To the Man Who Judged Me for Using a Disabled Parking Space
I have a registered disabled parking permit, and I use it often. More often than I would prefer to, actually. As a young person with an invisible disability, it is very difficult for others to fathom that I do require an accessible parking spot and am not merely abusing my parent’s or grandparent’s permit. I am often victim to disapproving and judgmental stares as I step out of my car and a physical disability is not visible. I am met with the same reaction even on days I am limping or walking slowly. But it was not until today that I was actually verbally abused for rightfully using a disabled parking space.
I entered the bank shortly after parking my car in my designated spot. Upon entering the bank, this middle-aged man kept staring at me and mumbling to himself while shaking his head. I was unaware of the fact that he was mumbling at me, and went on with my errand. Eventually, he turned around to me and mumbled a little more loudly this time, “It’s none of my business… but handicap parking? Are you serious?” He didn’t address me, or indicate that he was intending to start a conversation. He just started yelling things into thin air.
My reaction was that of confusion, disgust, and just more confusion. Feeling a little thrown off, I replied with, “Yes, why? What?”
He continued to shake his head and repeated his sentiments, but this time adding, “That’s immoral. You’re immoral. Are you serious?” He was visibly so appalled when I confirmed I parked in a disabled spot, and kept rambling louder as he walked towards me, until he eventually walked out the door as other people began to walk into the bank.
I was horrified that he believed it was OK to judge and verbally abuse someone before he got his facts right. I understand if, as a good Samaritan, you are against individuals abusing the disabled parking space by using a permit that is not their own. I also understand if you feel the need to go up to someone and ask them if they are a registered permit holder, or contact security or the police to enforce the law. I empathize with the fact that you may have pent up frustration from a past event where someone close to you desperately needed to use a disabled parking space and someone was misusing it. I get it. Trust me, I get it. What I don’t understand is how can you judge someone and yell at them for something you know nothing about?
It is immoral of you to automatically assume I am abusing power because of the way I look. It is immoral of you to start berating me without obtaining any information beforehand. In fact, I am not obligated to prove to you that I require a disabled parking spot. My disability is personal and I don’t need to prove it to you, but since I do understand the sentiment behind the request, I will oblige out of the goodness of my heart. It is immoral of you to believe I live a privileged life because of the way I look, or the car I drive (my parent’s car). I do not owe you an explanation as to why I used the parking permit, but I hope this helps shape your view for the next time you feel the need to yell at someone else or redirect your personal frustrations.
Today was a day I really needed that parking spot. I woke up with a piercing headache and bloodshot eyes after three hours of sleep. I had already visited three medical clinics by 1 p.m., and was on my way to the pharmacy to pick up medications to get me through the rest of the day, week and month. I spent a good five minutes sitting in the car after parking to make sure I could gather enough energy and mental strength to walk to the bank and carry on a conversation with a representative. I did not need to be met with a random stranger yelling at me. Do you know what that does? It causes me to expend extra physical, mental and emotional energy to assess the situation, to understand why it is happening, and to analyze whether this is a fight worth fighting. You just cost me my energy for the rest of the week.
So to the man who judged my parking space, I hope you read this and learn that your behavior was not OK. It was hypocritical and judgmental. In fact, it was immoral. To those of you who do abuse someone else’s disabled parking permit, please stop. Your actions have consequences. To those of you who tell me this is the way of the world, and people will judge you — that is not OK. That is enabling their behavior. Please raise awareness regarding the prevalence of discrimination against those with invisible disabilities, so we no longer have to accept that that is just the way the world works.
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Thinkstock photo by 1st Gallery.