Disabled Parking Wars

Ceri-Ann Brown's avatar

by Ceri-Ann Brown
on

What was the last thing you searched on google? I'm always intrigued to know what people get up to on their phones... we barely have them out of our hands these days.

If you looked at mine you would get nothing juicy. It is pretty much entirely centred around my life as Amy's mum/carer.

Searching phone numbers for wheelchair services, for the feeding tube button suppliers, addresses for places where we have an appointment.

Other searches include "cerebral palsy seizure types", "safety tent for on bed, special needs", "carers pensions" and so on. You get the gist.

Nothing interesting really, but definitely shows where my priorities are and what keeps me up at night.

The latest thing I googled was "how to deal with anger over things you can't control." I read through a few articles, none really seemed relevant to my specific situation.

So, I googled "How to not let people parking illegitimately in disabled parking days ruin your day". I knew this was a bit tenuous and that I wasn't likely to find the help I was seeking.

I stumbled up on a blog post of someone being angry that their next-door neighbour has had a designated disabled bay painted outside their home.

Why are they angry?! It isn't in front of their house, it is in front of their neighbours'! And I am sure that the person requiring the bay had to fight hard to prove that they are even eligible in the first place.

You see, I am trying to get better. I seem to be on a journey of constant self-improvement. I don't like my anxiety, I don't like how irritable I can be.

I have explored various avenues to try and fix the way I process things and have tried hard to bring my self-confidence and self-esteem back up... but with some things I just don't know how I will ever let go of these strong emotions.

Prior to having Amy, I was a bit oblivious to the world of disability. If I was entering a car park it would not have crossed my mind even for a second to park in a disabled bay.

Those bays were for people who needed them. I cannot get my head around the fact that such ignorant selfish people exist.

For us, the disabled bay isn't about the proximity to the shop... I actually don't care if the bay is a good few hundred metres away from the shop.

It's space we need... ideally hatching the whole way around the bay to allow for ramp access and to get bags and equipment out with relative ease.

There are a multitude of reasons why someone might need a disabled bay, and that's our reason. 

What do you do when you see a car parked in the disabled bays that shouldn't be? My responses vary depending on the day and my mood.

I shy away from confrontation at all costs generally... but this is an issue I feel very strongly about. Parking in general is a contentious issue for many so I know there will be divided opinions on this.

I once said to a man "excuse me, you forgot to display your blue badge." To which he laughed, ignored me, and continued into the shop.

Too often the excuse is "I will only be a few minutes." I can't comprehend how they can think this is okay. Amy doesn't use a wheelchair for a few minutes, she uses it for life.

It makes me want to put a notice on their car, maybe even a light hearted one explaining that it would be best not to do park this way again.

But some people just don't care, and I feel that knowing my luck the person would see me place it and publicly attack or humiliate me in some way.

Earlier this week I parked in a huge empty car park only to find the two disabled bays were taken up by people who just wanted to be close to the door. Rage isn't a strong enough word to surmise how I felt.

When I see a car in a bay where it shouldn't be it can ruin my entire day.

I walk around the shop hot with anger knowing that it could be anyone around me that has thought themselves worthy of depriving someone in need of access their place in the carpark. I really wish I could let go of the anger.

Usually I resort to informing the store manager and asking them to tannoy... in one shop they didn't tannoy and they didn't seem to care. To them as long as their customers are paying then all is good.

I often take to Facebook and tell the company directly that they need to better manage their carparks to ensure everyone is parking where they should.

I have even had situations at a local play centre where the person parking in the bay was an able-bodied member of staff that clearly just fancied their own personal bay! 

It isn't that I am a stickler for car parks... I see it more as a metaphor in general for how some people have a lack of respect and empathy for people with disabilities.

It makes me want to stay home because I can't bear to deal with a world that refuses to change.

I want to think that everyone out there is nice and considerate and that people will go out of their way to make life easy and enjoyable for everyone around them.

For me it is a real anxiety trigger.

The public in general is always unpredictable for us on days out. We spend a lot of time walking around our local town centre. I'm not sure why but Amy thoroughly enjoys being taken around the shops.

I think she likes all the different sights and sounds, and also the motion of her chair on smooth ground. I am always a bit nervous of how each encounter will be.

You can meet 100 perfectly lovely people.... and you can meet one nasty person.... guess which you remember? Guess which one keeps you awake at night? 

A few weeks ago, I was queuing with Amy at the shops. The man in front of us looked at Amy, then at me. In my mind I was thinking "I bet he's going to say hello to Amy and have a nice interaction with her."

Imagine my horror when he turns to me and says "Did you damage her with vaccinations?". I was gobsmacked. So much so that I didn't even know how to respond.

Before I could muster up a response he said "is it autism?". "No." I replied. "She has cerebral palsy." He replied "She has autism." I couldn't believe this guy! 

I explained that she has a lot of diagnoses but alas autism was not one of them. "They can reverse autism you know? They can fix it".

The ignorance combined with his stark lack of inhibitions rendered me speechless. "Erm..." and before I knew what to say he departed.

The lady at the till looked even more startled than me. The whole thing actually had me physically scared... I was worried that he was going to harm us in some way or start shouting abuse.

The lady asked if I was okay to which I said "I think so, I just didn't need that today"... I turned around and could see that the rest of the queue was flabbergasted.

Mainly tutting and shaking their heads, disapproving of the man's actions.

How dare a perfect stranger ask such a personal question and make such assumptions about the nature of Amy's disability.

On the way home, I went over and over the whole scene in my head, thinking of the 100 better responses I could have given other than "erm." I got home feeling furious.

Amy using a wheelchair/having a feeding tube/wearing splints is not an open invite for a person to make assumptions or ask overly personal questions.

Amy hadn't really noticed any of the ordeal, at the time she was quite dystonic and distressed.

I concluded the day relieved that hopefully she had not been affected by it, but anxious to leave the house again, anxious how I was ever going to let things like this be water off a duck's back.

I wondered if perhaps this man had a mental health issue or a disability of his own that gives him challenges in social/public situations.

I don't excuse his behaviour by any means because I know that he is out there somewhere enjoying life and probably doesn't even remember the hurt or fear he made me feel that day in the shop.

But I hope that my wide-eyed horror reaction to his statements resonated and made him think again before he goes and upsets someone he has never even met before.

Have you had any interesting encounters or disabled parking bay rages? How do you deal with anger? I'd love to know how others cope.

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