More things your doctor doesn’t tell you: temporary handicapped parking permits

October 31, 2014

I can’t believe how many times I’ve had different versions of the same conversation. First there was this one:Handicapped Parking

Me: There is absolutely no excuse for parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit.

Him: Well, maybe there are some.

Me: No. None. There’s just no excuse at all. If you need the space, get a permit.

Him: What do you think about pregnant women using those spaces?

Me: I have had plenty of pregnant friends who could walk around just fine up to the time they delivered. They sure did better than me!

Him: Well, my sister had some complications.

Me: Then she should have gotten a temporary permit from her doctor.

Him: Oh, I didn’t know those existed!

Then came this one:

Me: There is absolutely no excuse for parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit.

Her: I totally agree. Usually. I mean, I did park in them last month when my foot was healing. But that was different. I needed it.

Me: If you really needed it then you should have gotten a temporary permit from your doctor.

Her: Oh, I didn’t know those existed!

And there have been others. Why is it so hard to understand that there is no excuse whatsoever for parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit? Why don’t people realize that if they have a legitimate need then they should get a temporary permit? Oh, that’s right, because doctors never offer them! Shouldn’t a doctor suggest to a patient with a broken foot or some other temporary condition that they get a temporary permit? I don’t know if temporary permits are available in every state, but they definitely are in Massachusetts. (If you want proof, check out #6 on this site.) But the average ambulatory person does not know this. Why would they?

Doctors should know it, though. They should know it, and they should tell their patients. I am not suggesting that these temporary permits be handed out like candy on Halloween. However, like so many other issues in the world of illness, education will help everyone. People who need temporary permits would be helped so much if they could actually get them. And people with a legitimate need to park in those spaces would be helped by people not assuming it’s ok to park there if they themselves judge their own need to be worthy.

So I will continue to say this to people, and I hope you do, too:

It’s not up to you to decide if you “need” or “deserve” to park in those spaces. If you have a legitimate need, get a permit. Otherwise, leave those spaces for people who really do need them!

Have you had similar conversations? Please share some in the comments below!

Why do we let our illness props embarrass us?

November 10, 2013

The other day I was talking to someone who often carries a pillow with her. Due to a back problem, she needs the pillow for sitting in certain kinds of chairs. She said she’s embarrassed to be seen carrying it around. I was surprised. Another day I Handicapped Parkingwas talking with a friend who’s embarrassed to park in handicapped spaces. She knows she needs them, but she looks healthy, so she worries about what other people will think. I tried to encourage her to get the pass, but she refused. These are two stories, but there are so many others. I hear these kinds of things all the time.


I’d like to say that I never let those things embarrass me, but it wouldn’t be true. I’ve come a long way, though! Occasionally I worry about what other people think, but then I remember that my health is more important that what strangers think of me. And besides, who are they to judge?

It helps to remember, I’m not the one who should be embarrassed! And neither are you!

If I need to ask for a seat on the train, why I should I be embarrassed? The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who don’t immediately offer up their seats. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who don’t get up for the pregnant lady with 2 kids and groceries who steps on the train. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who listen to music so loudly that it bothers other passengers.

When I park in a handicapped space I am very aware that I do not look like I have any disability. But why should I be embarrassed? The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who judge me without knowing me. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who “borrow” a relative’s pass even though they themselves don’t need it. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who park horizontally, taking up 3 spaces in the lot just so their car won’t get dinged by someone else’s door.

Sometimes I need a wheelchair when I’m in a place that involves a lot of walking. Sometimes it gets in other people’s way. But why should I be embarrassed? The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who get annoyed at me and say rude things. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who don’t take 2 seconds from their day to open a door for me. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who are so preoccupied with whatever they’re reading on their smartphones that they bump into other people.

Needing some sort of help for the sake of our own health and well-being is absolutely, positively, without doubt, in no way any reason at all for embarrassment. Rude, inconsiderate behavior is. So be a good, nice, helpful person for others and you’ll have no reason to be embarrassed. And if someone says something anyway? Do what I do: simply, calmly, and matter-of-factly tell them why they’re wrong. Then walk (literally or figuratively) away with your head held high.

