Dear Imprudence: Who Appointed You the Parking Police?

This week’s livechat with Prudence featured a question that seems to crop up endlessly, like, pretty much whenever a person with a disabled parking placard pulls up to a parking space and gets out of ou car:

Q. Parking Lot Etiquette: I live in an apartment that overlooks the building’s handicapped parking spots. I have noticed one young woman, who has a blue permit, using one of the three spots every day, as if it is her own. The problem is, when she gets out of her car, she has no visible handicap. I would also add that other residents have to pay for their own spot, and she drives a late model Audi, so I don’t think she’s too poor to pay herself. I suppose she may have some handicap that isn’t visible, but is that what the spaces near the door are really intended for? I notified the manager, who I don’t think is going to do anything, and will probably leave it at that. But am I crazy for letting this bother me? Signed, Auto Fixated.

Oh  my stars, y’all! She’s, like, totally not disabled! ’cause she drives an Audi!

Prudence delivered the goods:

A: There have been interesting studies that show society actually functions better when certain people are willing to take on the role of unofficial police. Shaming the able-bodied who take handicapped parking spaces is a favorite outlet for these enforcers. However, the danger for such people is that they end up being unpleasant busybodies or worse. I have heard from many seemingly able-bodied people who have mild MS, say, but are constantly getting reamed out by “do-gooders” when they take a handicapped parking space. The woman you’re seeing has a permit, and you don’t know what might actually be wrong with her. She doesn’t appear to be preventing anyone who needs the space from filling it. So get over your fixation and find something that really needs fixing.

So, here’s the dealio, parking police: stop it.

No, really, that’s about all I have to say. A person with a disabled placard or plates owes no obligation to you. Is not required to specify and explain, in detail, the nature of ou disabilities. Period. Placards get assigned to people who need them1, and plenty of people who don’t have, ah, ‘visible handicaps’ do in fact need to take advantage of disabled parking spots. It’s nice that Prudence provided an example of a disability that might be nonevident, but still require the use of disabled parking, but, honestly? She didn’t need to. Because the takeaway lesson is that where people with disabilities park, and their disabilities, is not your business.

Yes, even if they are driving nice cars.

Additionally, if you do not need disabled parking because you are not disabled? Please stop using our damn parking already. Yes, even if it’s just for a minute. Yes, even if you were totally planning to move if someone needed it.

  1. And thanks to weird policies, some people who need them can’t get them.

7 Comments

  1. I am glad you covered this issue as it is something I thought of after the last post about misuse of disabled parking. A good friend of mine has one metal leg and he sometimes gets glared at or lectured at for using his parking pass! He is young and quite muscular, which to most people implies that “there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with him”. Gah!

  2. The parking police are like the bus seat police. “But you look fine!” Funny, I didn’t know X-Ray vision came as standard on nosy, interfering busy bodies. If my *doctor* has to send me for scans to determine what’s wrong with me, what makes some stranger think she can tell without me even taking my jeans off?

    It’s got to the point where I automatically get nasty about this. I tried to be the good little gimp, but to hell with that. I’m going to get hassled either way, and I’ll feel much better about myself (and maybe they’ll leave the next poor sod alone) if I give them an earful. So I’ve got to the point of asking them just who the hell they think they are, where they keep their medical degree, and what on *earth* makes them think they know more about my condition than my doctors.

    I know it’s not being a Good Crip, but sod it. I always got taught you leave injured animals alone because they’re most likely to [redacted per comments policy], I feel the same warning should go for humans!

  3. This sort of thing makes me glad fo rmy visible disability. Even though it really shouldn’t be anyone’s business, I never havet o explain why I use the accessible cab or have someone use public transportation for free if they’re accompanied by me. Now of course I don’t drive, so the issue of disabled parking is not relevant for me, but a lot of similar situations crop up.

  4. You know what really grates for some reason?

    “and she drives a late model Audi, so I don’t think she’s too poor to pay herself”

    Excuse me? Of course, xe’s already appointed herself the disabled parking police, so of course xe’s the wealth police.

    The LW sounds like xe wants a parking spot that xe can use one “as if it is [x]er own.”

    Why do they get something when I don’t? has been the whine of the majority/oppressors about what the minority “gets” for so long. A PWD being able to get around a bit easier does not take away yours.

  5. I’m agree she didn’t need to give an example but am actually really glad she did, because whenever I try to explain why it’s wrong to assume someone in that situation is actually an able-bodied ass, they ask me what physical problem someone could possibly have that would account for them walking just fine, yet needing a placard? It’ll be nice to be able to name a specific disorder with which people can walk, but not so easily as they appear to be walking, or walk better on some days than others.

    Just because someone’s walking doesn’t mean they can walk that way for much of a distance.

    Of course, if you personally know someone’s abusing the placard system (in my experience, they often do so proudly to their friends), then you should overcome your discomfort with confrontation and tell them what you think about that. That’s where a real difference could be made.

  6. I hate the assumptions people make about disabilities just because they want a damn parking spot. When my brother was going through cancer treatments, he looked like any other normal elementary school kid, but he had a handicap plaque. What they couldn’t see was that his bones and muscles were exhausted and weak from the poison doctors pushed through his body to defeat cancer. He only was bald for about six months of the three year treatment, so he really did look healthy, but he was far from it.

    But I will say this: When people did say something to me or my parents, the look on their faces when they realized that this young kid they were accusing had cancer was PRICELESS. Guilt looks so pretty on nosy little parking police!

  7. Ruth, once a busybody commented to my SO and I that neither of us “look” handicapped. I’m generally too shocked/confused/annoyed to think of a good response, but luckily my SO doesn’t have that problem. “What does brain cancer *look* like, asshole?”

    Another busybody who will think again before asking people questions about their disability.

    (I did not lose my hair during treatment, either, though I did shave my head before my surgeries.)