Thursday, August 26, 2010

A look at Accessible parking and the harassment those with Hidden Disabilities face

Accessible Parking Symbol
Through out the years growing up as a young man with Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy I have faced many challenges, but there’s one I just can’t seem to over come and that is peoples ignorance when it comes to the use of accessible parking spaces. To say I’ve had it rough would be an under statement, you could ask my friends and family members about the stories I could tell you about being harassed by total strangers. Some will go out of there way to see if I have a accessible parking permit, some just start cursing me out, some even threaten me with violence, or say their going to call the police, there’s even been times when I have found notes attached to my windshield saying “You need to save these spots for the people who really need it. To be honest I am truly amazed at the ignorance some people have in society concerning these handicap parking spaces, but whose to blame?
Accessible Parking Sign
 When I really start to think about it I do understand where these people are coming from, you see part of the problem is most of us grow up thinking that people who have a disability are either people in wheelchairs or seniors who use walkers or canes. But for me growing up with Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy I found out pretty quick that these accessible parking spaces are for people who suffer from any number of disabilities out there. Sadly some people never realize this and that is where the whole problem begins. You see a large majority of people in society believe that if they don’t see a wheel chair or a cane or some sort of obvious sign of a disability, that you must be perfectly fine. They jump to the conclusion that you would then have no legitimate reason for parking in a handicap parking space. Thankfully though, I have met a few people over the years who understand that this way of thinking is wrong, but I do wonder how can we change people's attitudes towards those of us with less recognizable disabilities? Hopefully through "My Becker's Story" I don't know.

And sure there might be those out there who would believe that part of the problem is the international symbol for those of us with disabilities being someone sitting in a wheelchair. Sure I agree it isn’t helping but I myself don’t believe that needs to change. I believe that people need to be better educated concerning those of us with less recognizable disabilities parking in accessible parking spaces. To me it is truly sad that some people have no clue about what a disability is or what it looks like, what people need to learn is that a disability can affect anyone, even those who still have the ability to walk.


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11 comments:

  1. One problem of course is Wheelchairs need more space than just us other handichallenged who need those spaces. If there were levels of handicapped spaces? Say instead of three extra wide wheel chair spaces in a row, use one wheelchair sized and add two I just need to park close and open my door all the way spaces. That way using less of the prime parking you can still allow for both versions of handicapped individuals. They often put wheelchair spaces side by side when if they would just use the end spaces the extra area for the ramp would be right there on the non parking side of the space. But you have to also appreciate those who give the evil stares because hopefully they are that hard on the people with no handicap who like to park in the spaces anyway. Then you see, reserved for senior citizens, or reserved for expectant mothers, you can see how this can get out of hand. One last thought on the subject, don't you love how many times the handicapped space is nowhere near the curbcut? Sure we saved you a spot but now you have to traipse all over the place to get in the building. At least here we get that a lot.

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  2. I can't agree with you more!!! I'm 28 and have Charcot Marie tooth disease a form of muscular dystrophy, I wear two AFO's (leg braces) but my physical disability is not that visibly obvious. I too have been screamed at, cursed, threatened with police action or physical harm. The most alarming incident though is when a parking enforcer left a ticket on my window claiming I stole the disability sign. I had to go to court twice the first time the "judge" needed to reschedule this to a closed court room after I had presented my valid parking permit and the parking enforcer tried to state it had been reported stolen. To which I replied he was lying. The second trial I had Sparc write a letter that My parking pass had never been reported stolen and no parking enforcers had calling asking about my parking pass. when the judge called the case the district or parking enforcers decided to dismiss the ticket. I wanted to further pursue this as I had my evidence (a part of me wanted him fired) but was afraid they would somehow win(as they already had lied) because the judge didn't officially hear this case it is not entered into any public records. The parking enforcer is still working and was praised (during the dismissing of the ticket) as a senior supervisor and very trustworthy. I wonder how many times this happens that parking enforcers can flat-out lie, be ignorant especially in there field of work but be protected by the government. I can understand the public not realising physical disabilities come in many forms but someone who tickets vehicles and works for the city should be educated that you cannot look at someone and diagnose if they have a legitimate need for that parking or not. I think these situations really need to be a part of public record so that people working for the city are held accountable for their snap judgments.

    I can understand that the public might think I don't have a disability, and when they confront me I kindly point out the fact that I have a valid permit If they continue I politely state that physical disabilities come in many forms, some that are not as visually obvious as being in a wheel chair or being elderly.

    I will be following your blog as you have many great posts with very important issues, I'm just starting a blog of my own about my life with a physical disability it's still in the beginning stages but I would love any feedback you might want to provide if you decide to visit. https://rebelleftfoot.wordpress.com/

    Thank you for raising so many important issues, and happy holidays,

    Tara @ rebelleftfoot.wordpress.com

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  3. It's really sad to hear about your situation with parking enforcement, you'd think they would be better educated concerning those of us with not so recognizable disabilities. I understand it can be very frustrating dealing with the ignorance of some, I hope this post helps to educates people about our struggle. The issue that you faced shows how important it is for us to tell our story. I took a little time to view your blog, as you say it's in the beginning stages, just keep writing and telling your story, one thing I have learned with my own blog is that it helps other's who might be facing the same struggle. I'm glad to see another person willing to tell their story, and I wish you much success with your blog, I will make sure and check it out often.

