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The Card I'm Placing Next to My Disability Parking Permit

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disability parking permit

I’ve needed, been issued with, and used a Disability Parking Permit a few times in my life. Like everyone with an invisible illness or disability who uses a parking permit, I’ve got my fair share of reactions, ranging from curious stares to scary incidents of outright abuse. It seems like no one is afraid to share their opinion about my level of disability and how I
should manage it.

But this morning I had what is probably my most absurd “Disabled Parking Encounter” to date.

The person looked at my car and said, “I know you have a permit, but you’re not allowed to park there. It’s only for people with permits.”

“I know, and I have a permit.”

“No, I mean… People with permits. You can’t park there!”

The implication was clear. The parking spot was reserved for the real disabled people, and I clearly do not meet this person’s criteria of what a real disabled person should be.

I understand I set off a certain level of cognitive dissonance in people who have been too privileged with health and sheltered from the realities of disability to understand that not all illnesses or disabilities can be seen.

I understand that cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling.

And I understand the easiest way for people to address this cognitive dissonance is to blame me for being “wrong,” rather than to revaluate and adjust their entire understanding of what disability is and what it looks like.

I understand their judgment far better than they probably do themselves because I’ve been on the receiving end of it for years.

However, while I understand this behavior, I will not accept it.

If I do not fit a person’s idea of what a disabled person looks like, acts like, and can do, it is their responsibility to realign their thinking. It is not my responsibility to force my body
to walk further than it can just because they don’t like how far I can or can’t walk.

The one thing I don’t understand about this whole situation is if they think I enjoy this level of judgment and harassment. Do they think I enjoy having a body which can be broken down by an extra 100 steps? Do they honestly think I chose this?

If I could magically transform my health so I didn’t need to use a disabled parking permit, I would not be using a disabled parking permit.

I’m fed up with the burden of explanation being placed on those of us who have enough to worry about in our lives, when the burden of understanding should be placed on those who are healthy.

So I’m going to get some cards printed up.

On the front, they’ll have a list of all of my doctors and their phone numbers along with the phone number for the council department that issued me my permit, and instructions to take up any issues they have about my health with them.

On the back, the cards will have instructions on exactly what they can do with the card and opinion once they’re done with it.

Originally published: August 8, 2016
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