When I moved to Los Angles, I ended up getting two parking tickets because I had forgotten to hang up my handicap plaque, go figure. A girlfriend of mine suggested that I get permanent handicap plates on my car. I shrugged it off a few times because I thought it would be too much of a hassle to get. Well a few weeks later, I ended up getting my permanent plates on my car and it wasn’t a hassle. Little did I know the hassle would come when I least expected it.
A few months back an older woman was staring at me awhile I gathered my things from the inside of my car. I really didn’t understand why she kept looking at me, I was sitting inside my car so she couldn’t see my disability until I had stepped foot outside. As I gathered my things I slowly opened the door and this woman comes up to my car door and says very loudly “You do know you parked in the handicap parking spot, don’t you?” I was completely caught off guard.
I said, “I sure do, thanks for letting me know.” She replied back, “Well you need a disability plaque and clearly I can see you don’t have one displayed.“ So I slowly got out of the car grabbed my crutches and stared right back at her. I said to her, “I have them displayed on the front and back of my car.” The look on her face and how big her eyes got, priceless. Not once did she apologize.
It’s honestly bad enough people stare already, but to have someone loudly voice how they think I’m doing something wrong is completely none of their business and hurtful. Because she didn’t see my handicap plaque displayed in my window, she assumed I didn’t have a disability and thought it would be okay to attack me. I let the issue go and continued on with my day.
Some people just assume that when I’m sitting in my car, I can’t possibly have a disability. They can’t see me from the waist down or they think, how can a person who has a disability be driving? It’s time to stop stereotyping people and realize that those who have a disability are living active wonderful independent lives.
I was honestly hoping that would be the last time I had to deal with a complete stranger getting mad at me for parking in the handicap parking spot. Little did I know it would get worse a few months later.
I’ll never forget it, I was having such a great day. I was in Culver City, the sun was shining and I had just gotten some fruit from the fruit stand. My dog Lola was with me and we were on our way to the bank.
There was no parking anywhere accept cross the street. The one spot empty was disabled parking, so I pulled in and parked. I gathered my things began to get out, that’s when it got really ugly, really fast.
An older couple came up to my window on the passenger side and started yelling loudly and cussing me out. I had no idea what was going on until the woman said, “How dare you park in a handicap spot with no hanging plaque, you’re a disgrace to those who are disabled! I could have used this spot, but I had to park 5 cars away so you could illegally park here. You horrible person!”
Her husband was saying something as well, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying because they were both yelling at me at the same time. Lola was barking and the couple wouldn’t stop.
There was a man who I will never forget. I don’t know his name, but I saw him looking at me while he was watching the couple yell and tear me down so badly. He was tall and had a ton, and I mean a ton of tattoos all over his face neck and arms.
So he’s watching this unfold. He walks inside the bank. I get out of my car as am crying so badly then the couple came around to the driver’s side and without even thinking or processing what is going on, I yell back, "Is this disabled enough for you!"
I only had time to get one crutch out of my car because I was so mad, but I walked fast towards them yelling and crying. The look on their faces was again priceless. They just looked me up and down and said very little to me.
“Oh we didn’t see your hanging handicap plate.” My reply, “Since you’re playing parking monitor why didn’t you check my front and back of my license plate?” They said nothing else, but then ran inside the bank. I just stood there crying over the fact at all the horrible and mean things they said to me and they just walked away no apology nothing.
About 5 minutes later the man with all the tattoos came outside and walked up to me as I was still crying and said I’m so sorry that happened to you. I can’t believe they said those things to you. Please don’t let what happened ruin your day and don’t stop smiling, I saw you before when you pulled up into the spot and you looked so happy. Please don’t cry, shake it off there just ignorant people.
In that moment I was more reassured to not judge a book by its cover. This complete stranger with tattoos all over came up to me to let me know everything was going to be okay.
Out of all that happened, what I’ve learned is a lot of people are curious and they have a lot of questions. Education is key and whenever possible, I do my best to share my story with people.
Compassion and understanding is the ultimate goal when faced with a difficult situation as this. When someone is yelling at you like that, the first thing that you want to do is shut down.
My suggestion when times like this happen is, stay calm, say thank you and kindly walk away especially if they’re yelling. But if you can educate them about your disability, ask them if they have any questions. You’ll be surprised what response you will get.
Don’t allow this to discourage you, remember those who judge like this don’t know a thing about your or your disability. We have to good of a life to be stressing over people who jump to conclusions and assume. After all that had happened that day, I went about my day and continue to have a great day even after some crying. Let’s educate!