Why you shouldn’t judge a disability by its visibility

I wanted to share a Facebook post that has been doing the rounds this week about a woman called Lauren Rowe who found a nasty note on her car because she used a disability bay.

The person who left the note, which condemned the driver of the car and her friend for their “lack of consideration” for using this spot, saw two young women walking from the car to the lift, and was angry that two able-bodied people were using a space meant for those with disabilities.

What she failed to see, however, was that one of these women suffered from cystic fibrosis, has had a double lung transplant (which began to reject last year), diabetes and osteoporosis. She also either failed to see the correctly displayed disability sticker in the car when she left her note on it, or assumed the sticker was being misused in some way.

Don't judge a disability by its visibility memeAnd unfortunately, this isn’t a one off. I have heard of lots of people with valid blue badges being shouted at by perfect strangers for using disabled parking spots. The poster herself says this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to her.

I understand the sentiment, I really do. Of course people who aren’t disabled using disabled bays is wrong. But please, please, please stop and think before you judge someone for doing this just because they look healthy.

There are so many chronic illnesses and disabilities that are not visible. It’s not your job to be able to decide if someone is disabled or not. You know who’s job that is? The local authorities who deal with applications for blue badges. Now the poster is Australian, so I’m not sure of the process there, but a quick look on the blue badge website for my local authority (I am not a blue badge holder myself as I don’t drive) shows that in order for me to get one, I would have to already have some sort of proof that I am disabled, I.e. Higher rate mobility personal independence payment, or registered blind etc, or possibly attend a mobility assessment to judge my eligibility. They don’t just give them out to anyone who asks.

This Facebook post is particularly good at illustrating the point, I think because, although I couldn’t imagine what it is like to live with the conditions this lady has, I can understand the concept that breathing at 30% of normal capacity would make walking any distance a lot more difficult and should entitle you to use a disabled bay. I think most healthy people should be able to understand this too.

So please have a read of her post, and share widely. The more people who see this, the more that might think twice before making hurtful remarks to people with invisible disabilities and illnesses.

Many thanks

Laura (and her pen)

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Laura Chamberlain

<p>Laura is a writer blogging about living with chronic illness, namely Lyme Disease, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) and Fibromylagia. </p>
<p>She likes food, cats, bad jokes. Unfortunately, her boyfriend is allergic to the last two…</p>

2 Comments

  1. Great post Laura. You can have a blue badge if you don’t drive as the badge is for the person, not the car, and can be used in any car transporting the blue badge holder. Xx

  2. Excellent insight Lauren! I am a physically disabled person wheelchair bound (hone invasion; multiple gunshot injuries; injuries to neck spine C3-C7 and other pathologies); often my wife or one of my kids would park in the Disability Bay (with our Disability Sticker), leave me at the doctors for my bloods, MRI scans etc (which may take a few hours) and then quickly go off to do some errands; on arriving, some people would then post nasty comments on the windscreen or scratch the vehicle without understanding that : yes, my son is not disabled, but he has come to collect his Disabled Dad from a Dr visit, and we certainly need the wider space for transfer from W/chair to the passenger seat; MY Disability is clearly visible, but there are many other people who have various forms of disabilities (internal body limitations) which are not visible, but that does not mean they are faking; yes, I agree, there will always be fakers who abuse laws in various platforms, but we need to be sympathetic to the people who park in Disability Bays (the fakers will eventually be caught out); on the other hand, perhaps the Architects of Shopping Malls and other Road designs should take a tip from a large Mall that I visited in the Middle East: there were 20 bays for Disabled people; 20 bays for pregnant mothers; 20 bays for toddlers in prams; 20 bays for elderly people; 20 Bays for people with “other disabilities” – vision impaired or Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Emphysema etc; hence, 100 extra wide parking bays were exclusively reserved near the Lifts, for people who have some or other form of difficulty in their life. Thank you for an excellent post, warmest regards, Dr Ahmed Adam, South Africa.

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