Mistreating the Disabled

Sep 26, 2021

It was September 26, 2021, when I received a phone call from a friend of mine. It was a beautiful day in New England. This friend called to check in and see how I was doing. These two people were tailgating at a sports event. I could tell the person I was on the phone with was under the influence. I made a joke, telling the person to take a shot of Fireball for me.

At the time, I was in rehab, recovering from neurosurgery. I would be discharged home in four days. I had forgotten that I had left my handicap placard in their car. The person says to me, “Promise me you won’t be mad?” Once I heard this, I knew this wasn’t going to end well. I told this individual that I couldn’t make any promises but that I needed to know what was going on.

I learned that my two friends had used my handicap placard to get better parking for tailgating. My mouth dropped. I completely forgot I had left my placard in their car. I was enraged and disappointed. This person laughed on the phone, thinking it was a joke. However, I wasn’t laughing.

The other person who was there said, “Why don’t we do this more often?” I knew both were intoxicated and joking, but I was seething. Tears rolled down my face from pure disgust.

If someone uses a placard for the wrong reason, there is a sixty-day suspension of their license and a $500 fine for the first offense.

I kept telling this person that I could lose this placard, something I truly needed. They continued to tell me that they made sure there were no issues. While we were talking, I learned that the other people they were tailgating with were doing the same thing: using other people’s placards to get closer parking.

I was furious. How does someone abuse a placard that is necessary for a person with a disability (PWD)? It felt like I had been taken advantage of. I was sad, heartbroken, and hurt.

I remember talking with a friend whose boyfriend was also a full-time wheelchair user. As I was telling her the story, I broke down crying. She was the first person I had talked with about this situation. I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone; I was embarrassed that I had been taken advantage of. She grabbed my arm and said, “I’m so sorry.”

I looked up. She had tears in her eyes. She shook her head, not knowing what to say. She was just as disgusted as I was.

I have no control over the fact that I am a full-time wheelchair user. I didn’t choose to have a disability. I would do anything to be able to use my legs to walk. There are many people who have to utilize a handicap placard, whether it’s an invisible illness or someone who has limited mobility.

Often PWD will joke that one of the perks to having a disability is the handicap parking; at least we get something out of the situation. If you don’t laugh at the situation, then you’ll cry and become bitter.

I have forgiven both parties for what had occurred. I am choosing to look at this as a learning tool.

Having a disability isn’t a game. The disability community is a minority; the world isn’t adapted for us. We have to fight tooth and nail to have the same rights as everyone else. As a disability advocate, I ask for others to not take advantage of those with disabilities.

A disability doesn’t discriminate. You never know if you will become disabled; it can happen to anyone.


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