You Should Only Use Disabled Parking If You’re Actually Disabled

March 9, 2020 — 5 Comments

Sometimes our good intentions cause great harm.

That’s what I learned recently when I brought up the conversation around disabled parking, specifically in regards to those who use it who have “invisible disabilities.” Invisible disabilities include a wide range of medical conditions that can cause severe pain and/or exhaustion, but you can’t necessarily tell that a person has it just by looking at them.

A woman shared her story about being harassed by a police officer because she “didn’t look like she was disabled,” and while I agreed that the officer could have handled it better, I proposed that perhaps the other side of the story is that he was actually trying to protect her/people with disabilities by questioning someone who was using the spot who didn’t appear to need it. I’ve heard those stories before where someone was questioned/harassed for using an entrance or parking spot specifically for those with a disability, when in fact they have a disability, but it’s not visually apparent.

To be clear, I’ve never actually confronted anybody like this. I’ve called the cops when I saw people park in a spot without a placard, but have never directly spoken to someone who had one, but who I suspected was abusing it. Many people do, with good and helpful intentions, but…

Please stop doing that.

Here’s the deal. This response made me rethink and eventually change my philosophy about this:

See, I can’t stand injustice. That’s why I love when people stick-up for those being taken advantage of. So, when someone takes justice into their own hands and tries to make things right, I’m all for it. I get it. What my friend said here, though, made me realize that when we do this (in regards to these parking spots, specifically), we’re making assumptions that can ultimately hurt the person we are trying to help.

My new philosophy is this: If a person has a placard displayed, I will trust that they went through the correct channels to obtain it and believe that they need it. I will not confront or silently judge them, even if it doesn’t appear that they need it. I have no idea why they have it and, to be blunt, it’s none of my business.

Do people take advantage of it? Yes. Do people abuse it? Yes. (And if you’re reading this and that’s you, KNOCK IT OFF.) But, by and large, I would guess that’s few and far between. And I don’t EVER want to be the reason that someone who needs it chooses not to use it because of the harassment of a well-intentioned social justice warrior. Are there ways I could creatively and kindly address the situation? Sure. But again, making a person explain themselves, even if I’m doing so “kindly,” is still not a good experience for that person. And they don’t owe me an explanation, to be honest.

Let’s concentrate on being inclusive and in making things more accessible for those who need them to be. Let’s be kind without being accusatory. We’re all in this together.

Thoughts? Have you experienced this before? Please feel free to share your story/experience in the comments!

Ryan

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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

5 responses to You Should Only Use Disabled Parking If You’re Actually Disabled

  1. There’s nothing that infuriates me more than a driver taking up a spot that a handicapped person could use. This makes me very angry and I will stare them down or make a remark if I can get their attention. But I never have run across anybody with a placard using a spot that doesn’t deserve it. My former brother in law used to take my mother in laws car to the hockey game so that he could use her disabled placard to use the disabled spots so that he could park upfront, I thought this was despicable, and that was before I was deemed handicapped by a life-threatening stroke. I know that it happens all the time and I don’t like causing trouble but why can’t they be more respectful of the disabled person of all types. Rant is over!

  2. The handicap parking need is not necessarily for the driver. I have children who need handicap parking (I have a permanent plate and a temporary placard).

    Sometimes I’ll drop of a kid, leave—freeing up the spot temporarily—and come back later to pick them up using a handicap spot again. Even though I don’t personally need the space, I do need the space for my child. Anyone watching might assume that I was abusing the system. The irony is that if I had just stayed—not freeing up the space temporarily—nobody would have cared.

  3. Here’s a challenge for all the ‘well-intentioned social justice warriors’. Rather than looking for people to confront who might be gaming the system, why not just notice the people who need the space and offer a helpful hand? I have lost count of how many times I have struggled to lift my daughter’s 55 lb wheelchair out of the back of my van (couldn’t afford a ramp & definitely not an accessible van) while many able bodied people passed on by (including in church parking lots). I did have a couple offers, but politely declined because they looked like they themselves were in their 80’s. Kudos to many of our elder generation who understands perseverance in hardship and knows how to lend a helping hand rather than point an accusing finger!!! 🙂

  4. I am sorry about that, I really am! I and most of the people I hang around with would have given you help if I ever saw you in need, that was before I was disabled. I would still help if I could! That’s why I get so infuriated at people that don’t deserve it parking in a handicapped spot! I don’t like to use them if somebody worse than I need it!

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