Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Disability = Old and Wheelchair User?

Ok, so this is going to be a bit of a rant post, mainly because of peoples reactions to me parking in a disabled bay...

When it first started happening I put it down to people just being protective of disabled bays and ensuring they weren't being abused... I was quite happy that someone was 'fighting my corner' so to speak.

Now I realise that it is down to lack of knowledge and awareness. People genuinely seem to think that in order to park in a disabled bay you either need to be elderly and drive a little 1.2 car, or if you're young then have one of those boxes on top that brings a wheelchair down to you...  Even after I have put my blue badge on display, the reaction is still the same...

This isn't me jumping to conclusions, or being over sensitive... I have seen and heard these opinions.

So the first question is why do I have a blue badge?  I was born with juvenile idiopathic arthritis which wasn't diagnosed until I was 2yrs old.  Over the years it has affected a majority of my joints.  I've had various joint replacements, including both hips and knees.  I find it difficult to walk long distances, my feet feel like they are on fire if I am on them too long and I need a wider space in order to open my door right up to get out.  I don't use walking sticks or crutches because of the pressure it places on my wrists.

The next question is why do I get the reaction that I get?  To start off, I am 35yrs old although have been told I look younger (*lucky me*).  I also drive a sporty car, which incidently is a Motability car (Motability is a scheme which gives disabled people the opportunity to own or lease a car at an affordable price)

Parking in my hometown of Hinckley, I regularly use a number of disabled bays... This includes our local Asda, the health centre and car parks on Rugby Road and at top of Church Walk...

A couple of recent events have lead me to write this piece because I want people to understand the impact their reactions can have on you.

The first time I was going to the gym.  I have had a GP referral because after having 2 total hip replacements in the space of 6mths last year, I wanted to get my fitness levels back up.  I parked in the Rugby Road carpark and was getting my badge and clock ready when a group of 2 couples (in their 50's) walked past after parking their car.  One of the ladies looked at me and then openly pointed me out to her male companion.  Obviously I don't have the hearing of a superhero but I kind of guessed the jist of what was being said.

After I had put my badge on display they slowly walked towards the entrance of the carpark but kept looking back every so often.... Just as I got out of the car, the male walked back past towards his car while the rest of the group waited at the entrance.

This didn't bother me because he could have simply been going back to the car to get something or check he'd locked it.  What did bother me was the eyes following me as I walked across the carpark... They were still looking back every so often as they walked towards their destination, Noor Tandoori.... 

The second event was in the carpark at the top of Church Walk.  There is a separate entrance for disabled parking and you expect the occasional stare as you drive in but on this occasion, I was met with another car coming out which then stopped alongside me. The male driver put his window down to tell me that it was parking for disabled only.  I politely acknowledged and showed him my blue badge.  He smiled back and went on his way.

I parked up and just as I put my badge on the dashboard, I noticed a lady (in her 70's) standing opposite, just watching... Now I have days when I am caught in my thoughts so didn't think much of it. I got out of the car, locked up and just as I was putting the keys in my bag, the same lady walked over to me.  Talking in quite a stern voice she told me that these spaces were for blue badge holders only.  Pointing to my badge, I replied that I was a blue badge holder.  "Are you sure its not your Nans?" came the response.... Well shocked was not the word but calmly, I replied that it was mine and that I had arthritis.  This was followed by something I regularly hear (but doesn't get any easier!).... "You're not old enough to have arthritis"

Cue *bang head here* response 

I soooo had to bite my lip but luckily the lady in question accepted things and went on her way...

Its bad enough that I have arthritis in the first place, even worse when you can only use certain parking spaces but when both are questioned.... Its just not needed.

So while I appreciate that disabled parking spaces and blue badges are abused, I myself have felt the frustration of such abuse, please take a minute to try and understand that there are those of us that genuinely have a need...

Disability does not automatically mean you are a wheelchair user, or should have walking sticks/crutches.  Being young and using a blue badge does not automatically mean you are abusing it.

Me with my little car :)


  1. This has to be one of my biggest gripes for those of us with invisible illnesses. SO much so that I do believe there needs to be MORE spaces at the front for us taggers. I have a plate on my car but you would think it says smile at me while you steal my spot... jerk! I feel for you as well as i'm sure, many others.

    found you by way of frozen woman. Thanks for having me and if you get a chance, come check out another what you see is what you get kind of gal. Gentle hugs. Tazzy

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