may be worried that the expansion of the bill will prevent people with physical disabilities from parking in handicapped parking spots when they need them.
However, there are many more people in Nebraska with a physical disability than an intellectual disability. Of all the people in Nebraska who have disabilities, 8.2% have a physical disability, while 3.8% have a mental disability.
There is no evidence to suggest that people with a neurological disability will prevent people with physical disabilities from parking in allotted spots. In fact, able-bodied people parking in handicap spots is more likely to negatively affect people with disabled parking permits.
Just because someone has difficulty walking, they shouldn’t be confined to their house like a prisoner. While you may never have thought about the difficulties of going out in public for people with neurological disabilities and their caregivers, it is a very real problem for many families that could be solved by adding just one word to an existing law.
Nebraska Senate, don’t let people with neurological disabilities be left out of our community any longer. Vote yes on LB976 and let people with visual, physical or neurological impairments know they are welcome and appreciated in our society.
Sydney Miller is a sophomore psychology major. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.