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Handicapped Fraud
October 7, 2007 5:34 PM   Subscribe

The number of handicap tags has been increasing in recent years and so has abuse, for example nearly one-third of temporary placards found on cars parked in downtown Boston were being used by people who were not disabled. Handicap Fraud is a website for anonymously reporting seemingly able-bodied people who park in handicap spots. Free post-it-notes "You've been reported" available.

Each state/city seems to approach the website differently. At best the DMV/MVA will investigate the report - or only check for obviously fraudulent or stolen placards - or probably nothing in most cases.
posted by stbalbach (67 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This kind of thing is why I've never tried to get a handicapped tag. I have MS and can walk just fine for a bit, but sometimes if I have to walk far I have trouble. If I parked in the handicapped spots I'd have no trouble, and could make it in to get a cart to lean on, but it would look like I was perfectly healthy and just abusing the tag.

A friend's grandfather had a similar problem years ago - he had a heart condition and could go short distances with no problem, but it was actually dangerous for him to try to walk too far. He was old and in a small town, so he didn't get hassled about it much, but enough.

Thanks, guys.
posted by dilettante at 5:42 PM on October 7, 2007 [5 favorites]


I get the point, but it's a bad idea. Dilettante nails it - a lot of disabilities aren't visible, and all this site is going to do is to potentially create problems for people with disabilities just because other people can't mind their own business.

Now if they wanted to go after people without handicapped tags who park in the handicap spots, that I'd be all for.
posted by Ruki at 5:46 PM on October 7, 2007 [6 favorites]


My aunt is a caretaker for a blind woman who is able to walk incredibly naturally. She doesn't appear blind and gets lots of angry glares when she uses her handicapped tag. I suppose she can't tell people are glaring at her, but still.
posted by null terminated at 5:46 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe they're glaring at her because she's driving while blind?
posted by found missing at 5:49 PM on October 7, 2007 [17 favorites]


I remember seeing a local news bit about "abuse of disabled parking tags" which involved a reporter ambushing people and asking them in what way they were handicapped. It was very ugly.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:51 PM on October 7, 2007


What about able-bodied people who use handicapped bathroom stalls? They're extra-wide, ya know.
posted by Poolio at 5:52 PM on October 7, 2007


This kind of thing is why I've never tried to get a handicapped tag. I have MS and can walk just fine for a bit, but sometimes if I have to walk far I have trouble.

Yeah, I would imagine there are lot of people in this situation.
posted by delmoi at 5:54 PM on October 7, 2007


This is terrible--as has been said, many are not visibly disabled--what's going to happen to them, and why should they be hassled?

A small amount of abuse is fine.
posted by amberglow at 5:54 PM on October 7, 2007


One of those moments in which I realised what a horrible person I had married occurred in a handicapped parking space. My ex-wife pulled into a near-empty parking lot in a mall near the close of business to get something from a store. She pulled into a handicapped parking space. (I don't drive).

I: What are you doing? There's plenty of spaces.
Her: It doesn't matter - I'll just be a moment!

She goes into the store. I remain in the car. Naturally, a parking lot inspector comes by. As I'm explaining what my wife did, she comes out of the store. Sees the inspector. And begins to limp.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 5:56 PM on October 7, 2007 [8 favorites]


My mom would fall into that category, too. She can walk fine for a bit, but she can't make it far. I'm glad she has one of those tags.

And btw, I don't think I've ever been somewhere where all of the handicapped parking was taken. As long as the people who actually need a spot can find one, who gives a shit.
posted by ninjew at 5:58 PM on October 7, 2007


They should move all the non-handicapped spaces farther away so that fat-asses will actually have to excercise on their way in and out of the places where they go to consume.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:18 PM on October 7, 2007


I often parked in a handicapped spot using my mom's handicapped tag, when picking her up from the mall or whatever. She had severe arthritis. I would park, then walk into the mall to get her.

