Why someone needs a disabled parking pass is none of your damn business, just so you know. Folks don't have the passes if they don't need them, and as they go through an official process of applications and approvals to get that pass, your opinion is irrelevant -- even if you can’t tell what the person’s disability is.
I’m waggling my finger at you, you nosy thing, because people question the rights of disabled pass users all the time. But if my autistic son Leo’s doctor and the Golden State DMV agree that it’s safer for Leo if we have that parking pass, then who are you to question us when we use it? Hmmm?
If I seem a bit sensitive, consider the hateful letter an anonymous person sent to the family of Max Begley, an autistic kid who dared to make noises outside in a Newcastle, Ontario neighborhood -- a letter so heinous (euthanasia is recommended) people are outraged that the Ontario government is not pursing the matter as an official hate crime.
But the relevant part of the loathsome letter for us is this little beauty:
I HATE people like you who believe, just because you have a special needs kid, you are entitled to special treatment!!! GOD!!!!!!
Which means that there are people who will judge us for using a disabled parking pass because we have a special needs kid, in addition to the people who will question our need to use the pass because Leo’s disability is not always apparent. Excellent.
And then there’s the attitude called ableism that the letter exposes, which autistic advocate Lydia Brown calls out:
[The letter] threatens violence and justifies its threats with the rationale that of course disabled people should either sit down and shut up, or stop existing altogether because we inconvenience abled people. Because we are abnormal and atypical.
So, really, it’s unfair to have accommodations like disabled parking at all, to some people. Fantastic!
I’m sure you’ve never entertained such horrible, misanthropic, discriminatory thoughts. I’m sure you’re like me, and consider parking placards part of our social contract, part of the accommodations our society provides and honors for those who need them. Especially since anyone who isn't disabled currently might one day need accommodation like that parking pass, as my dad did when he developed Leukemia. (Actually, he was thrilled to get the pass, considered it almost worth the cancer. He truly loved efficiency, that man. I miss him.)
Look, I know people abuse the parking passes, use temporary passes longer than needed, and "borrow" or steal other people's hanging placards. And people are livid when the passes get abused, even taking it upon themselves to report suspected offenders.
I think there's a better way, and it's two-pronged:
1) If you know someone who uses a parking pass who doesn't actually need one, don't congratulate the jerk or ask them how you can get one too -- call them out. Make sure they know they may be jeopardizing someone's health and welfare.
2) Again, try to believe the people who actually have the passes. Think about it. What if you reported someone like my dad, who looked healthy most of the time but never knew when his energy was going to desert him, and needed his getaway car as close as possible just in case?
Please save your ire for those people who park in disabled spots without the placard. I asked autism parenting advocate Jennifer Byde Myers about her experience, as her son Jake sometimes needs to use a wheelchair:
Seen: Someone parking in the handicap spot "just to run in for a minute." If you can just run in somewhere, then you should find your own spot, then run for two minutes to get to that shop. You are not that important. And if you park there, I will call you out, get your car towed, take pictures of you and your car etc. However, if you tell me that you left your pass in your other car, I will believe you, and suggest you park somewhere else so you do not get towed. People who run in for just a minute and use that spot may not know that there is a person circling the parking lot waiting to see if the one "safe space" is available next to the post office. Sometimes that's how it is for us ... there is one spot I am willing to park in so I can keep my family safe. And you just took it for convenience ... for your convenience.
We're going to get that pass. We're only going to use it if we really need it. It is not for our convenience. Leo is usually fine, and we've actually passed up many offers for accommodation when Leo is doing OK and doesn't need special treatment. So you trust us if we've got the proper pass, and I'll trust you under the same circumstances, we'll both cross our fingers that law enforcement and legal systems will take care of parking pass violaters and perpetrators of hate crimes, and we can focus our energies on positive matters, like the fact that the entire community rallied around Max Begley and his family once that toxic anonymous letter was exposed.
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