    Happy Holidays as well!

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  4. I hope you tell them that you have Beckers Muscualr Dystrophy and that this causes your legs to tire which makes parking close to the door a neccesity , and watch them apologize to you , but it is true that at least that those people are actually standing up for people like you who need those spaces really ....and for every experience you have like that you are educating them as well.

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  5. @ Just Beachy I have SLE Lupus and Mysthenia Gravis (neuromuscular dysfunction) I have very limited walking ability. However, most of the time I don't have a gait. Because my disability isn't visible, my car has been keyed, I've been yelled,screamed and cursed to the point that I'm indifferent to this type of behavior. Friends, family or colleagues I share my private and personal medical condition to. However, I don't dicuss this with strangers on the street anymore. I find myself trying to convince some narrow minded stranger that I am really physically limited. This can be very stressfull.

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  6. I myself can't believe how fired up some people get when they see me park in a handicap spot, I have had people who see me park there and when they back out of their parking spot they come close to my car. I've never had my car keyed, I feel really bad that this has happened to you. People are just so uneducated when it comes to those of us who need to park in these spots.

    Like you all my friends and family know about my disability, I feel like we shouldn't have to explain to people we don't know why we park in handicap spots, and some you tell them and they still don't believe you, sometime no matter what we do or say some people just don't understand that we have a disability.

    I hope things change, I have submitted this article to local news papers and even a canadian disability magazine by the name of Abilities but they don't want to publish this article. It's frustrating, through my blog I really hope that I can somehow educate people about handicap parking and those of us with non-visible disabilities. To me this is a major issue, it causes me major stress as well, what's crazy is the other day handicap parking was full so I had to park far away from the entrance of the walmart, and what happened I fell in the middle of the parking lot from having to walk so far to get to my parking spot. I hope to do a video about this issue in the near future and post it on youtube. Hope things get better for you and me soon!

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  7. Thanks a lot for this informative post i like this post thanks a lot for this great information. keep posting and updating the blog. i like it so much....

    Disability Products

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  8. Over the next few months, Facebook will be archiving all Facebook groups created using the old groups format this means thar everyones comments will be removed once they remove the old page!

    So I want to share a few of the comments regarding this post below before they are removed.

    - You can never really tell how disabled someone is by looking at them! For us it's not necessarily just about walking a shorter distance (level ground isn't really a problem) but the sit-to-stand action of getting in/out without damaging neighbouring parked cars.

    - Brad dent the cars enough they will figure it out... Just kidding of course but they often park so close you end up hitting them even if you are trying to avoid it. If you have the same fun I do you always need the door to open 100% or you can't get up and I've got large doors on my vehicle it's hard not to hit people that park correctly much less those near me.

    - My handicapped plate has been a godsend for me, at least now I can usually avoid damaging people's vehicles and usually can get out ok. I always feel guilty using it though since I know so many others need the space even more than I do. (need to read your message on that) But with winter coming I would be trapped at home without it. Of course right now the 40 MPH winds outside have trapped me anyway. Ha ha.

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  9. In the UK we have blue badges which have our photos on the back. A quick flash of the back of your badge leaves them feeling quite embarrassed. Best advice is to keep cool and if possible just walk on past them. I have started to thank the people who say you cant park there and tell them they are right to question a car parked in a handicap/blue badge space which is not displaying the correct plate/badge, then point out the plate/badge. If they threaten to call the police, invite them to use your phone. Above all be nice and smile as you know they are the narrow minded fool. Worse thing you can do is to be all defensive and angry, as they can mistake this for guilt.

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  10. Brad from the My Becker's Story blogJuly 20, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Thanks for the comment Geord! I think next time someone questions me I will ask them if they have ever heard of Muscular Dystrophy? A let them know about Becker's. And then direct them to my blog no need to get into a fight over parking in one of these spots right. The whole photo on the back thing seems like an idea they could start using here in Ontario. But still you meet a few people who won't believe you that you have a disability I guess it's my good looks that throw them off? But seriously I wish more people had a better understanding of all people with disabilities!

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  11. What are we going to do once all the Baby Boomers need handicap placards? That is why I think that automated cars will save our skins. Think about it: automated cars can bring you to the curb cut or close to the opening of the building and off you go... I am starting to think that the demand for handicap spots is too great especially in cities *now*. What will happen when a greater number of people needing those spots floods the system?
    I work in transportation and I think this is the solution:

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/18/tech/innovation/ieee-2040-cars/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

    Essentially, the way I see it working is that people pay companies a certain amount of money per month equivalent to monthly/yearly maintenance costs of cars to take you straight to the door of the business or your job.
    Laura

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