A 19-year-old Sunshine Coast woman had to call the police after being threatened for not looking disabled enough despite having a blue parking permit.
Mikaela Peters, who was diagnosed with severe reactive arthritis three years ago, was left shaken and in tears from the incident.
The condition affects all her joints and organs and it leaves her in permanent pain and while she may look like a healthy teenager, every step is an effort.
For months after she was diagnosed, she didn’t even bother going out.
But after going through the tedious process of paperwork and appointments with Queensland Transport, she finally got some semblance of a life back when she was given a disabled parking permit.
Displaying the sticker prominently still doesn’t stop people from repeatedly confronting her when they see her step out of her car when she parks in a disabled parking space.
The latest incident saw her threatened by a couple outside a McDonald’s in Mooloolaba.
“When we pulled up, a middle-aged lady was standing next to us in the car park,” Mikaela told the Sunshine Coast Daily.
“When I walked past her she said I was ‘too young to have that permit’.”
Mikaela pointed to the sticker in her windscreen and went inside, but when she returned to her car, the woman’s male friend joined in the fray.
“He was on the phone giving a detailed description of our car and me and my partner,” Mikaela said.
“I’m not sure who he gave it to and then they threatened us.
“They said they were going to ‘take care of us’.”
“He told me if I could walk, I was not disabled.”
When Mikaela got on the phone to police, the couple took off.
She has since filed a police report.
I have seen this type of nonsense way too many times. Parents with disabled children being abused for using the car parks even though they are permitted to and well within their rights to be there.
Seemingly healthy-looking people who have chronic and debilitating illnesses that prevent them from walking further than a few hundred meters are also targeted.
My mother always taught me not to judge a book by its cover and in school, it was ‘walk a mile in another person’s shoes’.
While the picture depicts a person in a wheelchair, a disability is not confined to that definition alone, nor anyone using crutches for that matter.
There are a whole host of invisible disabilities that we cannot see, but the person suffering from them inescapably feels.
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.
People like Mikaela shouldn’t have to withstand misjudgement and abuse every time she plucks up the strength to venture out of her home.
The transport departments do not give these permits out willy-nilly, so before you jump to the conclusion that someone is abusing the system, how about minding your own business and instead seeing if there is some way you can actually assist that person to make their day a little easier?