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10 (Wrong) Things People Somehow Still Believe About Disabled Parking

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Disability-accessible parking (and the people who use it) is a subject many people feel deserves their attention and judgment. As those who use disabled parking permits know, there are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding who “gets” to park in an accessible spot and who must be “faking” their disability in order to park closer to the building.

It’s an issue that never seems to go away. A Twitter user named Daniel Lawson shared a tweet last week claiming, “Disabled parking should only be valid during business hours 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. I cannot see any reason why people with genuine disabilities would be out beyond those times.” While hundreds of people with illnesses and disabilities responded explaining exactly why he was incorrect, it’s still frustrating to hear how misguided people are about accessible parking — and unfortunately, these kinds of attitudes sometimes translate into permit-users being questioned and harassed by people who don’t believe they “really need” their permit.

We wanted to set the record straight on the common misconceptions about accessible parking people still seem to think. Below you’ll find 10 (incorrect) things people somehow still believe about disabled parking — and the truth. With the help of our Mighty community, we break down the frustrating stereotypes and misconceptions, to hopefully help end judgment once and for all.

1. If you’re not using a wheelchair or mobility aid, you don’t need disabled parking.

The truth: Not all disabilities require mobility aids all the time. You can legally get a disabled parking pass even if you don’t use a wheelchair, cane, walker, etc. Some people need passes because they have challenges with breathing or vision, heart disease, fatigue or chronic pain.

“People expect to see some sort of mobility aid, wheelchair, crutches, cane, etc. I’ve been harassed to the point where police have been called because I don’t always use my cane,” said Jessie Lynn Stokes.

“‘You have to be using a wheelchair or cane to use disabled parking.’ On a good day, if I’m not going to be too long, I don’t need my wheelchair but it’s still helpful to be closer to the building,” said Savannah Spigelmyer.

2. Young people who use disabled parking must be faking — only “old people” have disabilities.

The truth: There is no age requirement for getting a disabled parking pass. You can have a chronic illness or disability that would require accommodations at any age.

“Doesn’t happen now I’m in my 60s, but I was stopped by someone when I was young and in my 20s as they assumed that I was faking and didn’t need the wheelchair that I was sitting in!” said Jill Clayton.

I had a group of elderly women accuse me of using my mother/grandmother’s placard due to my age. I dropped my pants and showed them my surgery scars on my hip and newly replaced knee due to rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve since had two discs replaced in my neck and another knee replacement,” said Amy Kelly.

3. You can park in the crosshatch next to the disabled spot.

The truth: That crosshatch section is not for parking motorcycles, bikes or cars. It ensures people have enough space to get in and out of the car, particularly if they’re using wheelchairs and other mobility aids, or a car with a wheelchair lift. Without the crosshatch, people can become stuck in or out of the car.

“People don’t leave the van accessible spaces open when there are other spaces open and they don’t have a wheelchair van. Also, people will park on the crosshatched area and make it impossible for wheelchair vans to load or unload,” said Caroline Meadowlarke. “I don’t have a wheelchair van, I just try to be respectful for those who do, because their options for parking are even more limited. And that’s what the law is for, disabled parking, anyway.”

4. Disabled parking should only be valid at “certain times.”

The truth: It doesn’t matter what time it is — disabled parking is valid for people who have a disabled parking permit. If someone is “well enough” to go out at midnight, that doesn’t mean they aren’t “really disabled.”

As Twitter user Karrie Higgins wrote in response to Lawson’s tweet above, “We have social lives, jobs, and — wow, this will blow your mind! — we also like to go to arts events, movies, have a drink, eat dinner at restaurants. We are actual PEOPLE! I know that’s MIND BLOWING to you.”

5. You can park in a disabled spot without a pass if you’re “just going to be five minutes.”

The truth: It doesn’t matter how long you’ll be using the spot — if you don’t have a pass, don’t park there. You will be taking a spot from someone who needs it.

As Mighty contributor Paul Eiche, who uses a disabled parking permit for his daughter, wrote, “Disability parking spots, ramps and marked off loading zones are not there for quick stops. They’re not there as reserved areas for everyone’s convenience. They’re there for people who need them. The time may come when you, too, will have need of them, and then you’ll find yourself on the other side.”

6. People who have disabled parking passes are “so lucky.”

The truth: Chronically ill and disabled people don’t use their parking passes “for fun,” they use it because they need it. Telling them they’re “lucky” to have a pass dismisses the challenges they deal with every day.

[People think] ‘it’s so cool!’ to have a disabled parking permit. No, it’s not. Believe me, I’d much rather not need it. In fact, you can have it if you’ll take this broken body too,” Meadowlarke said.

7. It’s easy to get a disabled parking permit — some people get them even though they’re not “really disabled.”

The truth: In order to qualify for a disabled parking pass, your doctor needs to verify your health condition and that you do have physical limitations that would make a disabled parking permit necessary. There are several steps and paperwork involved with applying for a permit. Of course, fraud does exist, but if a person is using a permit they legally obtained for themselves, then you can rest easy that they do in fact need it.

There are also people who could benefit from a permit, but don’t have one or don’t use their permit even though they need it because they’re afraid of judgment.

“I can’t even get disabled parking when I need it. No doctor will sign off even though I meet the state requirements. Doctors all think I’m ‘too young’ or ‘need to be more mobile.’ It’s the worst being out in the heat for any longer then needed. It’s practically impossible to even get out on a bad day and I hate being an inconvenience to others if I need to be dropped off at the front of places,” said Capri Sprazzle. “I could handle walking from most disabled areas but I’m spent when I end up in the back of the parking lot. It’s really sad that these stereotypes make doctors reluctant to sign the paperwork in the first place.”

8. You’re only allowed to use a disabled placard in one car.

The truth: Disabled license plates cannot be transferred between cars, but disabled placards that hang off the rearview mirror can be used in any car you are currently riding in and will be getting in and out of.

As Lia Seth wrote on HuffPost, “Remember: If you’re ever in the driver’s seat and someone offers you the use of their blue placard, just use it. It’s not illegal or immoral to use it, and your friend has it for a good reason. And if you have one of your own, don’t be afraid to educate your friends about the placard laws, and speak up when you need to use it!”

9. If you can walk at all, you don’t need a disabled permit.

The truth: Many disabled people can walk; however, they may still have pain, fatigue and mobility issues that prevent them from walking the length of a parking lot or from making it back to their car after a long shopping trip. If you see someone walking to or from a car with a disabled placard, that doesn’t mean they are “faking.”

“[People think] if you can walk unassisted you shouldn’t be using it. Usually, I’m OK going into the store, it’s coming back after shopping that makes me so grateful to have my car close,” said Kari Russell.

10. If you are physically able to drive, then you must not be disabled.

The truth: It’s entirely possible to be able to drive but need a disability permit. People who have driver’s licenses and can physically drive a car are not disqualified from receiving a permit. Many people are capable of the physical requirements of driving but have difficulty moving to and from their car. That doesn’t mean they aren’t “really disabled.”

Remember: If you have legally obtained a disabled parking permit, you have every right to use it without shame or judgment. And if you notice someone using a disabled permit, but it doesn’t “look like” they need it, remind yourself that you don’t know their story, and a little understanding and compassion goes a long way.

Originally published: April 26, 2018
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