Although I’m bracing myself for at least one more snow storm, which seems to happen every year about this time, it appears that winter here in Minneapolis is just about over. And that’s great. This winter was one of the coldest and harshest most people around here have ever experienced. That’s saying a lot about Minnesota winters. When the temperature hit -25 degrees a few times it became downright life-threatening for anyone to be out in that kind of cold, but for wheelchair users it’s extra treacherous. That’s why having good parking at work is a premium, so I have that extra layer of accessibility and security. That wasn’t the case for part of this winter, but thankfully I experienced the added bonus of having an accommodation offer fall into my lap before I even asked for it.
My parking situation has changed a bit since I started my new job last April. The accessible parking space that allowed me to back my van in and drop the ramp out right onto the sidewalk was always occupied by the time I arrived for work. While the weather was still warm this was not a concern. But as winter approached I started to worry about how I would be able to park and access the building through snow- and ice-covered sidewalks. Parking outside day in and day out without having the most accessible spot was a new experience for me. In law school I parked outside but I had a reserved space closest to the front entrance. The handful of jobs that I had last winter were downtown and I was shielded from the elements in parking ramps.
My plan was to talk to my department supervisor about getting that spot reserved for me. But in yet another example of how I’m working for a great company and on a really great team it was my supervisor who approached me about it first. In a moment of pure kismet, she stopped by my desk on her way into work, said that she noticed that someone had been parking in “my” spot recently, and was going to ask HR about getting that spot reserved for me for the rest of the winter. Boom.
Unfortunately, despite her going to bat hard for me, the plan never worked out. HR was unable to reserve specific spaces because it was a first come first serve parking system. The only other option left was to ask the person occupying the space if he/she would be willing to park one spot over. This was a problem because nobody knew who the person was. The next best solution was to have someone in the facilities department shovel out the area needed for my ramp as well as a path to the front door. After the first time I needed their assistance, the morning security guard gave me his card and told me to contact him when I needed snow cleared. It wasn’t ideal because it still left me vulnerable to the elements, but it was a suitable solution. Thankfully, every time I needed to contact the facilities department they were great. A few co-workers even chipped in by shoveling paths to my van and wiping snow off my windows as they left for work. I greatly appreciated their acts of kindness!
In a world that generally is inaccessible to me and countless others with disabilities, instances of people going way out of their way is pretty uncommon. It’s a huge bonus that I always greatly appreciate. In my case it brought a great deal of peace of mind to what could have been a daily challenge to get into work every day—and in winters like the one I just experienced that bonus accessibility assistance is invaluable.