It’s 2021, and while ableism is still very much an issue, I recently was shocked to see firsthand just how unapologetic people can be about it. Yesterday, in an online local group I’m in someone posted a picture of a company truck who had illegally double parked, essentially ruining the chance for not just 1, but 2 handicapped parking spots to be legally used. This truck had no signs of a placard or license plate. Now I hate judging, so I completely agree that the person could have a legitimate disability without this displayed, but this theory was quickly dispelled by someone who KNEW the driver of the truck. So here we have an able bodied person parking where he was blocking 2 handicapped parking spaces at night. Surely, everyone would agree that this was wrong, right? Not so much.
I myself am newly disabled. A little over a year ago, I discovered that I had inherited CMT(Charcot-Marie-Tooth) disease, a genetic disease that affects the peripheral nerves in your body, causing such things as poor balance, drop foot, high arches (sometimes flat feet), numbness of the extremities, nerve pain, etc. I now get around with a cane to help with my balance and sometimes braces to help with my drop foot. I am supposed to wear the braces whenever I walk a lot BUT they can be a pain more than a help sometimes. Luckily, I can still manage without them for the most part, but I most definitely need the cane. Without it, walking is not too difficult, but standing still? Imagine standing on a boat during a bad storm and trying to not move. Yeah, standing still is like that for me. Needless to say, I sometimes use handicapped parking unless I can find a close parking spot that’s not one or I’m having a good day. And even when I do use one, I tend to feel guilty about it because I’m used to this mindset of there always being someone worse off than me, you know? I also feel strange because I’m 37 years old and I’m a fat girl. No shocked faces with that word, please! I 100% AM a fat girl, and that’s okay. To the world though, me being a fat girl causes others to assume that I am disabled due to obesity though. THAT part is extremely frustrating because while maybe my weight does or does not effect my disability, my disability is 100% NOT from my size. People with CMT come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, and it progresses differently in each and every person. This assumption tends to make me push myself way more than I should sometimes to prove that I am not completely incapable due to my weight. THAT in itself could be another post, but I am getting off topic here.
Back to the main point now…
It all started with a comment about how people are always complaining about something. Well, yeah, as humans, we kind of do tend to complain, but this comment basically makes one feel as if THIS is something you should never complain about. I am sure the disabled people led by an 8-year-old by the name of Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins who crawled up the steps of the Capitol on March 12th, 1990 so that we could have the Americans with Disabilities Act passed would consider it a slap in the face if we all just sat back and allowed people to take away the rights they fought so hard for. Complaining is honestly the least one can and should do in this situation. This person should learn a lesson that their convenience is not more important than a handicapped person’s need to be able to park closely and safely.
Next, there was what I thought at first surely was a joke. Another person commented that handicapped people park in nonhandicapped spots all the time, and that should be illegal. Uh, excuse me? Turns out this was NOT a joke. First of all, maybe the fact handicapped people are forced to park in nonhandicapped spots at times is because of situations like that truck illegally parked, blocking 2 spots? Not to mention the number of handicapped spots to nonhandicapped ones is a BIG difference. When this was pointed out, it got the response that there could NOT be that many handicapped people in the store. Another huge misconception here because not only do I live in an area with a huge number of senior citizens BUT a vast number of people with disabilities do NOT look disabled. Lung issues, heart issues, muscular diseases, etc. do not always mean using a walker, cane, or wheelchair. In fact, some people who use wheelchairs can walk! What a surprise, right?! The ignorance just completely devastated me. I, myself, as I said, use a cane, but I do NOT use an automated wheelchair when I go in a store. Using a cane and pushing a cart is not exactly ideal, so I put my cane in the cart then use the cart for balance and stability as much as I can. This has definitely got some looks from people. I’m sure people assume I don’t really need a cane if I could put it in the cart, but again, they have no clue that if I don’t hold onto something and stand still looking at an item, I will look like those Weebles toys… “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down” except I would never be sold because I would be considered defective and fall down then need help back up. They have no idea that as I walk, my legs start feeling like I have weights attached to them, start to drag, then my drop foot comes into play and I trip over flat ground. I have done this frequently and am thankful for the cart to help keep me up and off the ground. Has anyone giving me funny looks ever bothered to stop and ask me my disability? Nope. And I’m actually fine with them asking me as I would love to spread awareness!
Here’s another atrocious comment that I saw. “Save the children, not the parking lot”. When I first read this comment, I thought I might have entered another dimension where life doesn’t make sense, but nope, I am still here in THIS world. I am still not 100% sure how calling someone out for illegally parking in handicapped spots has to do with the safety of our parking lots. I was not aware our parking lots were in danger. As far as saving children, I am completely for this, but the only relationship children have in this situation is if they are disabled, which children can be, so they also need parking spaces available. If we are going to care about children then we should care about children who need wheelchairs and cannot exit their vehicle because someone else decided to illegally park.
Then there was the “only worried if someone else needs the spots”. I’m going to assume this person not only sits nearby to see if someone NEEDS the spots but also can read minds because I not only have searched for a spot for myself AND my Mom, who is also disabled, but gets around better than me at the age of 77 AND my Nanny (Mom’s Mother), who when she was alive was wheelchair bound, and you know what I did when someone was in the space whether I saw a placard or license plate or not? I just drove by to keep looking OR ended up dropping people off at the entrance. I have never seen someone stop, get out, wave their arms around, and say hey, I need this parking space, this person is here illegally, and throw a fit about this. Not once! Imagine that!
This topic could literally have me fuming for hours, and actually, it DID, which is why I have vented here in my blog. I don’t care if you are only planning to be in a store for 5 minutes. I don’t care if you worked a long day and your feet hurt. If you are not disabled, stop parking in a handicapped parking spot. I don’t think this is too much to ask. This shouldn’t be such a controversial topic. Why is it still that way? I would love to hear others’ thoughts and opinions on this. I only ask that everyone please be respectful and try to avoid foul language, please.