In writing this, I am speaking entirely for myself.

As a disabled woman, I don’t need or set out to be inspiring. However, what I do expect, is respect. Respect for me as a human. Respect for me as a woman. And respect for me as a disabled person that I am doing my best I can with the hand I’ve been dealt.

Disability is hard. No one chooses a life with illness. Illness or injury hit unexpectedly. They disrupt everything. Your work or schooling. Your family life. Your friendships. It screws with your ability to do basic human things, like shower, or prepare and eat a meal for yourself.

This post started bubbling in my head after an MP raised the idea of demerit points being issued for illegally using access/disabled parking spaces. There’s already a fairly hefty fine (around $340Au, I believe.), but that seems to be not often applied, and not enough of a deterrent to the “oh I’ll only be a minute” crowd.There’s hundreds of reason why someone needs a disabled parking permit (a blue badge in the U.K.). The obvious ones are wheelchair users. You need space to get in and out of a car when you use a wheelchair. But the same can be said of someone with a disabled child, who might not need a wheelchair, but does need help getting into and out of the car. I saw an example of this just last week. I smiled at both the child and his mother. She let out a visible sigh of relief, obviously used to being berated or abused for using the disabled space. Another example is a person with Lupus, who needs to spend as little time in the sun as possible. And when in a “flare” period, chances are that person has used every ounce of energy they have just to make themselves presentable, and drive to the shop. If they had to walk the length of the car park, chances are, they couldn’t. Or if they did manage it, they’d not be able to complete their shopping trip. Arthritis patients are another example, they may look ok on the surface, but inside, the pain may be tearing them apart

There’s hundreds of reason why people need a disabled parking permit (a blue badge in the U.K.). The obvious ones are wheelchair users. You need space to get in and out of a car when you use a wheelchair. But the same can be said of someone with a disabled child, who might not need a wheelchair, but does need help getting into and out of the car. I saw an example of this just last week. I smiled at both the child and his mother. She let out a visible sigh of relief, obviously used to being berated or abused for using the disabled space. Another example is a person with Lupus, who needs to spend as little time in the sun as possible. And when in a “flare” period, chances are that person has used every ounce of energy they have just to make themselves presentable, and drive to the shop. If they had to walk the length of the car park, chances are, they couldn’t. Or if they did manage it, they’d not be able to complete their shopping trip.

I have M.E./C.F.S., or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a neuroimmune disease which leaves me mostly housebound, struggling to do basic human tasks, such as bathe, and cook, then eat my meal. I do what is referred to as pacing. I pace everything I do. It borders on military precision the way I pace. But even with all that pacing, I’m often still completely wiped out before I even get out of the house. But I’ve missed out on so much over the last 24 or so years, that I push myself to have some fun. I don’t think I’d still be here, mostly with a smile, if I didn’t have those few and far between fun times to keep me going. I’m often shaking from the effort of staying upright, but having a couple of hours with my friends, who are closer than close, is medicine for the soul. That sounds a bit woo woo for my more practical mind, but it’s the simplest way to put it.

This is me, another face of invisible illness. Looks are deceiving.

This is me, another face of invisible illness. Looks are deceiving.

After over two decades of illness, late last year I applied for, and was granted a disabled parking permit. It felt like another blow to my already fragile independence. I knew that because I “don’t look sick”, abuse was not just likely, but inevitable. I don’t go far driving myself, as it’s just too much effort for me. I’m hesitant to use that disabled permit when I’m on my own as the stress caused by the sort of abuse goody two shoes polite police bark out is too much for me. Mostly, it’s been used when my Mum is with me and driving. But even that hasn’t stopped a couple of busy body arseholes butting in. I have four stickers on my car, front and rear windscreens, and both rear side windows, stating look at the permit not the driver, and that not all disabilities are visible.

There’s been a suggestion of having the permit holders name and/or on the permit, but I’m not sure I like that idea, as I don’t particularly want to be able to be found on social media or through phone books etc. Which, given there are some really creepy people out there, is possible.

What I think we need a great education campaign about who is eligible for, and the process of, obtaining a disabled parking permit. About the 70% plus of disabled people who DO NOT use any sort of aid, ie wheelchair or walking stick. About how many invisible disabilities there are.

Disabled people have enough shit to cope with, without busybody wankers butting in. If there’s a permit on that window, shut up. Do not assume because it’s a young person that they’re illegally using their parents or grandparents permit.

It comes back to what I asked recently, how would you like that sort of thing done to you. I’m guessing 99% of people would hate the disrespect dished out. Don’t do the job of parking inspectors. Yes, there are pricks who park illegally in disabled bays, but it’s not up to the public to police that. Yes, it is a right royal pain in the arse when there’s someone illegally parked in those spaces, but don’t assume that everyone parked in those bays who “looks fine” is parked illegally.

It all comes back to respect. Please respect others. If that’s a visibly disabled person in a wheelchair, don’t assume they’re deaf, or intellectually challenged too, they’re probably not! If a cancer patient is wearing a wig, and has a bit of war paint (makeup) on, you’re probably not going to be immediately aware they’re being turned inside out by the treatment they’re undergoing. Respect others. Respect is, in my humble opinion, a really simple thing. No one likes to be treated poorly, or abused, especially for something they have absolutely no control over.

Please, be good to each other.

Jac

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