themighty logo

Disability Does Not Always Mean Wheelchair

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the word “disability?” Is it a person who is in a wheelchair with a visible illness, or is it a word that has no visible meaning?

I get so many dirty looks from random people when I park in a disability parking spot with my permanent placard issued to my name. Some even come up to me or leave notes on my car. But just because I look “capable,” it does not mean I am. My chronic pain varies day to day, so my limitations also vary, but I am not going to let that stop me from living my life. I may not always need my pass, but most days I definitely need it.

One time I will never forget is when I was down at school in Florida and I went to a Walmart and parked in a disability space, put my placard up and got out of my car. It was a really bad pain day, but I had no food left in my room and needed to grab some medicine as well. I remember standing on the dark brown wood chips about to cross the street when a man came up to me saying “excuse me, Miss.”

In my head I really just wanted to walk away, because somewhere deep down I knew something was up and I did not have a lot of energy. But I was nice and said “hi, yes?” He proceeded to tell me it was illegal to park in a disability spot if I was not disabled, and he was going to call the cops on me.

I could not believe this was happening. I told him, “I have a placard up and I am allowed to park there, but thank you for your concern.” I started to walk away to go into the store. Then he yelled from halfway across the street that it is illegal to use someone else’s pass. I told him it was mine issued to my name, and if he would like to see the registration, he could wait until I am done with my shopping. Needless to say he was not there when I returned from shopping, nor did the cops come.

Being verbally attacked because I do not fit what a stereotypical disabled person looks like is not OK. We need to educate and help teach that disability does not only mean wheelchair. Although I am flattered that I do not look sick, I nearly had a panic attack with this man threatening me with cops even though I did nothing wrong. Not all disabilities are visible.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty image by Thanasus.