I got glared at a few times, but I'm grateful no one raised a huge stink forcing me to haul her frail shuffling body out like Exhibit A to prove my use of the tag was legit. I always worried about it though.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:38 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


They should move all the non-handicapped spaces farther away so that fat-asses will actually have to excercise on their way in and out of the places where they go to consume.

Damn Americans with their going to work and purchasing food and clothing!
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:47 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


What about able-bodied people who use handicapped bathroom stalls? They're extra-wide, ya know.

Well, there was Senator Craig's problem. He just needed a placard.
posted by stevis23 at 6:47 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, does this scream "easy to abuse" to anyone else? Even the Post-its could be used for some fun nefarious purposes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:49 PM on October 7, 2007


If I had an invisible disability that impacted my quality of life such that I would benefit from the use of reserved handicap parking spaces, I would get a note from my doctor and carry it on my person at all times. The note would say two things: 1) That I had an invisible disability and required the use of handicap spaces, and 2) That I had the right to give anyone who accused me of abusing the handicap space a punch in the mouth.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:14 PM on October 7, 2007 [11 favorites]


If I had an invisible disability that impacted my quality of life such that I would benefit from the use of reserved handicap parking spaces, I would get a note from my doctor and carry it on my person at all times.

If there were only, I don't know, some kind of tag you could be issued to demonstrate your legitimate need.
posted by dreamsign at 7:36 PM on October 7, 2007 [8 favorites]


This will only turn out badly - as many people have pointed out, you can have non-obvious disabilities.

My mother had a temporary handicapped placard for a few months after being hospitalized for asthma - walking across a parking lot could set off an attack. However, walking from the handicapped spots was fine. etc.
posted by mrbill at 7:38 PM on October 7, 2007


Only with a doctor's note stating that his/her patient has one of the DMV listed disabilities will DMV issues a handicap placard.
posted by semmi at 7:46 PM on October 7, 2007


Wasn't this on Penn & Teller?
posted by brassafrax at 8:05 PM on October 7, 2007


I never thought twice about folks parking in the handicap spot--- until my father had knee surgery. True, for a few weeks it was a bitch for him to walk. But after a month or so of healing and physical therapy he was walking much better than he had for years.

And that fucker renewed his "disabled parking" tag three times.

He could have jogged, skipped rope and damn-near done cartwheels for six months after his initial tag expired. But he kept renewing it, and loved to brag about how he got prime parking spots.

Regrettably, I think of him every time I see someone pop out of their car in a disabled zone and walk causally to the grocery/store/mall. I'm jaded. I know there are folks out there that really need a disabled parking tag, but I also know there are folks out there like my dad.

Best of wishes to the truly disabled, and I hope that shortening their trip by a few yards makes their day easier. But for assholes like my dad---- DIAF.
posted by F Mackenzie at 8:17 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you're not completely fucking crippled, you need to park in the regular spaces just like the rest of us.

The availability of handicapped placards to ambulatory people with non-visable disabilities is just like how these privileged teens aiming for Ivy League universities are getting unlimited time on the SAT because they have ADD or ADHD or some other disability that essentially translates into "was raised by the TV and video game console, and not by parents."
posted by jayder at 8:24 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does no one see the potential for placard abuse? Mom's in the nursing home, but she has a disabled parking placard. BINGO. Son, daughter, whomever has a parking privileges at the mall. Dad died some months after his amputation. Fantastic! Give me his placard so I can park for free at the parking meters (in San Francisco) all day. Who is going to turn me in? (After all, I might have a less-than-obvious disability and we don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.)
IIRC, San Francisco has a police task force that randomly verifies placard status with those displaying it. If the placard holder isn't available, you're nailed.
posted by namret at 8:25 PM on October 7, 2007


Cheap vigilantism: I'm waiting for the first defamation lawsuit.

Many caretakers drop disabled people off at the main entrance, then park in the nearest handicapped spot (which can take several minutes orbiting in a busy parking lot), hop out of the car and walk into the building.

