Trying to overcome handicapped stereotypes

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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disabled parking

By Tammy MacDonald (guest opinion)

Dear Judgmental Stranger: Thank you so much for feeling the need to eyeball me as I pulled my truck into the parking space available beside you which happened to be ‘Handicapped’ parking. It seems you are unaware that the parking permits are not supposed to hang on the mirrors while driving and that I, being a female, keep mine in my purse, because apparently you also aren’t aware that the permit is held by the permit holder, not the vehicle, and is meant for people who are unable to move a distance of 75 feet safely.

I would also like to mention that you standing in front of the clearly displayed signage of the bright blue sign was not needed nor was the expressive body language and facial expressions you freely shared showing your disapproval of my ‘choice’ of parking but once my ignition was turned off you felt that your work there was done and walked off.

I guess it never occurred to you that people with paralysis are also capable of driving, but waiting to see if I might need assistance with a wheelchair, walker or cane was beyond your call of righteous duty. As an advocate for people with impairments you’d think the ‘follow-up’ would have been ideal to your cause. Although I am the only one who is accountable for how I feel and interpret things I felt that you needed to know that your ignorant actions did hurt me.

Daily I try to accept that my life was altered and was done so without my permission and has left me dealing with issues of discrimination and guilt because my pain and suffering isn’t visible. This morning I struggled, but accomplished goals I had set for myself by firstly leaving the comfort of home and going to therapy and then ‘choosing’ to park further back in the parking area instead of by the front doors, just in case someone less fortunate needed to be closer during the bad weather than I did today.

The fact that your actions left me in tears only proved how much work I still need to do, but it also showed me that there are still way too many judgemental people out there that have stereotypes for certain classes of people. Open your eyes so you can take in a bigger picture which shows that not all peoples struggles are visible.

FYI, in the future if you suspect someone of being dishonest of the parking laws, maybe try sitting in your car a minute longer to see if they put up a permit and if not perhaps a friendly reminder with a smile of “don’t forget your permit.”

Or maybe, just maybe walk a little slower to see if that person might need help with a door or a step. People with MS, Parkinson’s, arthritis or heart issues aren’t always sitting in a wheelchair. I hope the note I left on your car leaves as big a mark on you as your insensitivity did on mine.


Tammy MacDonald, formerly of Village Green and now living in Clyde River, has been a stay at home mom on disability pension for the last three years following injuries sustained from a car accident in December of 2010. She suffers from chronic pain and depression and has been fighting to be recognized as a person with special needs.

Geographic location: Village Green, Clyde River

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