An open letter to non-disabled people who use disabled parking spaces

Dear abled/non-disabled people without disabled parking placards who use disabled parking spaces anyway,

I don’t care if you want to use the space “because it’s so convenient.”

I don’t care if you only “need” to use the space “just for a minute.”

I especially don’t care if you back up your illegal use of said disabled parking space with some bizarre justification like, “But some people FAKE being disabled to get these permits, so what’s the difference?” or “Well, if a person in a car with a blue placard shows up, I’ll move” or “But there isn’t anyone disabled who needs to use the space here right now, so what’s the harm?”

The harm is that I or other disabled people are so often witnesses to your saying these things, and we are presumably expected to not react at all to your taking advantage of something that is not for you. I personally do not own a motor vehicle, so while I don’t need a disabled parking permit, I also don’t need your entitlement complex and your basically telling me — a person with disabilities — that some of the regulations intended to benefit me and people like me are rules that can be bent by you if it’s the most convenient option for you, an able(d) person.

Just don’t do it. It’s illegal and carries penalty of a possible fine for a reason.

This sort of legislation? Is not intended to benefit you, or be a convenient thing that you can take advantage of when you feel like it. Most of the world is already set up for you. These “convenient” parking spaces don’t have to be set up for your use, too.

About Annaham

Annaham (they/them) is a feminist with several disabilities who occasionally updates their personal blog. They currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area with their partner, and an extremely spoiled Yorkie/Pom mix named Sushi. You can reach them by emailing hamdotblog AT gmail dot com.

17 thoughts on “An open letter to non-disabled people who use disabled parking spaces

  1. One related thing that TABs do: use a legitimate disability placard when the family member who needs it is *not actually in the car.* I’ve witnessed my family do this on multiple occasions, though I have voiced objections to this practice. While it is a matter of convenience to keep the placard in the car at all times, that doesn’t mean one should actually use it when nobody in the car has a physical disability that would warrant use of the placard. The card is meant for the use of a particular individual with disabilities, not just any family member who can’t find a parking space or wants a better one. Oy.

  2. Same is to be said for deliberately blocking accessible parking with your vehicle while waiting outside a building intentionally and in full knowledge that you are blocking said accessible parking spaces. It is NOT OK, and just because you think that someone who needs it will let you know so you can move (newsflash: they won’t, because they usually just move on, go home and not use the facilities because they are not accessible because of arseholes like you) does not entitle you to block it. I will note that this is not even an instance with you using the space, but rather, stretching your vehicle across two or three spaces, blocking them all because it is more convenient for you, being three steps from the door. You are not “good”, you are not “fine” where you are.

    Move your damn vehicle and adhere to the law.

  3. Great post! Great comments too. I’ve seen both happen, and I have to say that the “waiting” while parking across 2-3 spaces is the most infuriating. The worst offender in my area? The Access bus! ARGH! Every time I need a disabled spot, the Access bus seems to be parked for 15 minutes across several of them.

  4. I totally agree with you except…

    Dear people who write the rules about disability placards:

    It is disablist to only allow the use of these placards by people who cannot walk more than 300m unaided (New Zealand law), and it affects groups disproportionately affected by their disabilities. Yes, I CAN walk 300m unaided, but my disabled bowels might let go in that time, fforcing me to return home anyway. Or I might just decide not to leave the house in the first place because my fatigue is crushing, or my joint pain is too bad, or because I’m afraid my bowels are going to have problems.


  5. I once had a “friend” ask me what the difference was between finding all the disabled parking spaces full of cars with disabled placards and finding all the disabled parking spaces full, but with one or two containing cars without disabled placards. (The former is common at my community college, which does NOT have enough disabled parking to accommodate all its disabled students.)

    Um. Maybe the difference is that when non-disabled-placard cars take a disabled parking space, it prevents a disabled person from attending a class that he or she paid for, while not taking that space would not prevent a non-disabled person from attending a class he or she paid for? Maybe?

  6. Ouyang Dan said:

    someone who needs it will let you know so you can move (newsflash: they won’t, because they usually just move on, go home and not use the facilities because they are not accessible because of arseholes like you)

    Yeah, this! It’s similar to the “we’ll adjust our policies/increase aisle space/build a ramp/offer assistance when we finally get a disabled customer/employee/patron, but we just don’t have any now.” Well no, because your facilities/rules/policies are not accessible. Self-fulfilling discrimination.