Unless a casual observer sees the dropoff (or sticks around to see the caretaker escorting the disabled person back to the car), how would they know the difference?
posted by cenoxo at 8:40 PM on October 7, 2007


jayder: If you're not completely fucking crippled...

Care to define that, along with your age and general physical condition?
posted by cenoxo at 8:44 PM on October 7, 2007


A topic on the Internet that allows me to indulge indulge in self-righteous declaration regarding an issue with which I have no experience? Thank goodness, I thought this day would never come.
posted by dantsea at 8:57 PM on October 7, 2007 [8 favorites]


If you're not completely fucking crippled, you need to park in the regular spaces just like the rest of us.

If you are completely fucking crippled, then you probably either (1) have a wheelchair, so you can roll your ass in luxury from the far end of the parking lot; or (2) shouldn't be driving in the first place.

I think that the amount of/damage done by "placard abuse" is negligible in comparison to the damage/inconvenience done by these fraud-fighting assholes. As has been noted above, who knows what someone's disability is or their physical limitations? Should they have to carry a doctor's note to present upon demand to prove their cripple cred? Do you also support the position of the security guard checking on girls' menstrual status in the other thread?

Mind your own damn business.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 9:01 PM on October 7, 2007


What about people with a stutter?
posted by papakwanz at 9:07 PM on October 7, 2007


My wife was in a rather awful car accident a few years ago that messed up her C4 and C% vertebrea. She has horrible back pain after walking for too long, and there have been times when, yes, she's rented a wheelchair, but for the most part, she tries to be on her own two feet.

Walking too far can be very strenous for her.

It's the attitude of people like jayden, or those glaring at my wife that make me see red.

I hope that shortening their trip by a few yards makes their day easier...

Yes, yes it does.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:22 PM on October 7, 2007


Not all handicaps are visible, you jackasses.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:36 PM on October 7, 2007


My oldest niece is disabled and in a wheelchair. It is extremely frustrating for her mom to pick her up at school when the only two handicapped spaces are filled by people picking up their grandkids. These are grandparents with real and honest disabilities, but they never get out of the car. Instead they wait for their grandkids to come to them. And while it's a legal use of their handicapped tag, it blocks my sister-in-law from using it to pickup my niece, who does need access to those spaces.

Also, my boyfriend is completely deaf in one ear and apparently that makes him qualified for a handicapped tag. He can walk just fine, and would no doubt be harassed about using a handicapped space. He doesn't intend on applying for a tag.
posted by rhapsodie at 9:37 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing is why I've never tried to get a handicapped tag. I have MS and can walk just fine for a bit, but sometimes if I have to walk far I have trouble.

Yeah, I would imagine there are lot of people in this situation.


Myself being one of them. My neuromuscular condition isn't terribly severe right now and I look relatively healthy from the outside, but it is degerative and I get exausted very easily. I had no problems deciding to get a handicapped tag, nor with telling people to stfu if they give me any lip about it (though it hasn't happened yet).

I suppose it's a little easier for me since I can say "Stfu and look at my stiches!"

I do think that if there's a regular spot close to the handicapped spot, those that are able, should use that one instead. I know I do.
posted by Shizman at 10:13 PM on October 7, 2007


If you're not completely fucking crippled, you need to park in the regular spaces just like the rest of us.

Most of the time, I'm a wheelchair user. (I would take exception to being called "completely crippled", though. What decade is this, again?) But sometimes I use crutches and look pretty damn mobile. Other times, I walk unaided, and I don't necessarily look like I have a mobility impairment. Heck, a lot of people with my disability, who look just like me don't have any problems at all with walking. But here's the catch: even when I'm walking unaided, I have limits. I may not be able to cross the parking lot. Or I may be able to cross the lot, but then I won't be able to walk when I get to my destination. Or on a good day, I could get to my destination and back, but if something came up and I had to detour, or retrace my steps, or any number of things, I'd be SOL. That same sort of situation is true of a lot of people with invisible disabilities, too.

