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I have a disability that cannot be seen (diffuse scleroderma and a recalcitrant and relapsing polymyositis). I seem to walk around ok, but my muscles are wasted and continue to rebuild and waste, making it difficult for me to walk long distances and climb steps. There's also a multitude of internal issues, I've had a totally stenosed SVC which was unblocked with venoplasty, but still causes me issues with breathing.

Sometimes the weakness is better than others and I do not require a disabled parking permit, but when I do, it's stressful.

I have been confronted for parking in the disabled parking, even though I have a sticker. I had one man watch me leave a supermarket and load my shopping and got into my car. Then he noticed me lifting my leg with my hand to get into the car and walked away.

A woman called out to me as I got out of my car, "you don't look very disabled to me" and I walked over to her and said I was, she didn't believe me.

A man yelled out and was very aggressive, I walked over to him and told him off, telling him what was wrong with me. Although he wouldn't have understood the medical conditions, he understood my tone and was apologetic.

This all makes me upset, I feel like some kind of cheating criminal when I use the disabled parking.

I can ignore people, but I would really like to communicate with them that what they're doing is unkind and that not all disabilities can be seen.

Does anyone have a suggestion of how I can handle people like this when confronted about using disabled parking? Maybe it will be just better to accept that this happens and learn to ignore it and not be upset?

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    Were these individuals disabled themselves and upset at the perceived loss of "their space," or were they individuals jealous of "your privilege?" I have run into both types, and my response differs. – r m Jul 3 '17 at 6:04
  • @rm they had no disability that I knew of, they had parked in ordinary spots – user57 Jul 3 '17 at 8:08
  • Related honey.nine.com.au/2017/11/09/13/06/car-disabled-notes – user57 Nov 9 '17 at 14:31
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It is rude and presumptuous of them to question whether you have a disability, especially since your car was marked. This is something I understand happens to a lot of people with invisible illnesses or disabilities. Anyone who confronts or questions you is already being rude.

You say that you want to help educate people, so do so when you have the energy. Say something direct, rehearsed, and difficult-to-challenge, like:

"Some disabilities are invisible. The details of my disability are none of your business. If you have a problem, talk to someone in charge."

This communicates that hidden disabilities exist, that they are rude for confronting you, and deflects any followup away from you. You can practice saying it if it makes it less stressful.

If they persist, it's probably going to be stressful regardless of your approach. Just keep in mind that you're doing nothing wrong and that they are the rude one. You shouldn't have to defend your disability; they should be examining their own assumptions.

If you don't have the energy on a given day, keep in mind that there's nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. Don't feel bad if sometimes you don't feel well-rested, brave, or healthy enough to educate others. You can still feel confident that you act in alignment with your values even if you don't pursue justice every moment of your life. They have had ample opportunity to educate themselves; any help you provide is extra and done out of your generosity to them and to other people with disabilities they might interact with in the future.

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    Good answer. I would add (consider this an edit suggestion): don't expend any of your limited energy walking over to them. It damages you and it gives them "confirmation" that you could walk farther if you really wanted to -- which is BS, but do you want to deal with that too? – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '17 at 21:58
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There is no point in making yourself or others more upset.

Please consider that someone may have a disabled family member that all too frequently gets locked out by a callous, selfish fool that should not use disabled parking. For these specific people, I sympathize. And for you as well, obviously.

With that possibility in mind, it may not be appropriate to yell back. Plus it will definitely affect your own mood.

If you are returning to your car, I would suggest just flatly saying that this car belongs to you, and you are genuinely disabled as judged by a medical professional.

If you are leaving your car, invite them to call the police to satisfy their sense of justice.

You are considering whether you should just learn to ignore it. Well, if you are going to go out of your way, then consider getting a cane. You are replacing one inconvenience for another, but at least you can do so without getting upset. The cane will show that you are not one of the many self-serving fools who deserve to get a ticket.

14

It is a typical case of a misunderstanding, they believe they are doing the right thing (those who don't are such a tiny minority it would be wrong to immediately assume someone is part of it). They are genuinely willing to make this parking lot a better place for handicapped persons.

