All things considered, I think I’m a pretty reasonable person. I don’t write complaint letters, I never tell my waiter that there’s something wrong with my meal, and I never yell at people in public.
But I’ve had just about enough of the army of ‘good samaritans’ targeting people who park in disabled car spaces who don’t, according to their accusers, ‘look disabled’.
These samaritans, no doubt thinking they’re the cream of society’s crop, are giving dirty looks, leaving passive aggressive notes, and downright abusing people because they believe that they’re somehow cheating the system. They believe, even though these people have legitimate and legal disabled parking permits, that they don’t appear disabled, and must therefore be beaten to the ground with the sharp stick of community justice.
Now hold on just one flaming second.
Since when did disability apply solely to people who walked on crutches, used walking frames, or lived in wheelchairs?
Since when did disability become about how disabled you looked, not how disabled you actually were?
And since when did it become acceptable for random members of the public to judge someone they know nothing about just because a disabled person had the guts, and the strength, and the bloody confidence to drag themselves, often hurting, out of bed in the morning to live life with a disability?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
It’s happening far too often, and too many people are having life made harder than it needs to be by useless rubberneckers who want to have their moment in the sun. And it hurts. It hurts the people who are being targeted, it hurts their families, and it hurts us as a society because it proves that we still don’t understand disability.
The Stories That Prove It
If you want to disagree with me, feel free, but the evidence is not in your favour.
Take mum and multiple sclerosis sufferer Justine Van Der Borne who found a note on her windscreen after a trip to the shopping centre asking her if she “forgot her wheelchair”. She said the incident was far from the first time. What about Des Graham, another MS sufferer and chairman of MS Society Tasmania who was physically abused by a stranger when he parked in a disabled space. Or Stevan Maksimovic who lives with a lower back injury, and has seen his 6-year-old son brought to tears by people criticising him over the use of disabled car parks.
Still not enough evidence?
What about Lauren Rowe, the young Sydney-sider living with cystic fibrosis, diabetes and osteoporosis who survived a double lung transplant and still found a passive aggressive note on her windshield accusing her of lacking consideration. Or mum Hannah Garlick who was also criticised by a stranger after she parked in a disabled space while trying to juggle getting her daughter to school while taking care of her disabled son, a situation so common she felt compelled to share her message on social media.
For some reason this is become a trend, and it’s absolutely not good enough.
Disability Is More Than What You See
If you have half a brain, it should be pretty easy for you to figure out that not all people who are disabled use a wheelchair. In fact, many of the disabilities that qualify people for disabled permits have nothing to do with that kind of mobility issue at all. With cases such as multiple sclerosis or cystic fibrosis, people can get around by themselves, it’s just bloody hard. Surprisingly, strangers abusing you on the street for not being disabled, while you suffer with your disability, doesn’t make life any easier.
Disability is so much more than what you see. What we might call ‘invisible disabilities’, that is disabilities that aren’t immediately obvious, are very common. They include back injuries, brain injuries, chronic illnesses, chronic pain, heart conditions, muscular disorders, neurological disorders, seizure disorders, spinal disorders, bone disorders, chronic injuries, organ transplants, oxygen impairment and so many more. And guess what?
All of these people have a right to park in disabled spaces.
So if you happen to see someone pull up to a disabled car park, with a disabled permit, and get out of the car without a wheelchair, do us all a favour and keep your trap shut. Let the people who enforce the law figure out when people are cheating the system, and don’t make assumptions about people and situations that you know absolutely nothing about.
Don’t you think it’s about time we change our views on what it means to be disabled?