I woke up today to read this headline:
“Abusive note left on car of Darwin couple with valid handicap parking permit”
The story included this photo, by Ivan Rachman, as featured in the Daily Telegraph:
Basically, the story is that the couple pictured above parked their car (with a permit) in a disabled parking spot. While they appear healthy and mobile, they do indeed have a valid permit due to a health condition that means they need to park as close as possible to where they are going.
They do not need notes like this left on their car:
So! Where do we begin with this one?
First of all, I think it is kind of shit that the couple in question felt they had to justify why they have a valid permit. That is enough – that they have one. There is no need for them to have to roll out the reason behind the permit, but that is what has happened, in every story I read about this.
Second, I think it is good that people are becoming more aware of permit parking areas. It’s disgraceful that they think this is the way to deal with what they perceive to be wrongful use of the permits – but it might be a slight edging forward to think that there is someone who feels they did their bit towards social justice. Sadly, they didn’t take in the full picture. Nor did they do anything other than leave an abusive note. Nor did they act with bravery or courage or reason. But hey, I did say it was a slight edging forward.
Third, the comments on the article. This is where the story really is, in my opinion. So many of the comments were from people who hold valid permits who have suffered abuse. And not all of these people had those “hidden” disabilities. There were comments from people in wheelchairs, people with kids with disabilities, people who have no legs for goodness sake. And they STILL cop the abuse. And that’s leaving out those “hidden” disabilties – MS, cancer, MND – the list goes on.
The problem is, there are still a lot of people who think it is OK to park in permit spots if they are in a hurry. Or if there is no other parking. Or no shade. Or the motor is running. Or someone is waiting in the car. People aren’t understanding how vital these spots are to people with disabilities. It often isn’t about the proximity – it’s about the space in the spot. There’s enough room for a wheelchair or medical equipment such as walkers or oxygen. While I think the “parents with prams” spots are disgusting and a waste of resource, these permit spots are essential for people with disabilities.
When I had my ankle surgery, I was approved for a disabled parking permit. I can’t tell you how helpful it has been. Even now, when I’m pretty mobile, the fact is that there are days I still need to be able to park close to where I am going, with space to be able to start walking with stability. Days like today, when I’ve been up since 5 am with my leg throbbing away, not even sure if I can do the walk just to the loo.
Since having the permit, there have been many times when we have parked next to the disabled parking spots, because there has been a spot there and the distance to walk has been do-able. There have been times when we’ve had to park at the other end of the car park, because people without permits are in the disabled spots. There has even been a time when we were abused by a woman when we parked in a “parents with prams” spot because all the other closer spots were full. My response possibly didn’t help the situation (“Why is your inability to manage your child in a parking lot more important than accessibility?”), however this is the issue:
We still have no idea how to react or respond to people with disabilities. We still have no idea what disabilities can look like. And we are still a pack of judgemental fools.
So, here’s a rule of thumb:
If you don’t have a permit, don’t park there.
If you do have a permit, you use it as you need to without fear of judgement.
If you see someone parked in a disabled parking area, check if they have a permit. If they do not, feel free to react. If they do, back the fuck off.