There are abuses, yes. But I don't think most of those abuses are by people who technically qualify but shouldn't really get one - I think most of those people are like rhapsodie's boyfriend. F Mackenzie's dad represents a more common case of abuse - the jackass who gets a card for a temporary injury (which is cool), and then keeps it or even renews it when it's no longer needed (which is not). In the end, I think the benefits to those of us who need it far outweigh the 'cost' of the fraudulent assholes who don't, and I'm willing to put up with them in exchange for not having the whole placard system turn into the sort of "medical necessity" bullshit-filled maze of red tape that our health care system has become.

So, Jayder? Fuck you. (Oh, and ADD is a legitimate disability, albeit one that is possibly overdiagnosed. So shut up until and unless you know what you're talking about.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:14 PM on October 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oh, and on top of that: even in my wheelchair, which mostly eliminates the distance issue, I still sometimes have a legitimate need for the handicapped space - because it's the only way to guarantee (well, sort of, because people are idiots and will park on the yellow lines if they feel like it) that I have room to put my ramp out and get my chair in and out. So Hal Mumkin, no, a wheelchair doesn't obviate the need for these spaces. Nor is a non-wheelchair user who's 'disabled enough' for a placard necessarily unable to drive safely.

Seriously, what is it about disability that makes everyone think they understand it?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:18 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


For God's sake, if you are not disabled, why do you care where anyone parks? You can't walk a few extra feet? Why are we so judgmental? It never occurs to me to question anyone parking in a handicapped parking space. I am fortunate to be able to walk from the farthest parking space to wherever it is I'm going. We have become a bunch of lazy, whiny assholes!
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:27 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm severely mentally handicapped, and if I drove, I wouldn't feel any compunctions about getting a tag.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:45 PM on October 7, 2007


I've got to say, I've never really thought much about this issue. I guess people abusing handicapped parking spaces doesn't really seem like an issue that's screaming for a lot of intervention. But clearly, after seeing the strong feelings people have, we need to create some sort of special SWAT-like assault force to keep the forces of evil in check.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:55 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


In Washington state, at least, I am required to carry an identification card in addition to my disabled plate. Only a doctor can authorize or renew a disabled permit. If someone questions my right to park in a handicapped space, I ask for their dr.'s license. If they don't have one, they can go fuck themselves.
posted by faceonmars at 12:03 AM on October 8, 2007


I'm severely mentally handicapped

Must... not... make snarky comment... about post history...

I keed, I keed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:38 AM on October 8, 2007


Back in the 90's, in California, there were some disabled folks (and their loved ones) who had stickers to put on cars apparently illegally parked in handicapped spots. The sticker said something like "Your handicap obviously must be mental, blah blah blah". Kind of funny.

MS sufferers would be horribly abused by this vigilante crap. As has been noted above, their condition can vary from one hour to the next. They can appear perfectly fit, but if they walk too much, it won't last.

I've watched someone I love deteriorate with MS. He was a beautiful, early-twenties guy. His MS was bad enough, but the emotional impact was a true horror. In the period of 1 semester at university, he went from 'golden boy' (excellent student, Eagle Scout, etc) in Air Force ROTC, to someone who saw no future--Combined with loosing control over his body, with no way to know how bad it would get.
posted by Goofyy at 12:38 AM on October 8, 2007


Only a doctor can authorize or renew a disabled permit. If someone questions my right to park in a handicapped space, I ask for their dr.'s license. If they don't have one, they can go fuck themselves.

...and it better be one of them fancy new doctors that can diagnose a person visually, from a distance, on first sight.
posted by fairmettle at 2:57 AM on October 8, 2007


Goofyy, did it read:

"Stupidity is not a disability
You'll have to park somewhere else" ?
posted by arzakh at 3:10 AM on October 8, 2007


Wasn't this on Penn & Teller?

