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When a Woman Swore at Me After I Parked in an Accessible Space

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I’m sitting here broken and sobbing.

I just had one of the most humiliating experiences a person can have, and the worst part? 

It won’t be the last time.

It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon. I’ve just had my hair done for the first time in a year; my boyfriend arrives tomorrow and we are off on holiday with the family this the weekend. I’m smiling and excited as I park my van near my daughters’ school, ready to collect my children. In the playground, moms and grandmas tell me how great it is to see me, and how good I’m looking after a week or so off the radar, feeling poorly. It’s quite lovely, and their kindness and words mean the world to me when I have been feeling so low.

I collect my youngest two and meander back to the car, noticing a traffic cone on the pavement blocking my driver’s door. That’s weird, I think, while struggling to lift and strap my 3-year-old into her car seat on the road side. I become vaguely aware that a woman is ranting to her daughter, “F*cking unbelievable. Who does she think she is?” I continue trying to coerce my monkey into her straps (I can’t physically do it without her cooperation). “There’s f*ck all wrong with her. People are so f*cking lazy. What the hell is she doing parking outside my house, and could she get any f*cking closer to my car!”

She is talking about me.

I look up and she’s standing five feet away from me, glaring at me with such venom, while continuing to rant to her uncomfortable 20-year-old daughter, who is strapping her own toddler into a stroller.

My recently potty-trained daughter then had her first accident. I continue to ignore the irate woman, now mortified and bright red, and release my daughter from her belt and pop her by my van wheel to sort her out. “Now her f*cking kid is gonna piss on my car, unbelievable!” 

My daughter now notices the woman and becomes totally embarrassed. I tell the woman, “She’s potty training,” clean her up and strap her back in. I then walk back slowly around to the driver door, remove the cone blocking it, that I now realize was put there by the woman, and try to get in.

“You’d better not reverse into my bloody car!”

My van is a foot away. I am an excellent driver and maneuver my van with great skill. In 20 years driving I’m yet to dink anyone or anything. 

“I have to drive an automatic, it won’t roll back,” I mumble, now fighting back the tears, trying to retain some shred of dignity as I drive off (without hitting her car).

I get around the corner, pull over and burst into tears. 

A million things I should have said flood my mind. Why didn’t I explain that I need to park there, and point to the parking pass, and blue badge on my dashboard? Why did I just stand there and take that abuse in front of my children, when I should have stood up for myself? Why didn’t I say anything, literally anything, to defend myself?

In that moment I felt shamed, frustrated, humiliated, and like I am still fighting a battle I can never win.

I don’t look sick.

I don’t look disabled.

I am a “fraud.”

I have had people challenge me for parking in accessible spaces before, but never with such venom. The irony is that anyone could have parked where I did on the street. It was a safe, legal, free space. It’s only due to congestion that people are asked by the school not to park on the street unless they need to. There is no law being broken and no safety being risked by any single road-tax-paying driver parking in the space I chose to park in.

People need to see the profound impact that such ignorance has on the individual. It’s beyond hurtful and humiliating to have some one shouting at you that you are lazy and fake, when actually every day of your life is a battle. I experience pain and limitations that most people thankfully will not in their lifetime. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. 

I have to fight for everything.

To live. For money. For my sanity. To stay strong. To be the best mama can be. To get up. To do the dishes.

The fact that I choose to fight with a smile on my face and joy in my soul should be something to be celebrated, not something I should be publicly shamed for.

So this one is for all the ignorant people out there. Shame on you. This is how you make a person feel when you make judgments of them without having a clue about their life:

woman crying in her car

Kirstie right after the incident with the woman on the street.

I hope that face becomes etched in your mind, so the next time you loudly proclaim someone doesn’t look ill or sick or disabled, without having any idea of their private battlesyou stop yourself. Instead, smile, and continue going about your business, as I am mine.

This is me fighting back.

I am not ashamed.

And if this post exposing me at my most vulnerable, protects someone like me in the future?

Then love conquers hate.

Hope beats fear.

Kindness and compassion wins.

Follow this journey on You Gotta Have Gumption.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us the moment you stood up for yourself or your child in regards to disability or disease, or a moment you wish you had? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 2, 2016
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