Where it all began

This is reposted from the lost archives:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Laziness Is Not A Disability

I can’t sleep. I think I’m still too wound up about what happened tonight. Honestly, people’s reactions surprised me. I have been thinking it over and over. Did I deserve their response? Maybe I did. Perhaps I was too aggressive? I know I was angry, but I really and truly believe I and every other disabled person and their carers have the right to be.

I had to jump through a lot of hoops to get my disability parking permit. I did it because I don’t like infringement notices and because it’s the way it should be. No permit no park. Simple.

I used to just get frustrated by it and think “What an arsehole” in my head. Then I started saying it out loud to anyone that was with me. Now I have become so frustrated by the inconvenience it causes I have started telling the culprits themselves.

I’m talking about people who abuse designated disability parking spaces.

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This evening the family decided to go out for dinner. We headed to our favourite local sushi place which happens to be on the outside of our local shopping centre. It also happens to be right next door to a bottle shop and opposite a pub. There are several restaurants, a gym, an ice cream shop and banks all in close vicinity of them. You already see where this is going don’t you.

When I pulled up, another car pulled into the first disabled space at the same time and the driver left his wife and kids in the car while he ducked into the bottle shop. I walked closer to see they had no disabled parking permit. I was annoyed but I wanted dinner so I was honestly going to let it go. As I went to walk away though, another car pulled in next to mine also in a disabled space also with no permit displayed. No, I wasn’t going to just let them ignore me.

I was a bit surprised to see an older lady get out of the car but age is not a disability so I asked her anyway, “Do you realise that is a disabled parking space?”
She stared at me a little stunned then replied, “I left my thing at home, I have one, my husband is disabled.”

Okay so two things here: Firstly, the left it at home story, crap. I know what I went through for that thing it’s like gold. I never take it out of the car. If I do, it goes in my bag which goes everywhere with me. Secondly if her husband is disabled, to legally be allowed to use that space he not only needs to be with her, but also getting out of the vehicle. “You really should leave it in the car,” I told her, “It’s illegal to park there without the permit.” I was going to leave it at that. I started to walk away, when she got all defensive. “LOOK! LOOK AT MY ANKLE!” She started to yell at me. I looked, her ankle was clearly swollen but it didn’t change anything, she should have kept the permit in the car. She could be fined.

“I wasn’t interested in your ankle, I was interested in why you didn’t have a permit.” I told her.
“I do have one, my husband is disabled as well.” She insisted again.
I just repeated, “You’re supposed to leave it in the car.” I was almost at my destination next door to the bottle shop when I noticed that was where she was going! I hate liars. She wasn’t using that space because she was disabled. She was using that space because she was going to the bottle shop and she was LAZY!

I couldn’t help myself. “Oh Yeah! Real disabled. You’ll walk around that bottle shop with no problem!”
She hurled some abuse back so that was it for me. I got my phone out. Turned on the camera and started taking photos. I took a photo of the first car that had come in:

When I did, the lady sent her children in to the bottle shop to get the driver. Real class act.
Then I took a photo of the old lady’s car:

Then a photo of another car that had pulled up and gone in during the commotion:
Three cars in two minutes.

I joined the boys inside who just shook their heads at me and laughed. “You’re feisty tonight!” Steve told me.
“If I don’t stand up for myself and the disabled, who will? No one else is going to point it out to them.” I was cranky.
“Good for you baby.”

I’d just sat down when the first car, now with the woman driving and the man in the passenger seat, stopped outside the restaurant I was in and she pointed me out to him. So I pointed back. I am not going to be intimidated by people who were doing the wrong thing.

We enjoyed dinner and when we returned to the car I saw another car, no permit parked next to mine. So I took a photo.

There was another car a space away on the other side. A lady was sitting in it with an unrestrained child. She was on the phone but I went over anyway. I tried to be polite. “Hi, Excuse me, do you realise this is disabled parking?”