Yes. Apparently they don't like the fact that the ADA's mandated. Damn libertarians.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:45 AM on October 8, 2007


Mind your own damn business.

This site was made by, and generally enforced by, people who are handicapped. It is frustrating to find all the spots filled. Meanwhile we know that in Boston for example 1/3rd of placards are being abused - one in every 3 cars in a handicapped spot is not legit. A citizen watchdog group is exactly what is needed.
posted by stbalbach at 5:00 AM on October 8, 2007


Placards come with a paper license your supposed to carry on your person at all times the verifies you are the owner of the placard.
posted by stbalbach at 5:04 AM on October 8, 2007


Meanwhile we know that in Boston for example 1/3rd of placards are being abused - one in every 3 cars in a handicapped spot is not legit.

Those two statements do not have the same meaning. Do you mean that one out of every three placards is fraudulent, or that one out of every three cars seen parked in a handicap spot is parked illegally, including cars with no placards?

And how do "we" know this to begin with? Reference, please.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:19 AM on October 8, 2007


It's in the FPP
posted by stbalbach at 6:37 AM on October 8, 2007


My oldest niece is disabled and in a wheelchair. It is extremely frustrating for her mom to pick her up at school when the only two handicapped spaces are filled by people picking up their grandkids. These are grandparents with real and honest disabilities, but they never get out of the car. Instead they wait for their grandkids to come to them. And while it's a legal use of their handicapped tag, it blocks my sister-in-law from using it to pickup my niece, who does need access to those spaces.

Oh, my god, are we related? My daughter is in a wheelchair, and my wife's van has a ramp that opens out from the side. She (obviously) needs a handicap spot in order to have enough room for the ramp. There are two older guys who have handicap placards who park in the two handicap spaces closest to the school every single day. Their primary reason for being there seems to be to gossip with each other. Actually, our situation seems even more egregious, as neither are demonstrably "handicapped," and both can clearly walk a few feet with no apparent difficulty.

Back on topic, for those of you pointing out that there are some whose handicaps may not be apparent, I would suggest that's the exception, rather than the rule. I think you need to at least acknowledge that there's a serious problem with handicap tag abuse.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:37 AM on October 8, 2007


It's really bad for a person with a disability that requires a tag but that is not immediately visible to be accosted by vigilante strangers, and only slightly less bad for able-bodied people who are picking up people with a disability to be accosted by vigilante strangers. I can't imagine a worse feeling than having MS and having to justify parking in the accessible spot with your accessible tag to some angry, suspicious stranger--or struggling back to your car to find that some angry suspicious stranger has left a note that he has reported you. Why doesn't this group instead lobby their state and local governments to enforce the laws more rigorously?
posted by Kwine at 8:23 AM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


I had a friend in high school who had hemophilia, and by his own admission he only "needed" his tag about once a month. Of course, he used it every day of the month. Is this considered fraud?
posted by erikharmon at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2007


It is not lawful to require proof of a handicap.
posted by hellphish at 8:57 AM on October 8, 2007


Of course, he used it every day of the month. Is this considered fraud?

Not fraud. Assholish, but not fraudulent.

I have a placard because of my daughter. I would absolutely hate myself if I ever used it when she wasn't with me. I would feel like the biggest scum on the planet for taking up a handicapped space, knowing that someone who might really need one is blocked out.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:03 AM on October 8, 2007


It's in the FPP

Upon closer reading, so it is. My apologies. I'd still like to see the report's methodology, though.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:45 AM on October 8, 2007


I remember seeing a local news bit about "abuse of disabled parking tags" which involved a reporter ambushing people and asking them in what way they were handicapped. It was very ugly.

