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Stranger shames mom for using disability parking spot

When a 10-year-old girl in Colorado returned to her family’s van after a shopping trip recently, she and her mother, Naomi Barringer, noticed a piece of paper with a typed message had been left under the wipers.

But it wasn’t an advertisement. Instead, a nasty message was waiting for the mother-daughter pair, attacking Mom for parking their car in a spot reserved for people with disabilities. Take a look at the letter that calls this mom out as “lazy” and an “idiot”:

note to mom disabled parking

Image: 9 News

As it turns out, Kaitlyn Barringer has a placard that allows her mom to park in what’s commonly called a “handicapped spot.” The 10-year-old was born with a condition called hypophosphatasia, an inherited genetic disease that causes bones to be weaker than they should be and can result in frequent fractures and constant pain, and in some cases it can be fatal. Kaitlyn had 13 fractured bones when she was born and has experienced many more in the years since.

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The 10-year-old says she was hurt to learn that people think she’s just being lazy, and it’s easy to understand why.

Many people — even kids — have what some call “invisible disabilities.” They appear to have a fully functioning, pain-free body because they don’t limp, and they don’t have crutches, canes, walkers or wheelchairs. In other words, they look “normal” and like they have no need for a disabled parking spot. But as many across the country already know, this is not the only way people can experience a disability.

Even when someone is young and seemingly able, even if they walk without a visible limp, the movement may cause them unbearable pain. Even if someone walks rapidly, cold weather or extreme humidity may make their joints flare up to the point of agony.

Even if a little girl seems to walk normally, she may be suffering and may really need that extra-close parking space.

Seeing someone who doesn’t look all that disabled use a designated parking spot is a sore spot for many, to be sure, and jerks who use these spaces without need are truly awful people. The most important thing to note, however, is that not all disabilities are obvious. You cannot judge a book by its cover, and you cannot tell if someone is disabled by looking at them.

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Police local to this family suggest that if you see someone misusing a parking space, inform the authorities — do not confront the person, and don’t leave notes on their vehicle. And if you see that they have special license plates or a placard that guarantees their right to use the spaces, they probably have a need for it, and even if you suspect they are using a relative’s disability for their own lazy reasons, just leave them alone. Confronting someone is hostile, and leaving notes is cowardly.

It’s difficult to move around in this world when you have a disability (invisible or not), and it’s heartbreaking for a child to see that someone thinks she doesn’t deserve to use a designated parking space because she doesn’t look sick enough. Hopefully stories like these will help the general public realize that there is often more to the story when someone parks in one of these spots, and this sort of shaming will stop.

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