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Dear Strangers Wondering Why I Park in a Disabled Space

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Dear Member of the Public,

I see you when you silently judge me as I get out of my car, parked in a disabled bay and I get it, I really do.

You see, when I park in a disabled bay I immediately display my Blue Badge in my windscreen. But there’s one crucial thing I fail to display every time I park, and that is a visible disability. You see, my disability isn’t visible (well, not usually). You can’t see that my joints are threatening to dislocate with every movement I make, nor can you see the exhaustion running through my body or the pain even just putting my foot on the floor causes me. Every time I park in a normal parking space I run the risk of multiple dislocations, especially my knees and shoulders from having to twist my body in order to get out of the car.

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I am lucky that I haven’t had a note left on my car (yet) nor have I had any verbal abuse. However, I am acutely aware of the judging looks I get every time I step out of my car. I find myself running through what these people are most probably thinking “How dare she park in a disabled space when she’s young and healthy,” “give that space to someone who really needs it,” or “oh look, here comes another of those young fakers.” I am aware I am probably over-imagining things, but these are statements many people with invisible disabilities and illnesses have heard. I may not have been physically or verbally judged for using my blue badge, but I have experienced judgment in other ways — most recently for using the elevator instead of the stairs.

A few weeks ago I drove to work and eventually found a space. As I walked back to my car after work I got into the elevator to get back up to the level my car was on. As I pressed the button for the second floor, I was shocked when a lady turned round to me and said “Oh good, I’m not the only person being lazy then!” Since when has using an elevator meant someone was lazy? In that moment of time, my heart was telling me that I should explain why I was using the elevator. I felt I should justify my actions by telling her about the number of times I have fallen down (and up) the stairs because of dizziness or subluxations or about how my heart races and feels like it is beating out of my chest and I struggle to breathe whenever I walk up the stairs. But I didn’t. I didn’t because my head told me that I shouldn’t need to justify my actions to anyone, let alone someone who doesn’t know me.

What did I do instead, I hear you ask?

Well, I looked her in the eyes, gave a sort of “if only you knew” laugh and promptly walked out at level three, got in my car and drove home.

Why do people judge others for things that may not be visible? I believe they do it because as a nation we have been brought up to believe that all disabilities are visible. This isn’t helped by the fact the very sign for disabled people is someone in a wheelchair. However, things are changing slowly but surely. I have seen shops such as Tesco displaying signs on their disabled toilets stating that not all disabilities are visible. But we still have a long way to go as a country and as a world. For example, there are still far too many car parks with disabled parking spaces that let non-disabled parents with children park there. This defeats the purpose completely. Why should two groups of people who have completely different needs have to compete for a car parking space? There are also still too many people judging others. Then again, years ago there was far more judgment about people’s sexuality and those views have changed, so I guess there is hope for those of us with an invisible disability after all.

This story originally appeared on My EDS Life.

Getty image by RMfotografie.

Originally published: September 24, 2018
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