An open letter to abled people who like to glare at people who use disabled parking spaces

Also see: An open letter to abled people who use disabled parking spaces by Annaham, which this is jumping off from. Since I drafted this, s.e. also wrote Dear Imprudence: Who Appointed You the Parking Police?!

Dear abled people who like to glare at people who use disabled parking spaces,

Hi there. It’s great that you’re so conscious that disabled parking spots are for disabled people! I’m pleased you’re so keen to keep disabled spots for disabled people – after all, that’s the law and the right thing. People who aren’t disabled certainly shouldn’t be using those spots.

However, you know what my problem with what you do is? My problem is when you take your anger out on people who are using those spots legitimately. I don’t know if you glare and shake your head and tut because you don’t notice the disability signs/stickers on the front of the car – or if you think they’re faking their disabilities – or if you think those crummy disabled people simply don’t deserve to hog the best parking spots. I don’t know if you do this because you don’t expect to encounter disabled people out and about, so you think the parking spot user isn’t legit. I don’t know why you’re letting dominant narratives crowd out the person there in front of you.

I’d also like you to keep in mind that some people who need disabled parking spaces are prevented from getting the sticker. The red tape involved can be incredibly difficult to negotiate, especially for someone running on the second shift for the sick. Some people who need stickers fall through the cracks formed by the “we need to tighten restrictions because of the tiny number of fakers!” meme.

Just keep in mind that, just as there are a lot of people out there who use disabled parking illegitimately, there are also a lot of people who make life harder for people who are using the parking legitimately.

Don’t be one of them.

Sincerely,

Chally

12 Comments

  1. The issue of people needing a sticker, but being unable to get one, is an interesting one. There was just a post by Ruth at Wheelie Catholic where she described being (understandably) angry that she couldn’t get a handicapped spot because someone without a sticker was using one, and she reported the person. This post made me think about that a little bit though, because if we report vehicles occupying the space without a sticker, we might end up making life very difficult for someone who has a disability but couldn’t get the sticker for whatever reason.

    It’s hard to say whether it’s better to trust people who use the spaces (potentially resulting in there not being available space because of an able-bodied lazy driver), or to report everyone who doesn’t have a sticker (potentially getting a disabled person towed). I don’t know how often the spaces are abused, and it’s impossible to tell by looking at someone, so I don’t know what the answer is…

    If we’re using the sticker as a standard, then we can get angry at people without stickers who park there, and report them. But if we allow for the possibility that someone might have a disability but no sticker, and that we can’t determine a person’s disability status just by watching that person walk into the store, it gets trickier.

  2. Would people who can’t get a sticker but are disabled really use the spots, knowing that they could be towed? Would someone who is low on spoons really take that risk?

    On a slightly related note, I saw TWO accessible parks at my local mall taken up with stacks of store goods that had just been unloaded, even though the loading bay is only a few metres further away! I tried to complain to the mall management when I got home, only to find a really bad capcha on the website (I have pretty good vision and I had to refresh it a bunch of times), and a comment box with an unstated character limit which made me have to enter my comment multiple times and in the end I had to break it up into smaller pieces to get all of it through. I can’t stop shopping there either, as the alternative is worse.

  3. “Would people who can’t get a sticker but are disabled really use the spots, knowing that they could be towed? Would someone who is low on spoons really take that risk? “

    Considering the low probability of being caught, and the absolute impossibility or at least very high spoon-cost of using a “normal” space, yes.

  4. “Would people who can’t get a sticker but are disabled really use the spots, knowing that they could be towed? Would someone who is low on spoons really take that risk? ”

    I personally wouldn’t, but that’s because I get a lot of staring from both TABs and much of the older disabled crowd as I’m young with a cane and the placard is the only thing that *proves it* for them. But I also don’t always need the extra space either. Why we can’t just get more handicap parking I don’t know.

    This is a good letter and I like it a lot. I actually spend a lot of energy telling my family to not keep checking the parking spots (unless there’s a government vehicle, they like to be able-bodied and take the parking, like cop cars, ups, etc.) as it’s not our business, and well I hate it when people check me.

  5. Would people who can’t get a sticker but are disabled really use the spots, knowing that they could be towed?

    I think this can be a pretty complicated question — for me, at least — that depends on a lot of other factors:

    1) How close is the nearest non-disabled space?

    2) What are my odds of getting towed at this place, while I’m accomplishing this task?

    3) How badly do I need to accomplish this task at this particular time? Is there another way I can do it?