Was Carl Monday somehow involved? I bet he was.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:59 AM on October 8, 2007


I hate it when obviously handicapped people park in able-bodied parking spaces. Those spaces should be reserved for the people who really need them.
posted by Floydd at 10:13 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Back on topic, for those of you pointing out that there are some whose handicaps may not be apparent, I would suggest that's the exception, rather than the rule. I think you need to at least acknowledge that there's a serious problem with handicap tag abuse.

I'm active in the disability activism community, so I've seen a pretty broad spectrum of disability. It's more prevalent than you might think. I would propose that your assumption that invisible disabilities are the exception and not the rule is perhaps a case of confirmation bias? After all, how often do you see people with invisible disabilities? And while it's irritating for someone who 'passes' as abled but identifies strongly as disabled to be harassed about their parking, it can be really upsetting for someone who became disabled recently and is still uncomfortable with the idea of being disabled. Maybe they're still getting used to the idea that they need the spot; maybe they haven't quite accepted themselves as being disabled to the degree that they feel comfortable standing up for themselves and saying, "yes, I am disabled". Not everyone's disability is as cut and dried as your daughter's (or mine).

There's a problem, yes. But the problem isn't one that you or I can solve by 'enforcement', since we can't tell at a glance that a given individual is disabled. One possible solution would be to make the placard a picture ID; I believe that's how they do it in Europe (this would, however, make it harder to have a permanent license-plate tag, but perhaps that's an acceptable trade off). Another would be to make it easier for doctors to 'prescribe' a short-term permit, for people who are temporarily injured, and make it harder to renew those permits.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:29 AM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


My grandmother spent her entire life (age17-88) on crutches or in a wheelchair. She had one of those placards and always made a big deal of making sure she renewed it. She's been dead 3 years now and I still get the placards like clockwork except the occasions someone steals it. I went down to DMV and tried to get them to stop sending them but I didn't have a death certificate on me so they ignored me. Some sort of enforcement or oversight is definitely needed on the issuance end.

As far as abuse, there's never an open handicap spot where I work, we have 20 of them plus 450 regular spots. Every other day or so I am writing down a license plate number and description of car that some customer brings me to complain about there never being a handicap spot. This goes along with the other complaints saying that we never have enough of the little speedy shopper electric carts.

I don't know, and upper management seems at a loss too, what to do about it. The police in our town refuse to come out and write tickets for the parking offenses because it's on private property. Calling a tow-truck is usually fruitless because it takes them 1-2hrs to show up and by then the offenders are gone.

It's one of those laws that people know nothing ever gets done about so they choose to do whatever the hell they want. I should also say that our fire lane is always blocked and our loading zone usually has a car in it during the weekends. There is a door that leads into the front of the store where the cart clerks push the rows of carts in from the parking lot and now we're beginning to have it blocked by idling/parked cars as people run in to grab something.

WTF people?
posted by M Edward at 11:14 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Between Type-II NF (runs in my family down from Mom's side) and three count 'em three concussions (one a skull fracture) before my 20th birthday, I rejoice that I can still park way the hell out in "East BF, Egypt" and take a nice, healthy 200-yd stroll between my parking place and whatever venue. Not only do I have an easy time getting a parking space and finding my ride afterward, but I'm able to get some much-needed exercise.

Y'all who are whining about how easy the handicapped folx have it? You don't know how good you have it, or prolly you need to lose about 75 lbs.
posted by pax digita at 12:10 PM on October 8, 2007


they have ADD or ADHD or some other disability that essentially translates into "was raised by the TV and video game console, and not by parents."

And here I was, thinking I was a person and not a video game console... Jayder, you clearly don't know what you're talking about. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, persistence, and love to look after a child with a disability. I know plenty of parents of special needs kids, and none of them park their children in front of the TV. When a misinformed person comes along and tells me that my son's disability -- the actual structure of his brain -- is because I'm a lousy parent... well, it makes me feel sorry for you.

I take it you're neurotypical. That's wonderful for you. Use that perfect little brain of yours before you spout off next time, will you?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:57 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've had a number of sharp verbal exchanges and one shoving match with people who've parked in handicapped slots without tags or plates. My standard opening line is 'you might be confused about this, but these spaces are not for the morally handicapped.'