  7. Yeah, this is a big problem at our university. We have less spaces than students, at a school that’s 80% commuters. I actually have a little note made up that I borrowed from a guy in Texas and changed for our local laws, reminding people of the reasons disabled people need that place and the possible consequences of parking illegally (At our university and also in the surrounding municipality). It’s a little wise-ass actually, asking them to check the box indicating why they thought it was okay for them to park there. (Ex., “I am Chuck Norris.”) I keep a pile of them behind the visor in my car. I’ve actually handed it through the window to people who are “just waiting for someone”. They usually look all ashamed and move.
    At school I call the campus police, who are really good about handing out tickets to violators.
    I did experience a moment of parking justice last semester, when my (very entitled, disrespectful of my health needs) suitemate was complaining loudly on the phone in our shared bathroom. Apparently, her friend had obtained a disability placard for her from a lady who had passed away. She used it on campus, after she’d already received multiple tickets for parking there without a placard. The cops were suspicious, ran the permit, and had her car towed by the city. She had to go to court for a misdemeanor charge, pay $250 court costs in addition to the regular fine, and was without her car for a week – Daddy wouldn’t pay to get her car out of impound. I had to go into the back of my room and turn up my music so she wouldn’t hear me cracking up so hard. 😀

  8. I love this letter. I’d also like to add that just because the one and only handicap spot isn’t in use, it does not mean to park your moving truck half into it so you can get a closer spot to move your furniture inside. This happened seriously three times at my apartment building in less than a few months. And they *watch* me park far way and try to manuever over really bumpy grass just to get home. And also, the blue spots are not waiting spaces for people without cars to hang out while waiting for a ride.

  9. I don’t need to use the disabled parking spaces (so I don’t) but I’m slowly getting up the courage to tell people off when they use them. I would LOVE to be able to just dob them in and get them towed/fined, but I never know who to call to dob them in.

    Your post didn’t mention this, but what about people with disabilities that don’t have a placard? Please ignore me if this is off-topic.

  10. On the flip side of non-disabled people parking in reserved spots, a few nights ago, a popular musician posted on Twitter “Handicapped car parked in a regular space.” and then about five minutes later: “So what should happen when I catch a handicapped dude parking in a regular spot?” Accompanying the second tweet was a blurry photo of a car with a placard hanging from the rearview mirror. The replies he got to that tweet ranged from “key the car” to “call the cops and have him towed” (??) to “wait for him to come out and kick his [pejorative] ass.” Yes, threats of violence and vandalism and arrest for doing something both legal and completely appropriate.

    So apparently TAB people not only feel entitled to park in our reserved spaces, they feel entitled to object, even violently, when a person with a placard parks in a non-reserved space, even though from context, the parking lot was full (the car was seen when the musician was circling the lot for a space himself) and it’s likely that the person parked in the non-reserved space because the reserved spaces were all full.

    There’s a strong air of “but I want an oompa-loompa now, daddy!” to the whole thing. There seems to be some notion that whoever arrives first deserves the best spot in the lot, and disabled people are spoiling that “natural” fairness, no matter what we do.

  11. Thank you for this!


    1. POLICE who park in the HP spaces! I hate this! They do it all the time! And who are you going to call to complain? The police?

    2. People with visible disabilities and/or nondisabled people who harass people with hidden disabilities that still do NEED that HP space — that’s the REASON they have the placard — for parking in the HP space. Because, you know, everyone with a pain, fatigue, mobility, heart/lung, etc., condition has that stamped across their forehead, right?

    3. “But there are SO MANY HP spaces! You can’t possibly need so MANY!”

    4. Not exactly the same, but related: People who park their cars in front of the ramp or curb cut, so then you can park your car, but you can’t actually get IN to the building you came there for. Like this past weekend, when I had to decide between jumping a curb I wasn’t sure my chair could take or getting inside to pee.

    p.s. @Sarah — Yeah. One of my PCAs was using my placard w/out my knowledge when she did my errands. She eventually told me because she thought I would think it was cool(!!!). Apart from the many ethical reasons I was appalled, I told her if she was caught, I’d lose my placard, and to never ever ever again….

