Every time I see a story about how a Spoonie was shamed in a parking lot for using their placard, or read someone’s post about how people on disability are lazy I think “Do they not understand what a person goes through to get here?”
It’s rhetorical, obviously. But what if it wasn’t?
What if I genuinely considered the concept that these people truly, legitimately, do not understand the process to get that parking pass or to get on the disability program?
If that was actually the case, then the most logical way to end the public shaming of a Spoonie would be to teach them what it actually takes to end up in that handicap spot.
So here it is: How to Get a Handicap Pass or some other clever name. Whatever.
In order to have one of those magic blue passes you have to have a form signed by your provider stating that you meet the criteria set by your states council on Disability. In MN you must meet one or more of the following:
-Has a cardiac condition to the extent that functional limitations are classified in severity according to the standards set by the American Heart Association.
-Uses portable oxygen.
-Is restricted by a respiratory disease.
-Has an artificial oxygen tension (PAO2) of less than 60 mm/Hg on room air at rest.
-Has lost an arm or a leg and does not have or cannot use an artificial limb.
-Cannot walk without the aid of another person or device, e.g., wheelchair or cane.
-Walking 200 feet would be life threatening.
-Cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest.
-Cannot walk without a significant risk of falling.
I’m not sure about you, but I am relatively certain that most of those criteria don’t have obvious visible indicators. How would you know that someone needs to rest after walking 200 feet? What about being 100% sure that someone may risk a fall if they walk too far?
If you click here you can see what the actual application looks like and you will see that in the cases where a physician writes in the ailment there needs to be documented proof of this limitation.
What’s more is the fact that a doctor has to sign this form before you can take it to your DMV. Meaning someone has to sign their name and be willing to support your claim to that handicap spot. Now I know that there are some crackpot doctors out there but let’s be reasonable here. No doctor worth their scruples is going to sign that form and be willing to testify to your limitations without real cause.
Now that you understand exactly what it takes to be “sick enough” to get one of these passes, let’s consider the likelihood that the person you’re yelling at in the parking lot is faking it.
I’ve seen people work a doctor for pain meds, and I’ve seen children fake sick to get out of school but faking being ill to the point of earning the label of “Disabled” is quit the commitment.
No one likes going to the doctor that much.
Let’s pretend that even after all of this sound logic you decide you still want to approach the Spoonie in the handicap spot. You’re enraged, and on behalf of all the real disabled people in the world you are going to set this person straight and make sure they never steal a spot from the disabled ever again. So you say something clever like “Those spots are for people who need them.” Or “Are you actually disabled?”
How do you suppose that effects the person you’re talking to?
I can tell you that the one and only time I was approached by someone about my pass still sits with me. Every time I park and get out of my car I look around to see who is watching. I try to read their faces and brace myself for the coming questions. I hide behind my sunglasses or scroll through my phone to avoid having to make eye contact while I walk from my car to the door.
If I am alone I wait until the closest people have loaded into their cars or walked into the store, and if I’m with someone I do my best to carry on conversation to make it more difficult for someone to interrupt.
There are times my husband has joked that he will limp so that people will be able to see the reason for the pass. There have been times that I’ve been tempted to exaggerate my own difficulty while getting out of the car to appease those watching. But that would only perpetuate the myth that disabilities only exists if they are visible.
On top of the anxiety and fear of being approached again there is a ton of anger, sadness and self-doubt from being accused of faking it that lasts for days after your encounter. Do you really want to be the reason someone feels so awful for so long?
Of course you don’t.
It may seem convenient to park in those spaces, but I can guarantee that anyone using it wishes they didn’t need them. It’s a “perk” that reminds us every time we park that our bodies aren’t up to par. Another activity in our life that is changed forever by our pain and illness.
If your true intentions are to help those of us who really do need those spaces it is truly best to say nothing at all. If you really are looking out for the disabled people in the world your efforts are better spent educating people on invisible illnesses and teaching people how to be compassionate with others.
If your true desire is to accost someone in a parking lot because they don’t look sick perhaps you should spend more time at home questioning why you don’t look like an asshole.