handicap-parkingIf You Want To Take Away My Handicap Parking Permit…You Must, FIRST, Take Away My Disabling Pain!

by Noki4, TPC Forum/Chat Participant

How many of you use a state-provided handicap parking permit?

I see from the show of hands that we have a lot of folks who utilize this valuable and needed tool.

Now, how many of you who use these placards have been approached by strangers insisting that “you do not look handicapped”?

Wow, look at all the folks with their hands up! I am sorry to say that this does not surprise me.

So here is the rub. I don’t understand why strangers feel the need to walk right up and get in the face of someone they do not know with (unjust) accusations—demanding to know if that person is using a handicap parking permit illegally. Really folks, what business is it of yours? Are you asking because you are really worried that a placard is being used illegally? Are you asking because you have a family member who must use one and can never find an open handicap parking space? Are you acting like this because you truly want to ensure these spots are being used by those who need them?

Regardless of why you are asking, it is rude behavior. I have yet to be approached by someone who was polite when inquiring about my ability to park legally. You know who you are. YOU are ones who rush up and ambush before people like me can get out of the car. YOU are huffing and puffing, yelling and using foul language, all while standing there demanding to know my personal medical history. Who designated YOU the handicap parking police anyway?

Guess what? I do not have to tell you my medical history but I will be polite and try to offer you some education on invisible disabilities, like pain; you know conditions like: severe heart or lung problems, back problems, leg issues, to just name a few. You cannot see all disabilities but that doesn’t mean that they are not real.

Here is a short list of medical conditions that warrant a handicap permit:

  • Severe Arthritis
  • Heart Issues
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Back Injury
  • Muscular Disorders
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Bone Disorders
  • Prosthetic Limbs
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic illness
  • Spine Disorders which affect the legs and walking

You see, there are millions of people who live with serious health issues, serious illnesses and other circumstances which cannot be seen. These health issues are real; pain is real; limitations are real; the inability to function normally is real; and all this can and is debilitating to the person living with it. The handicap spaces are there to allow for shorter walks to the business from the parking lots. This allows the person to walk into the business to access the use of one of the provided electric carts or allows them to pace themselves so their energy can be used for shopping or doing daily business. This also allows them to be able to get back to their car before they use up their allotted energy or symptoms become unbearable, like the inability to breathe, severe pain or overwhelming fatigue.

Sure, when I get out of the vehicle I do not look ill; I am not using my wheelchair except on rare occasions; I do not use a walker and sometimes I do not need the use of my cane because I am having a good pain day. Does that mean that I do not need that handicap placard? NO! It does not! If you want to take away my handicap parking permit…you must, first, take away my disabling pain!

It seems that if people cannot see, hear, taste or touch something then it must not be real.

This is the case with chronic pain and it is my hope that folks who read this will understand and stop rushing up to vehicles – scaring the life out of people like me. I think it is fair to say that most who must use a state-issued handicap parking permit would be very happy if that were not the case.

So keep your actions in check the next time you have the urge to jump to conclusions. If you happen to catch yourself staring when someone exits a vehicle in a handicap spot; think first. Have you given any thought to how uncomfortable you are making that person feel with your stares and with your angry, unkind words? Don’t you think they already feel subconscious that they may not appear to be handicapped from the outside? Don’t you think they may feel anxious that today’s trip may be overwhelming for them? Don’t you think you should be proud that they are attempting to carry on a somewhat “normal” and less dependent life?

From my perspective, it seems like people who are healthy, able-bodied and have that treasured ability to walk view handicap parking spots as a luxury for those who are not like them. Are you kidding me? For those like me, who are in pain and feeling poorly, we truly dread having to use these spots. We would gladly give up the debilitating illnesses, injuries and pain to trade in our handicap placards for the ability to walk and live without pain or illness.

These parking spots do not make our lives easier, they merely make it possible to get out and run the errands which able-bodied, health people take for granted.

Okay, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. After all, handicap parking spots are usually labeled as reserved parking or handicapped parking. The signage has the image of a wheelchair. Perhaps this image is one that confuses people. Do you equate that image of a wheelchair to mean that these spaces are meant for only those who use a wheelchair? Are you not aware that this is the universal symbol for disability? Maybe it is time for new signage with a different image or logo to better represent disability rather than an assistive device?  In the meantime, you may need to be reminded that the purpose of the handicap spaces are for all those who live with the many different types of seen and unseen disabilities.

Many of the folks you see using these placards are genuinely in need; they have worked with their medical provider and applied to their Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to legally obtain the permit. The person to whom the placard was issued is the only person who can use it. They can take the permit and use it in any vehicle that they are riding in; it is not limited to just their personal vehicle. Do some people misuse the placards belonging to a family member or friend? You bet they do! This activity is not only dishonest, but it is illegal.

It is wonderful to think that there could be people out there that care about whether restricted spots are being misused. Yet, how can you be sure without approaching the person? This must be done with care and thoughtfulness rather than accusations and malice. Please do not try to judge if the person exiting the vehicle deserves to park there by outward appearances or presence versus absence of an assistive device, such as a wheelchair, walker or cane. Approaching someone and questioning them is risky as it can cause unnecessary distress for someone already uncomfortable from their health conditions and, more often than not, they have a right to that protected parking spot as they have obtained a legal permit.

If you cannot help yourself and the temptation is too strong for you to walk away, there is an alternative way to “scratch that itch.” If the vehicle is legally parked, this can be verified by simply looking for a temporary or permanent placard laying on the front dash, hanging from the rear view mirror or looking at the license plate. The state has designated that they have the legal medical right to park there. End of story.

If a vehicle is parked in one of the designated spots and does NOT have a placard in view or a license plate, you should notify the store manager or a security guard. They will be able to use the store loud speaker and ask the owner of the vehicle to go to customer service. You can also contact the local city police or sheriff, however, the vehicle has to be parked in the spot when they arrive. Please do not call 911. This is not a life or death issue not worthy of emergency service personal deployment.

Most of all: Hello John/Jane Q Public— I hope you remember from reading this blog is that not all disabilities can be seen by the naked eye. Please do not judge by appearances.

I would love to hear your thoughts. I started a topic on the TPC discussion forums. You will find it under: General Discussions on Pain › Handicap Parking – Do you get questioned?

Note from the Editor: This blog was written by a member of our online community. Would you like to submit a guest blog? Contact us to discuss.

Share This