No, I didn’t steal Grandma’s disability parking permit! Sadly, it is mine.
AWARENESS,  Chronic Pain,  Disability

No, I Didn’t Steal Grandma’s Disability Parking Permit!

I can walk, but I can’t walk very far, and it’s always with pain and fatigue.

I can stand, just not for very long.

I use a mobility scooter – a small version of an electric wheelchair – and walking sticks.

Limited as my mobility is, I am still made to feel like a faker.

I don’t look sick enough. I don’t look disabled enough. I’m too young.

If I get these comments when using medical aids, imagine what happens on the very rare occurrence that I don’t use my aids and park in a disabled bay, which I am legally entitled to use.

You got it.

All hell breaks loose.

Just because I don’t fit the societal constructed mould of ‘disability’ or conform to how a sick person should look and act.

The much-used universal symbol for disability – the wheelchair – doesn’t always reflect reality.

The definition of disability is often pigeonholed as someone requiring a wheelchair, or, at the very minimum, crutches.

It is so much more than that.

Painful, invisible conditions exist that entitle a person to a disability parking permit.

Unfortunately, as has been demonstrated all too often of late, these invisible conditions are often assumed illegitimate by strangers.

We are branded as fakers and con artists.

Told over and over that we don’t look disabled enough to be entitled to a disability parking permit.

Left abusive notes by anonymous citizens on car windscreens.

Take the recent story of Justine Van Den Borne.

When Justine, who lives with secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis, parked her car in a disabled bay in a shopping centre in Melbourne, she had no idea that she would return to a nasty, anonymous note.

The note, with the words “Did you forget your wheelchair?” was stuck to the windscreen, directly above her disability parking permit on the dashboard.

How could this be?

Simple: Justine walked into the shopping centre.

Our opinions and conclusions are greatly influenced by what we see.

If someone looks healthy, they obviously can’t be too sick, right?

Too often these judgements are completely wrong.

I ask you this: Would you like to stop breathing on the idea that air, being mostly invisible to the naked eye, isn’t a real thing?

No, I didn’t think so!

Invisible illness, ghost illness, whatever terminology you want to use, manifests internally, destroying the body from within.

Many don’t understand what an invisible disability is really like for a person.

Extreme fatigue, chronic pain, disorientation, dizziness, vision impairment, difficulty with mobility, cognitive issues, neuralgia…the list goes on and on.

We smile, we laugh and we get on with things, trying to live each day to the best of our abilities, to be happy.

Know this though: For all my apparent healthy appearance and sunny disposition, I am legally disabled.

I am battling a daily struggle. I am restricted by chronic pain, fatigue and neurological dysfunction including numbness, weakness and intermittent spasticity in my limbs.

As I recently described in a conversation to my doctor:

“My right leg has been numb from thigh to ankle for the past three weeks; my hands are tingling and short circuiting like a failing strobe light; fatigue has knocked the wind out of my sails; pain is having a party at my expense; the nerve burn is kicking into overdrive in my arms…you want me to keep going?!”

These symptoms aren’t always obvious to the untrained observer, so even though my life is far from normal, I am often mistaken for having a perfectly functioning body.

And I’m persecuted for it.

We need to start assuming the best of people instead of the worst.

Don’t jump on a driver with a parking permit just because they or their passenger isn’t in a wheelchair.

As Justine, who took the note as an opportunity to raise awareness for invisible illness, posted on Facebook, “I am sick of people like yourself abusing me on my good days for using a facility I am entitled to.”

If a disability parking permit is displayed, don’t adopt the negative stance and assume the person has stolen it from their Grandma.

Yes, I understand that faking disabilities can and does occur, but I choose to believe that the number of instances is relatively low, despite what the media may report.

We need to advocate for the rights of the disability community, but abusing people over a parking permit they are legally entitled to use is not the way to go about it.

Reporting the Ferrari double-parked across two disabled bays WITHOUT a disability parking permit might be a better place to start.

Now it’s your turn! Have you ever been questioned by someone who thinks you look too healthy to use a disabled parking spot?

Like this post? Then share it!

All photos and content the property of Starbrite Warrior and Bree Hogan. Not to be reproduced without permission.


    • Bree Hogan

      Hi Heather, I really feel for you and your son being on the receiving end of the nasty looks, it can really wear at you after a while. Stick to your guns and park there; you are allowed to and it helps you do what you need to do. Stay strong, xx

  • Victoria Stacey

    I hate to hear things like this! My friend’s mom has this problem too, she has MS and a handicapped parking tag and people will continue to harass her about not needing it. You stick to your guns!

    • Bree Hogan

      Oh I certainly will Victoria! No worries about that! 🙂 I hope your friend’s mum sticks to her guns too. Xx

  • Amber Starr

    I’m so sorry that you have had to deal with people and their thoughtless and rude comments. I hate when people use the statement “you don’t look sick”. It drives me crazy. Disability reaches so many different facets, and can be so much more than just those that require the use of a wheelchair 24/7.