  12. “3. “But there are SO MANY HP spaces! You can’t possibly need so MANY!””

    As long as there’s enough regular spaces that you can find a spot, shut up and park.

  13. The thing that chaps my hide is that when I’ve complained to the store who has the HP spaces that there are cars without HP plates/placards parked in them, they refuse to call the police to have them ticketed/towed because they don’t want to offend customers. What about me? I have HP plates, I’m a customer, and I’m offended because I can’t park in the space reserved for me. Obviously, you don’t care if you offend me, though. And calling the police myself does no good – they say it’s private property and they can’t do anything unless the store calls. So why do they even bother with HP parking spaces if they aren’t going to enforce them? Makes me want to take a baseball bat to those cars parked illegally (you know, hit the bumper hard enough to deploy their airbags, can’t drive the sucker till it’s fixed, and that’s expensive). But I’m nice, I don’t do that, I just steam and cuss and drive away and refuse to do business with places that won’t enforce their HP parking rules (and I let them know that they’ve lost my business and why).

  14. I’ll be honest about the thing that bugs me…
    While I don’t have a placrd myself, my grandmother does. Now, she doesn’t drive, so oftn get’s a lift to/from wherever from a family member such as myself. The problem is when different people drop her off and pick her up, so she takes the placard with her.
    So someone watches me pull up into a space, with the placard, help my grandmother out of the car, then hand her the placard, and go to drive away, and the next thing I’ve got that person screaming in my face!
    Ya know, if I’d got out for any reason other than helping Nana out of the car, I’d be damned ashamed of myself, but I can’t keep her placard – what happens when my mother picks her up later? Luckily, there’s a bench right by the parking spaces, so Nana can sit while waiting for us to pick her up, and she’ll have the placard out by the time we get there, but frankly, it’s just as much of an annoyance to her as it is to us, the number of times she’s had to defend us. And then they ask why she has a placard if she doesn’t drive herself? We’re not breaking the rules, we’re not taking up the space someone else needs, we’re taking the space she needs and is entitled to, and only for as long as she needs it!
    Oh, and Nana uses canes, so she’s visible. But the “parking police” seem to have decided that she should have to walk further because she’s not in the drivers seat.

  15. my mother works in a bookstore in a strip mall, and one of the owners uses an amigo power chair. everyone in town knows her and loves her – and yet we still get assholes parking in the two marked spots in the whole parking lot. i lost my patience with this for good when i was about thirteen, which was coincidentally when i got my first cell phone. now when i catch someone parked there, i stand where they can’t pull out without hitting me while i call the cops. parking illegally in the disabled spots is always selfish and cruel, but i feel like it’s a whole new level of selfishness when you know exactly who you’re preventing from getting to work and do it anyway.

  16. @Kezmoo – Wow, that is a whole nother level of ridiculous and obnoxious. I have not heard that one before. Lots of PWDs can’t drive due to their disabilities. (I’m currently one.) I’ve never had anyone give my PCAs or partner a hard time for using the space FOR ME.

    I did not expect to see so many different comments of so many different kinds of harassment and ableism, coming from every direction and at so many different people/situations.

    I wonder if part of the reason HP parking gets so much, and so heated, attention is that it’s a very visible form of disability accommodation/access, and one that nondisabled people can feel all righteously indignant over, because they perceive it as taking something away from them — unlike, for example, an elevator or ramp or braille on signage, which doesn’t “interfere” with the nondisabled’s sense of entitlement? (In other words, here is a coveted/limited resource — only X nbr of parking spaces, and esp those close to the doors — whereas so many other forms of access/accommodation there is no visible “piece of the pie” being divided up?)

  17. Ugh. If there are so few parking spaces available that TAB people are sooooo inconvenienced by there being a few disabled parking spaces, perhaps they should complain that there aren’t enough parking spaces to the city council or mall operators. I know I stopped going to the mall near me that doesn’t have enough parking; and I have no idea how many disabled parking spaces they have or whether they are usually empty and “available” for me to park in illegally.

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