If people were inclined to mind their own business exclusively, as a number of commenters appear to think we all ought to be, I believe the slots would soon be overrun by those who feel 'look out for number one' trumps all other rules and considerations.
posted by jamjam at 1:52 PM on October 8, 2007


And while it's irritating for someone who 'passes' as abled but identifies strongly as disabled to be harassed about their parking, it can be really upsetting for someone who became disabled recently and is still uncomfortable with the idea of being disabled. Maybe they're still getting used to the idea that they need the spot; maybe they haven't quite accepted themselves as being disabled to the degree that they feel comfortable standing up for themselves and saying, "yes, I am disabled". Not everyone's disability is as cut and dried as your daughter's (or mine).
I have an inner-ear problem that impairs my sense of balance and causes frequent attacks of vertigo. I don't have or need a parking placard, but I sometimes use other accommodations. I sometimes sit in the reserved seats at the front of the bus, because I'm worried I'll fall if I'm still standing when the bus starts moving, and I pre-boarded a plane once when I was having a particularly bad vertigo episode. Revolving doors cause me problems, so I sometimes use automatic doors that are marked for disabled people if the only other option is a revolving door.

There were two separate incidents soon after I developed my inner-ear condition in which people called me out publicly for doing these things. And both times, I panicked. People were staring at me and I was embarrassed, and I couldn't find the words to explain what was wrong with me. Was I supposed to tell them the name of the obscure condition with which I'd just been diagnosed, which wasn't going to mean a damn thing to them unless they happened to be experts in otolaryngology? If I said I had vertigo, would they even know what that meant? The first time, I hustled myself away as quickly as I could, I'm sure looking like I was deeply ashamed of my bad behavior. I bet that all the onlookers got a lot of satisfaction out of seeing the evil wrong-door-using bitch get her comeuppance. The second time, I'm embarrassed to say, I burst into tears. I was heavily medicated, which probably had something to do with that, but it was also just the last straw. I felt like shit, formerly-mundane tasks had just become really scary and difficult, and I wasn't sure how I was going to survive forty or fifty-odd years of persistent seasickness. It was all pretty overwhelming, even without the added fun of being humiliated in public.

After my embarrassing crying in public episode, I went home and practiced saying "I have a balance disorder caused by an inner-ear condition," which seems to do the trick when said in a calm and non-defensive fashion. I don't know why I couldn't come up with that on the spot, but for whatever reason I didn't. I'm a lot less freaked out about my balance problem now that I've adjusted to it and figured out how to deal with it. Now, on the very rare occasions when I'm challenged for using the wrong door or taking an elevator down one floor, it's not a big deal. There was a time, though, when having random strangers yell at me in public just added to my overall sense that my life was spiraling out of my control.

I realize that sometimes people need to say something. Sometimes you have to ask the person on the bus to get out of the reserved seats, because you need to sit down there yourself. I don't doubt that there are a lot of people who sit in those seats because they're lazy, not for legitimate reasons. I guess I'd just ask that you not do it in an obnoxious or self-righteous fashion and that you consider the possibility that there's more going on than you can see. And I hate the idea of leaving a post-it note on someone's windshield. It's your choice, I guess, but to me it seems a lot more likely to shame someone in a position like the one I was in than to bother someone who's already shameless enough to borrow someone's parking placard.

This was long. Sorry!
posted by craichead at 3:03 PM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


My partner is disabled from several conditions and has been so for years. He first received his disability placard from California in the early 1990s. He is usually one of those "invisible disability" people, and he hates, absolutely hates, to think of himself as disabled -- even after all these years.

Yet, there are some days when although he appears able-bodied he cannot walk across a parking lot without getting short of breath or having chest pains. There are other times when we can park at, say, Home Depot, out in the lot somewhere, and and at first he's o.k. But by the time we get through shopping and walking about the store he could be in no condition to make it to the truck. (I'd posted a question in AskMe some time back about their doors. I should have mentioned that all the handicapped spots are next to the entrance and far from the exit. But I digress...)

I feel very strongly about this issue. Sometimes we've had dirty looks from people who didn't think that he (or I) might be disabled. When he sees this sort of thing, he mutters at the judgemental SOBs and busybodies, but I urge him to avoid confrontation. However, if the web site in the FPP led to an inquiry from the authorities, he would rightly blow his top. He shouldn't have to go through that.

Oddly enough California keeps sending him placards even though we moved to Texas over five years ago. He has a Texas driver's license, and we have Texas tags on our car and truck. They even followed us to two different addresses here in Texas, and the placard just keeps coming, sent to our current Texas address.

I don't understand why Cali doesn't do something to verify and validate the eligibility of placard-holders, nor why they would send one to someone out-of-state who has no more connection to California. This is the sort of thing which, I think, gives rise to the perceptions of abuse.
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:07 PM on October 8, 2007


I've had a number of sharp verbal exchanges and one shoving match. with people who've parked in handicapped slots without tags or plates. My standard opening line is 'you might be confused about this, but these spaces are not for the morally handicapped.'

If people were inclined to mind their own business exclusively, as a number of commenters appear to think we all ought to be, I believe the slots would soon be overrun by those who feel 'look out for number one' trumps all other rules and considerations.


Be careful - - if this law & order urge of yours gets too aggressive, you might injure someone enough that they actually merit a handicapped tag - - then you will have become part of the problem.
posted by fairmettle at 4:16 PM on October 8, 2007


I hear you, craichead. Some people just can't grasp that other folks might not interact with the world in exactly the same way that they do. Remind me to tell you about the time I got yelled at by a priest-- a priest!-- because my speech impediment kicked in and I started stammering while I was on the phone with him.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:39 PM on October 8, 2007


Robert Angelo writes "I don't understand why Cali doesn't do something to verify and validate the eligibility of placard-holders, nor why they would send one to someone out-of-state who has no more connection to California."

California MVD is inept but dogmatic. I have more than a couple nightmare stories from my dealings with them.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:10 PM on October 8, 2007


I certainly appreciate the fact that loads of non-handicapped people use handicap spaces for their own convenience. I appreciate that that would be frustrating and infuriating to anyone who rightfully belongs in those spaces, and that that should be reported. So, in the respect of actual fraud, this website is a great service. But the key point that I take offense to is the reporting of 'seemingly able-bodied people', and I see that other people point this out as well. We all see things differently, so it would be no surprise that one person's handicap might seem like fraud to others. Before my mother's mobility started to decline, I used to notice when a person who was able to walk would park in a handicapped space, and I would think that they didn't belong there. Mind, I was a kid at that point. Now I understand that 'handicapped' refers to a lot of different conditions and abilities. See, I don't think it's right to report someone that you think might not be handicapped. Without actually discovering why a person was granted handicapped access, it's insulting to assume that, since a person doesn't match your preconceived notions of 'handicap,' then they are defrauding everyone. Of course, if a spry person pops out of an SUV with no handicap tag or placard then that's another issue! My mother, though not using a wheelchair, walker, or other device, can barely get around. If she can't get one of the first parking spots, she goes home because she just can't do it. Like everybody else, she's got good days and bad days (though not too much in the way of good days anymore). I've considered looking into getting her a handicapped tag, but now I fear that, on the off-chance that she'll have a 'good' day, she'll be reported for bearing too close a resemblance to an 'able-bodied person.' At least, now I know I shouldn't bother trying to make her day a little less painless! Some handicapped people can walk (albeit with pain or trouble).
posted by Mael Oui at 9:59 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mael, get it for her---don't let asses stop something that would help.
posted by amberglow at 9:58 AM on October 9, 2007


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