On Using Disabled Parking Permits, Restroom Stalls, and Motorized Carts: Don’t Judge Based On What You (Can’t) See


Just because someone looks healthy doesn’t always mean they are. Disabled does not equal “lazy” or “attention seeking.”

Today’s topic is based on a recent online TKR support group discussion that began as the subject of disabled parking spaces. How many have seen someone park in one of the aforementioned spaces and then exit their vehicle, only to appear “healthy”?

While there are some people who use these spaces illegally (and they should be rightfully fined for such selfish actions), chances are very good that the parking spots are being utilized by people with invisible disabilities. My only criticism of such is that special license plates and/or windshield placards be visible when using these parking spaces (these are particularly useful for those with invisible disabilities).

Artificial joints, MS, fibromyalgia, cardiac and respiratory conditions, lupus, moderate to severe forms of rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, and other conditions are only a few forms of “invisible disabilities.”

Those who deal with invisible disabilities on a daily basis are judged more harshly, based on general perception that they don’t “look sick” and often viewed as complaining shrews, lazy, attention seeking, hypochondriacs, and out to seek special treatment, all which are far from the truth.

Why are people so quick to judge others because they use special facilities yet appear healthy? Not only was I guilty of this behavior in the past, but also witnessed it firsthand. Someone running into an ADA restroom stall when others are open? Perhaps they have a form of colitis or related diseases, and the accessible stall happens to be the closest one.

Severe arthritis can make walking short distances agonizing, let alone from the farther end of a parking lot or around large stores, so it’s best not to jump to conclusions that said person is “lazy” because they parked in a space designated for disabled drivers or used a motorized cart. After all, we don’t know their complete stories or live in their bodies.

I spotted a link to this excellent blog post on my Facebook news feed one day and agreed with everything written in it. Here is another related article from Jalopnik on how a police car boxed in a Lamborghini that was blocking disabled parking spaces! I’m sure many of us can relate to both situations.

Dealing with afflictions myself not visible to the naked eye has given me a whole new outlook about being judgmental until walking in that other person’s shoes. Yes, I can walk and choose to use a regular shopping cart over a motorized one despite having a recent knee replacement or sit toward the back of buses the occasional times I ride them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other limitations. I just prefer to leave available specific things and areas for people worse off than I.

In conclusion, don’t concern yourself with what others think. You know your body and what it can and cannot deal with. If you’re entitled to use special facilities, by all means take advantage of them; if you can use “regular” ones, that’s fine too. You have more an idea what you can tolerate than the world does.

As for judgmental parties, I suggest you count your blessings for being healthy and think twice before tutting to a total stranger about using disabled parking spaces, restroom stalls, motorized carts, or any other ADA amenities. Who is to say for sure whether or not they are needed by that person?


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