  • Bethany

    Wow Bree! Powerful reminder that our judgement is often coming from such a negative place. I think this lesson can be applied to so many situations we encounter every day, and it’s definitely hard to remember that when caught up in emotions! Great post:)

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Bethany! We need to advocate for the rights of the disability community, but abusing people over a parking permit they are legally entitled to use is not the way to go about it. And you’re right, I think this applies to many other situations that we would encounter in our day-to-day lives.

  • Dia @ All The Things I Do

    Ugh this is so horrible. I have a friend 26 years old who is chronically ill and she can’t stand for more than 15 minutes straight so people always look at her like “You don’t look sick” well guess what she is. It sucks people use handicap permits when they don’t need them and make people angry towards people who don’t “appear” to need them…at the end of the day mind your own business because you never know, if they have a pass leave them alone.

    • Bree Hogan

      I love your passion Dia and the way you have articulated your thoughts so beautifully. Thank you! Like your friend, I can’t stand for very long periods of time either, but if you looked at me you would never think that would be the case. Appearances can be so deceiving! I would love to not need to use the disability parking bay because it would mean that I’m not sick. But I am and I do and I’m going to keep right on using it because I have a legal right to do so and it helps me out immensely. I hope your friend does the same. Xx

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Patricia! Faking disabilities can and does occur, but I choose to believe that the number of instances is relatively low, despite what the media may report. If the permit is displayed then we should just accept that the person(s) is entitled to use it. End of story.

  • Missy - Getting Fit to Find Myself

    Wow, people can be so frustrating! I have not been questioned about a parking spot but I recently suffered a traumatic brain injury and I am constantly question about why I can’t work right now. My injury is not visible and people are always questioning if I am really “injuried”. I am so sorry you deal with this!

    • Bree Hogan

      Hi Missy, thank you for your support. 🙂 I’m sorry to hear about your recent chronic brain injury and I feel for you re: the stigma that comes with an invisible illness. It’s a constant thorn that we don’t need/shouldn’t have to deal with on top of an already large mountain of chronic illness stuff. Stay strong xx

  • Nikki

    People can be so rude. I’m so sorry. One of my best friends has an “invisible” disability, so she has a parking permit. Even when we’re together, we get so many comments. It’s unbelievable.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks for your support Nikki. 🙂 Society needs to start assuming the best of people instead of the worst when the parking permit is displayed.

  • Cori

    I’m sorry people give you a rude remarks. I’m not in your situation and have no idea how I would react. (Lie. Yes I do. They’d be getting an unsolicited education on what was going on with me, with my voice at the top of its range.) But I understand not everyone is like that and don’t want others to know their business.

  • Jasmin Saunders

    Thank you for sharing your story. My husband is a disabled veteran, in his 20ies, legally disabled, and not in a wheelchair. When we go somewhere we often get the evil looks for parking in a handicap spot or being asked if we cannot park somewhere else, so that people “who actually NEED it can park there instead”. My husband usually shuts them down pretty quickly but still. People should stop being so judgemental and rude and should mind their own business more sometimes.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Jasmin. We use the spaces because we need to; because it helps us get out and do the things we otherwise couldn’t do if we had to park miles away. When the permit is displayed people should accept it’s validity by the user and just let it go.

  • Georgianna

    Thank you for sharing your story! Disability isn’t always visible, and it is so sad that our culture cannot get past what people look like when it comes to passing judgement or stereotyping.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thank you Georgianna for your insightful and thoughtful comments.

      We are judged so much on appearance and in the case of disability, the number of invisible illnesses has risen so much in recent years but as a society we haven’t really caught up. Many people still associate the disability logo of the wheelchair as the be-all end-all.

  • Jessica D.

    Ugh. Humans are the worst. Thanks for sharing your story and the stories of the others mentioned. Everyone wants to be the big bad wolf and catch someone- yet they hardly ever intervene in person because they are actually just big babies. And most of the time – they end up being wrong. I’m sorry you have had this happen.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Jessica, I appreciate you saying that. As I mentioned in the article, reporting the Ferrari double-parked across two disabled bays without a disability parking permit would be a better place to start!

  • Dagmar Kugler

    OmG, looks like I found just my site. I’m a very young looking 52 y/o female, could easily pass for 30s. I don’t even like using my handicapped parking permit. I hate the stares. So I just go around finding a close spot and leave handicapped for the old folks. Funny thing is a lot of them walk pretty good on their good days too.
    I have been really messed up since I got a severe case of Lyme that just would not even respond to IV meds. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk. My brain got lesions and is still pretty fried. It took me many, many years to get semi normal again. I never know how far I can make it until my knees buckle out. I prefer to go to stores with carts, they are like my invisible walker, since nobody would believe me how many things are still wrong with me (long list.)

    • Bree Hogan

      Hi Dagmar, I’m so glad you stumbled across my site and we can connect, yay!

      You have certainly been put through the ringer with your Lyme’s disease and my heart goes out to you. You are one tough cookie to come through what you have experienced.

      Store carts are great as they provide the prop-up required for bodies (especially legs) that are prone to buckle without notice. I know what you mean about the stares and people not believing you, it can be very hard, but don’t let that stop you from using the help that you are 110% entitled to. Stuff ’em! Xx

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