Their misunderstanding might be solvable by you explaining to them verbally, but it is tiring and even if you are very convincing they might still suspect that you just made that up. So if it were me I would try this:

If your condition has a patients association or similar, their might exist a pamphlet that explain the condition and the current research. Hand them this pamphlet or a copy.

Merits:

  • Since they are genuinely interested in making the world a better place for handicapped persons, they will most probably read it and might even end up donating for research.
  • It is less tiring than reciting medical explanations for the millionth time.
  • It will be clear that you're not making this up.

If your condition is very rare and has no such paper, a web printout might be OK as well. Have a few in your car and one in your purse just in case.

Example pamphlet: "Understanding Alzheimers Disease"

6

From the perspective of a person with a visible disability who quite often finds people parking in the Accessible Parking spots for truly no good reason, it is somewhat heartening, I guess, to hear that so many able-bodied people are looking out (I wish they cared as much about the accessible bathroom stalls!), but... I find it absolutely deplorable that they're being so mean and angry about it. For what it's worth, I am really sorry you're experiencing this, especially so consistently.

I have to begin by suggesting that if these same rude people were just a little better educated, their vigilance might actually be appreciated, because they'd be keeping spots safe for all of us, and not just people with disabilities that are obvious. (As it is, however, it seems like they're just being mean to anyone who looks different than what they think one should. And that's just bigotry in a different package. Pretty sad, really.)

Anyway, I know from personal experience that it is very difficult to stick up for yourself, defend your rights, live with the disability itself, and keep a smile on your face and in your heart, every single day. For this reason, it is good to enlist help wherever you can, and I think this could help a lot.

I just got really good hits on Google for:

  • not all disabilities are visible sticker

  • not all disabilities are visible decal

  • not all disabilities are visible patch

  • not all disabilities are visible bumper sticker

I'm sure you don't want your vehicle to be a constant advertisement of your disability, but I think if you look around in those searches you could probably find something quite tasteful and appropriate.

Then, you can say,

"Look, I appreciate what you're doing (though not your indiscriminate approach). Now, will the very visible decal on my window, or this patch on my lapel, be enough for you [you would point at either of them at this point], or will you need to hear my unpronouncable diagnoses or see some documentation? [Assuming they back off] Thank you. Good day."

With this approach, by presenting a visual for people, you're not only defending yourself but you're making a small, daily impact toward the education of the ignorant.

For that, thank you!

4

People will always give themselves rights they don't own

The government, the law, or whoever is in charge for this gave you a permit for parking closer to the place you want to reach because you are disabled. This is a fact. You are lucky to live in a country where disabled people have some advantages, and you are using these advantages. You are doing nothing but following the law.

The fact that you are posting here witnesses your concern and testify of your kindness. First things first then : don't overthink this whole thing. You are doing it right, and even though those people think they are also doing it right, they are not.

To me, you have roughly two options :

1. Ignore them

Live and let live. You will be judged by people until the day you die. No matter what you do, some people will say 'it's not enough !' and some others will say 'that's too much !'. Don't consider their opinion too much, especially when you know by fact you are right.

2. Be passive-agressive

You don't know these people, and I guess you don't really want to know them knowing they are being such jerks judging you without knowing, and if you are just getting some stuff to the supermarket, high are the chances you'll never get to see them again. So here is how I would handle this :

You don't seem very disabled to be

Yeah well, you don't seem to know what [disability name] is either...

Or, if you want to be a little less aggressive and play the sense-of-humour cord :

Oh trust me, the [disability name] is something I would gladly give away with my parking card.

I would go for the second one since it doesn't bring any tension, and is a good lesson taught without being rude.

Bonus: I've been travelling all around the world, and Aussies were the nicest people I've ever had to meet. This kinda makes me sad to see this "Australia" tag.

2

Call to authority in this case - keep around whatever official documentation (eg said disabled parking permit) defines your right to use these parking spots, and do not be ashamed to show them to anyone asking rudely.

If someone questions the moral validity of these documents, keep the mindset that they show that it has been officially decided that you are meant to use these parking spots, and that any argument others have is with whoever issued them, not with you. Internalize that attitude: Your doctor decided it, he knows what's best.

If anyone actually calls your documentation fake, make it clear that they just wrongfully accused you of criminal behaviour (which document forgery is in most countries) and that they are welcome to take that to the police.

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