Forget the cloak: become invisible in a handicapped parking space

April 27, 2013

I’ve found there are two reactions from strangers when I park in a handicapped parking spot. It’s either condemnation or obliviousness.

I covered condemnation in yesterday’s post. I experienced obliviousness today.

Do you ever watch how people search for parking spaces? It doesn’t matter if someone plans to walk a mile around and around Handicapped Parkingthe inside of a mall; it’s so very important to them that they don’t walk an extra 50 feet to a farther parking spot. It’s a priority to park as close to the building’s door as possible. It doesn’t matter to them how much time, effort, and gas they waste. They need the “best” possible parking spot. They see it as an accomplishment.

Now, if you happen to be in one of those close-to-the-building parking spaces, drivers will be very happy to wait while you load your packages into the trunk, buckle your kids into their car seats, check your email on the phone, and generally take several extra minutes to pull out of that spot. Because it means they get the spot when you leave. So they wait while traffic backs up behind them.

All of that is different if you park in a handicapped parking space. They can’t park in your spot, so they don’t bother looking in your direction. They just drive right past. I’ve found that waiting patiently doesn’t help with this situation. I’ve tried to back out slowly, but that’s tough too, because the determined drivers will just swing around my car and continue down the aisle. They can’t use my parking space so they have no incentive to let me out. I’ve found that it takes much longer to get out of a handicapped parking space than a non-handicapped one that’s just as close or even one that’s farther away. And it’s infuriating.

I know this problem isn’t about their view of me needing the parking space. It’s about people being selfish, impatient, and rude. Still, it’s just one more added difficulty in an already difficult situation. And I’m fed up with it.

You know what happens when you assume

April 26, 2013

She called me up in tears. She wanted to talk specifically to me, because she knew I’d understand. Now that I’m remembering it, I’m just so angry!

Amy was having a bad day. She was worried about her sick elderly father. She was just told about a potentially career-altering problem at work. She’s still helping out her husband while he recovers from surgery and can’t do as much around the house as usual. She was in a lot of pain, even more than usual. And to top it all off, she’d just gotten bad news from her doctor. It was a bad bad bad bad day.

On the way home from taking care of her father, Amy stopped to pick up take-out food for her and her husband. She couldn’t Handicapped Parkingmanage to cook. She was exhausted and in pain and didn’t think anything of pulling into one of the handicapped spaces. Like me, some days she doesn’t bother with those spaces. It just depends on how she feels. But just about every day, like me, she looks healthy even though she’s not.

Food in hand, Amy returned to her car to find a hand-written note on her windshield. Someone had written that she didn’t look handicapped so she shouldn’t be parking in that space. And like any one of us who have gotten a similar note, dirty looks, or hurtful words thrown at us, she was angry, upset, hurt, and felt the need to defend herself. Of course, the writer of the note was no where around, so all she could do was go home and cry.

I am glad she called me, because I do understand. And at the end of the call, she seemed to be feeling a bit better. I suggested some self-care: a shoulder rub from her husband, good food, a relaxing movie, and lots of sleep. I told her to call me back if she needed to cry or yell, and to throw or punch a pillow. She apologized because she never complains, but I pointed out that she can’t just keep this bottled up.

And neither can I.

Everyone with an invisible disability experiences something like this at some point in their lives. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I have experienced it more times than I want to think about, but still fewer times than I’d expect. Over the years, though, I’m sure I’ll experience it more.

I applaud those who call out people who truly are fraudulent. I often report cars without proper tags that are parked in handicapped spaces. But none of us has any right to judge others for their perceived abilities or lack thereof. No, I do not look like I need to park in handicapped spaces, but I do. No, I do not seem to need a wheelchair, but some times I do. No I do not look like I’m unable to stand on the bus or train, but I am. No, I do not look like I am unable to work, but I am. That is my reality. It’s no one else’s.

And it’s no one else’s to judge.

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