A passionate guest post from one of our Facebook Community Group members, Erin Pritchard
Disabled spaces are not OAP spaces!
That may sound harsh at first, but I am not here to suggest OAPs should not be allowed to park in disabled bays. What I want to get across is that anyone who has a valid blue badge should be able to park in these bays without confrontation from others, including younger people who have possibly been born with an impairment.
So many disabled people (mostly those who are young and non-wheelchair users) are getting abuse for parking in disabled bays, despite having a valid blue badge. From my experience this confrontation is coming predominantly from older people – who should know better!
I have dwarfism, as well as spinal stenonsis (a common side effect of dwarfism) which causes mobility difficulties and can lead to paralysis. Obviously spinal stenonsis is invisble whereas my actual dwarfism remains visible. Yet, I consider dwarfism to be an invisible disability as people do not recognise the disabling effects; including spinal problems, and the difficulty of carrying shopping bags or pushing a large trolley (which comes up to my nose) across a car park. I also require a wider bay as I have to open my door fully to be able to climb in and out of my car, a vehicle which has been designed for someone a lot taller than me.
Yet many people do not appreciate these difficulties; all they see is a small person walking to her car seemingly without any difficulty! They cannot see that my back is causing me great pain, and that the numbness in my legs is increasing due to my nerves being trapped by my spine.
Over the past 30 years disabled people’s living arrangements have been progressively changing for the better. Fewer are being kept in institutions and thus it is becoming more common to encounter disabled people in public. Perhaps this is why older people seem to think that younger people who park in these disabled bays are fakers? Maybe they are listening and believing the media, who at the moment are trying to convince people that most disabled people are ‘spongers’ or ‘cheats’.
Just for the record, I am not faking my dwarfism!
You may think I am having a go at older people, yet from personal experience, and from talking to other disabled people, most confrontations really do come from older people who simply do not believe that younger people have a right to park in disabled bays. I do not begrudge older people parking in disabled bays, as I am well aware that people become more prone to mobility difficulties in later life.
What I do begrudge is older people thinking that these bays are only for them and who then proceed to hound anyone else who dares park in them! Of course not all older people do this, so my message to the ones that do is this:
‘Not all disabilities are visible and so unless the person is not displaying a valid blue badge, please, keep your opinions to yourself! You cannot tell if someone is disabled or not, as most disabilities are invisible and do not require the use of a mobility aid. Less than 10% of disabled people use a wheelchair, and a lot of people are born with an impairment so don’t be surprised if you see a young person parking in a disabled bay’.
As an example, when I go shopping in one particular supermarket, the disabled bays are adjacent to the store’s cafe. As soon as I park up and get out, after clearly displaying my blue badge, I am guaranteed to get the obligatory stares and head shaking from the older people sitting by the windows at the cafe! If I am getting into my car and I see them do this I make sure they can clearly see me removing my blue badge from the dashboard.
I should not have to do this, I should not have to explain myself to these self proclaimed experts. Sometimes I want to shout; “You should count yourselves lucky you weren’t born with your disability!”
That is not to suggest that some older people were not born with their impairment, but judging from their attitude they seem to think that being disabled only comes with old age. I get enough unwanted attention when I am out in public, due to my appearance, and so the last thing I need are people shaking their heads at me because they think I am abusing disabled facilities. It seems that having a blue badge is not enough and thus perhaps I should get a MRI copy of my spine and place it next to my blue badge so that I can show people how messed up it is. It is easy to judge someone when you cannot feel their pain.
Don’t get me wrong, I get mad when I see someone parking in a disabled bay WITHOUT a blue badge. I also know that some people use a family members badge when they want to go shopping, so there is a problem where you cannot be sure who is genuine and who is not.
So my advice is that unless you are a traffic warden with the ability to find out who is genuinely using a blue badge then you should leave well alone. Disabled people have enough to contend with when out in public without having to justify their right to use disabled spaces and facilities.
Thank you Erin for a well written and excellently conveyed argument. As ever we welcome your comments too dear reader, so please leave your thoughts in the space below: