A large SUV is backing up near a woman in a motorized wheelchair.

Parking Lot Mishaps: The Wheelchair Edition

We've all witnessed that mom clutching her child's hand like it's a lifeline as they navigate a chaotic parking lot. This could be an accident waiting to happen for anyone not tall enough to peek over a car's rearview mirror. I never thought I would be the one to get hit in the parking lot!

"Hey! Here I am!"

I’m usually quite careful, especially when it comes to moving vehicles. So, I elevate my wheelchair, a necessity due to my SMA, as high as it goes to make myself more visible.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. My eight-year-old son and I had just wrapped up a shopping spree at Costco. We decided to leave my husband in the car, thinking this would be a speedier in-and-out trip. Oh, how wrong I was. We exited the store to find a parking lot packed tighter than a can of sardines. Note to self: never grocery shop on Sundays.

I saw her—a distracted woman in a monster-sized truck, glued to her phone as if it were an extension of her hand. She spied a parking spot and decided to go for it. But in her haste, she overshot it and threw her truck into reverse. And before you could say, "Watch out," BAM! She backed right into me. This wasn’t a tap; she literally smashed my joystick through her rear brake light.

She didn't see me as she backed up

I yelled and yelled for her to stop as she backed into me, but nothing was going to stop her except for my chair. Other people in the parking lot quickly came over as they heard the crash.

Luckily, I was just shy of having my shins smashed by her bumper. Nothing was harmed except for her tail light and a couple bent-out-of-shape pieces on my chair. Most importantly, my son happened to be behind me pushing the cart.

Tips for navigating parking lots in a wheelchair

  1. Elevate Visibility: Always raise your chair if you can. You want to be seen, not sidelined.
  2. Stay Alert: Keep an eye on drivers, not just the cars. If they're distracted, you can bet they haven't noticed you.
  3. Stick to Aisles: Try to move through designated walking aisles if available rather than weaving between cars.
  4. Weekday Shopping: Try shopping during weekdays when the parking lots are less crowded.
  5. Be Vocal: If you sense imminent danger, don't hesitate to shout or honk your wheelchair horn if you have one.
  6. Report Reckless Drivers: Don't let dangerous driving slide; take down their license plate if it’s safe to do so, and report them.

Even though I was rattled, I’ve armed myself with these tips for the next trip.

Wheeling through the parking lot requires caution

I found myself back in the same Costco again about two or three weeks later, and as I was checking out, the cashier said, “Hey, are you the girl that was hit by a truck in our parking lot? “

I guess word got around. Hopefully, people will keep an eye out for wheelchairs in the parking lot.

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