She looked at me annoyed, “Oh yeah, I do, I’m on the phone.”
WHAT! No. No no no. “Oh so it doesn’t bother you that you’re illegally using a disabled space?”
“Well my husband has just ducked inside he won’t be long.”
“Yes but if everyone that comes here does that at the same time, I can’t get parking when I come here to get food. This space is designated for people with disabled parking permits.”
“Well it’s just the same as me having a pram and and a baby.”

WHAT THE ACTUAL ????? Now I was really cranky.

“Um no it’s nothing like it. You don’t know what it’s like to be disabled, it’s just selfish.”
“Oh so what it’s not like there’s no spaces.”
“You know what, if you really want to use disabled parking so badly I’d be happy to break your spine so you can find out what it’s like to be in a wheelchair.” Ok so that was probably a bit over the top. I think I pushed it there.

In the mean time the driver of the car on the other side had returned, so I asked, “Do you know that’s disabled parking.”
He just gave me a dirty look.
“I know you’ll probably be disabled when you finish that bottle but you’ve really go no excuse now.”
“Oh why don’t you just fuck off.” He was a real charmer.
“It’s ok I have a photo of your car and number plate. I’ll give it to the police.”
“Why don’t you stay here all night and take photos of all the cars that come?”
“Don’t worry I might just do that!” I yelled as he drove off. Arsehole.

I got in the car, started it and started to reverse when the other lady whom I’d given a mouthful had her husband return and she started telling him what had happened. I saw as I drove away he had started to walk toward my car but stopped when I’d started to leave. I could hear him yelling though so I put my window down. He was yelling abuse I couldn’t make out but it was loud and clearly directed at me. So I just yelled back, “Don’t use disabled parking.”

I heard him reply “… speak to my wife like that again I’ll punch your face in…” Oh My God this was ridiculous.

“That’s the way,” I yelled back, “threaten to hit a disabled woman for pointing out you broke the law, you’re a real hero!”

Ok that was probably stupid. The guy was five times my size. Perhaps I only had the courage to do it because there were people around and Steve was with me. Later I asked him if he wished I hadn’t have done it. He said no, he was worried about the guy following us but he understood why I was angry. He just asked I don’t go doing that when I’m on my own.

So in a matter of 45 minutes I got 5 cars breaking the law. A law people don’t seem to be aware of. A law that is unclear. Currently the fine for parking in a disabled park without a permit in Queensland varies depending on the council area. I’ve found them ranging from $70 to $200. Its not a big enough deterrent. To some people thats just cheap parking. There is no consistent system. Police can issue fines but fines are mostly issued by council parking inspectors. It shouldn’t be about revenue. It should be about respect for the disabled and protecting their rights.

People don’t seem to consider it important. For me it’s not entirely detrimental. I can use alternative parking if I have to. It may mean struggling to get out of the car because I need the door open and both feet on the ground to get out or I have a risk of falling over. It may mean having to walk further which means fatigue and a higher risk of tripping or falling over.

For others though it may mean having to leave because there is no suitable parking available. I have a friend who is a wheelchair user and drives. Amazing modern technology called hand controls. If she can’t open the door wide enough she can’t get her wheelchair out. If there is no adequate access from the car to where she has to go, she can’t go in. People like her have no other option. Many people, just like her have told me, they often just leave because they can’t find anywhere suitable to park.

When you use disabled parking and leave a disabled person without a space, you’re taking away part of their independence!

It’s not fair.

I was laying there in bed questioning what possessed those people to get so angry with me. Then I remembered something a counsellor said to me once. There are only a few different types of anger. The most common is anger from passion (that was my anger) and anger from guilt (that was their anger). If your anger has come from guilt, you really need to consider your actions.

Had these people had have said, “Yes, you’re right I shouldn’t do it, I’m sorry”, I’d have happily accepted that and thanked them.

So I’m kind of stuck now. How do I educate people about why the facilities provided for the disabled are so important and not for the convenience of able bodied people, without getting my head ripped off?

I know I can’t change the world, but I’m sure as hell going to die trying!

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