Perhaps a Public Service Announcement is needed. Yes, a PSA of sorts. Yes. Yes, it’s definitely needed. So here goes.

When you are in a theater or auditorium, have you ever noticed that a few of the rows– either up front or in the back, depending on the theater– are missing a couple of chairs? They’re shorter than the others.

Just to be plain, let me explain in this PSA that those rows that are missing chairs in the theater are not missing chairs because of an accident or a miscounting on the builder’s part. Chairs aren’t missing because they broke or got dirty. Chairs aren’t missing because a few chairs on the end were damaged in a flood or fire.

The chairs are missing to make room for people using wheelchairs. Yes, those spots where there are no chairs on the end of the row are spots reserved for parking a wheelchair.

Since I’m expecting that information to come as a surprise to many people, I’ll wait and let that sink in.

Waiting, waiting, waiting….

I’m going to assume here that the people I have encountered in the past are just ignorant. Ignorant meaning honestly not knowing. Since the other options would mean assuming they are just mean or just selfish or just unobservant or just uncaring, and I am choosing to believe that the people I’ve encountered are none of those things.

Yes, some rows in theaters have fewer chairs than others in order to accommodate folks who use wheelchairs. Not all theaters actually mark the spot with the recognizable blue and white wheelchair symbol so maybe that’s why some people are clueless about those shortened rows. Yeah, maybe that would explain the ignorance that prevails. And perhaps if all theaters used the recognized symbol to mark those spots, then maybe more people would know that that is what they are for.

Now, let me take this one step further, if I might. I would like to add to this whole setup that the seat next to the empty spot is for a friend or family member of the person using the wheelchair.

Hmmmmmm. Again, I feel like I need to wait and let that sink in and even let some of you re-read the above paragraphs to make sure you get what I’m saying here.

If you think I’m pushing it by saying the seat next to the empty spot is for a friend of the person using the wheelchair, then think on this a moment: Do you think that person using the wheelchair wants to sit by YOU, a perfect stranger?? Perhaps if individuals with disabilities were more included as a whole in mainstream society, maybe most folks would actually be friends with someone who uses a wheelchair. (Stay with me a second– this rant really is going somewhere!) And perhaps if more folks were friends with someone who uses a wheelchair then maybe more people would understand something about people who use wheelchairs. Ready for this shocker? It’s a biggie. Individuals who use wheelchairs like to sit with their friends or family at the movie!! Oh?! You mean just like everyone else likes to sit with their friends and family? Yes! Exactly like everyone else!

So, yes! The seat next to the empty spot is for a friend of the person using the wheelchair.

To bring this PSA to a close, let me tell you about a scenario that we’ve faced several times.

I arrive quite early with Chloe to a show or performance of some sort. I take a look around, locate the seating for persons using wheelchairs and survey the situation. All the seats beside the wheelchair slots are filled with folks. Knowing that the establishment won’t allow Chloe’s wheelchair to hang out in the aisle at the end of a different row (there are fire codes, you know!), I park her wheelchair in one of the slots and take the seat behind her since I can’t sit beside her. Keep in mind, every time this has happened, the person in the seat beside Chloe’s wheelchair slot looks at us, watches us try to communicate with my sitting behind Chloe. Mind you, Chloe communicates with sign language — ever tried to have a signed conversation with someone while sitting behind them?? And I sit behind her, caring for her, reaching up and over her to give her things that she needs.

Very rarely has the person offered to switch places with me so that Chloe and I could sit together. A few times, I’ve just asked the person as nicely as possible to move so I can actually sit by my daughter. As usual, it just depends on my mood at the time.

So, back to the Public Service Announcement: If you choose to sit in one of the seats beside the wheelchair slot, be willing to give it up if someone using a wheelchair comes and uses the spot — even be willing to give up your spot for the person’s friend.

Any questions?

A funny story in closing: Last weekend when this whole frustrating scenario happened to Chloe and me once again, I sat behind Chloe while she listened to a favorite song on my phone while we waited for the show to start. She was so happy and loved the song so much that she began to rock and sway (think Stevie Wonder) with her arms stretched out at her sides (think Stevie Wonder Helicopter-style!!). While Chloe swung and twisted back and forth, her helicopter arms whacked the lady sitting in what should have been MY SEAT several times. Whack! Whack! Thwack! I didn’t ask Chloe to stop; I didn’t apologize to the lady. I just sat behind Chloe, laughing at the woman trying to dodge Chloe’s helicopter arms in what should have been MY SEAT and whispered, “‘Vengeance is mine!’ said the mama!!”


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Meri Arthur on April 23, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    love this PSA! During the summer we got to summer movie fun at the Harkins Theatre nearby. I HATE seeing parents with strollers park the stroller in the handicap seating area! Please just remove your baby from the infant car seat and hold them in the movie. They should have to pay for a seat if they bring that giant stroller in.


    • Aha! Meri! Yes, a related issue!! So true! If you are a park-your-stroller-in-the-accessible-spot mom, surely consider giving up that spot if you see someone enter the theater with a wheelchair — in fact, be sure that you are on the lookout for someone using a wheelchair who may need your spot. Yes, you have rights to the spot, too, arguably. But surely you can’t argue with the fact that it’s more appropriate for you to hold your baby or toddler in your lap than for me to have to carry my 70-pound girl up the stairs to find a seat …. Good point, Meri!!


  2. Posted by tracylcarpenter on April 24, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Oh i think no matter what you just have to tell those ignorant people so they know. They will not be ignorant any longer.


  3. Posted by Jenny on April 25, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    A friend of mine posted this blog and I am so glad I read it. I don’t have a child with special needs but I take care of one for a living and have for over 7 years. She was just 3 years old when I started taking care of her for a few hours on Sunday and a year later it turned into my career. Anyway, she and I have had some rather interesting moments in public dealing with absolutely clueless and obnoxious people. Nothing surprises me anymore and sadly even your experience didn’t. We have issues with the handicapped parking spots at school and people assuming that she’s in a stroller and not a wheelchair (she is 10 but nobody seems to EVER look at her and figure that out). I have gained a very thick skin these last 7 years. Generally people are very sweet to her but others are just disgraceful. The helicopter whacking was the best part of this story though, I laughed out loud! That is absolutely what Grace would do in that situation. That and pinch their arm to death.


    • Hi, Jenny. So glad you found my blog. Sounds like we could swap stories, for sure! 😉 and so glad I made you laugh. We need tons of laughter, no? Just today I was glared at for parking in the accessible spot at school. Grrrr. Search my blog for “bite tongue” or “biting tongue” for my experience on the first day of school last year. 🙂 Bless you in your journey, Jenny!


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