    4) Exactly how low am I on spoons right now, and how many do I need to reserve for later?

    For me, the odds always do come out on the side of not parking in a disabled space. (Or at least, they always have so far and seem likely to for the near future.) Because, yes, getting towed is a time, money, and mobility/access hassle, and I’ve always had a pretty low personal threshold for risk. On the flip side of that, though, when I’m having a bad pain/mobility day — the norm is for me to arrange my schedule to avoid traffic/full lots, and to turn around and go home, task unaccomplished, when I can’t manage that.

  6. Suzy Turquoise Blue

    I have a number of mobility issues, and no disabled sticker.

    I would *never*, *ever* park in a disabled parking space.

    In my mind, those are only for people with a sticker, who need the space far more than I do.

    On bad pain/energy days, I do, however, sometimes park in a “parents with prams” parking space.

    I feel that if someone sees me getting out of the car with my quad cane and/or mobility scooter and decides to give me grief about the fact that I am parked in “parents with prams” with no pram, that’s their problem, and if necessary I will phone the building management.

    So far, thankfully, no one has ever challenged me.

  7. @Katherine – I’m a chair user, but here in the UK you don’t get a badge based on your disability, but on what level of benefit you receive. Sure they claim they will make exceptions* blah blah blah, but I’ve applied 3x and been refused every time. So no disabled parking space for me. I absolutely will not take the risk of parking in a blue space without having a badge.
    If I’m at Tesco (supermarket) my partner parks us in the Mother and Child spaces. Funnily enough they’re under a nice big canopy at the entrance of the store. They moved the disabled spaces out into the middle of the open car park to put the M&C spaces in! So yeah, we’re parking there. It’s the only way to get my wheels and myself in and out of the car unless we can guarantee that nobody will park on either side of us, or behind us for the duration of our shopping.

    *Ironically my mother, who is mobile, was awarded a badge. Why? Because she’s not 33. She’s old enough to be taken seriously, I’m apparently just idle. Because they’re given out by local authorities and hers is less strict than mine she gets to park for free, and conveniently. Every time I need to go to hospital it costs us a fiver to park, and I have to be pushed roughly 3/4 of a mile (not joking – huge car park, enormous hospital) to even get to the entrance.

  8. Thanks for all the responses. For clarification, I don’t look at the people using the carpark, I only look at the car for the placard, and so far haven’t done anything when I’ve found a car parked without one. Maybe I should stop doing this.

    @Paraxeni “here in the UK you don’t get a badge based on your disability, but on what level of benefit you receive.”
    That’s ridiculous, I can’t believe they do that.

  9. I always struggle with whether or not to use disabled parking.

    It gets cold up here. It snows. The longer I have to travel to my car in the cold, the more it hurts, and if the snow piles up on the car while I’m shopping (even in small amounts), that cold becomes hell on my hands as I try to brush it off. And that’s on top of my shifting hips, my painful knees, my weak ankles and aching feet.

    But I’m also young, paranoid, have no placard and don’t always need to use my cane. And sometimes I can’t due to the pain in my wrists and hands. The only thing I’ve got going for me right now is the fact that my car is registered under my mother’s name, meaning I have a veteran’s license plate. So I might get a bit of a break if I decided to park in one. But this won’t last long, as eventually I’ll have to register it under my own. Then it’ll just be me, this slim young FAAB individual that probably looks incredibly lazy going up ramps instead of stairs.

    I used to get really mad when I saw cars parked in those spaces without placards. I drive with people that get mad about it, either out of concern for others or me. But now I don’t because I realize that for all I know, that person could be in the same situation I am in, and needs to take that risk. The only reason why I don’t is because of my paranoia. Many others in my position likely don’t have to deal with that factor, and could be willing to take the risk necessary to get things done with the spoons they have. And I have to remind the people I’m with that when they get angry at these people, they get angry at people like me for being non-evident. And many others who like me have gotten screwed over by health care.

  10. A guy once walked up to my mum and told her she wasn’t disabled. When she told him she had cancer (the drugs she was on were so toxic she could barely walk), he said, “yeah, in the head.”

    The cancer had recently spread to her spine and her brain.

    I still want to kill that man, who laughing at my mother, standing there with his wife. The hate it inspired is still raw when I remember it. It wasn’t even an isolated incident.

    I hope he reads this letter, or someone else does who ever thought of doing the same thing. Maybe then they’ll think twice about it.