Voluntary work is an amazing thing.
In a world where many are driven by the pursuit of money, big houses and sports cars that look like lime green Batmobile prototypes, there are those who freely donate their time and expertise to their communities, worthwhile causes and charities.
At the time I’m writing this, there has been an unprecedented number of people brought in as volunteers to support our struggling NHS, they deserve our thanks and our praise.
There’s a very specific type of volunteer I refuse to respect however, those who make it their mission to ensure that you are disabled enough to park in an accessible parking pay, god(s) help you if they can’t see your blue badge!
I should be clear before I continue. I don’t approve of anyone parking in an accessible bay as they’ll “just be five minutes”, that’s good for you, I’ll just be disabled for the rest of my life! And I certainly don’t approve of bays being used by those not displaying a badge – I’ll be honest, I’d rather drag my ass across the car park, than park without my badge if I’ve accidentally left it in my wife’s car.
Living with a disability is problematic enough. Many of us have to accept that we’ll be stared at, judged and pitied by members of society. Sadly, that’s part of the disability experience – easily turned into a positive by welcoming conversation from those interested enough to listen.
I don’t need unapproving eyes assessing me from a safe distance, trying to determine is he disabled or just an arsehole? (Trick question, I’m both.) Unless your beady eyes can scan me at a genetic level, you can’t see my disability while I’m in the driver’s seat.
I’m 35, some consider that young – the stray grey hairs in my beard are in slight disagreement with that, but based on the on the looks I get, I’m evidently too young to be disabled. I’ve got a 15 year old nephew who would like a word when you’re done!
As I mentioned, I can be an arsehole. It’s in all of us, and I’m no different just because I use a wheelchair. I’ll occasionally cause a minor scene when one of these part-time profilers holds their gaze for too long.
A simple “Hi!”, with a ridiculous grin and a rapid wave is enough for most eyes to avert. Other times I’ll open the car door and plant my walking stick firmly on the concrete, the metallic click draws quick attention and an even quicker pace in the opposite direction.
In less subtle moments, I say to my wife in an radio-play superhero voice, about thirty decibels higher than is needed, “Thanks for leaving the car to retrieve my wheelchair, which I need for my disability!” Shopping trolleys and passing pigeons suddenly become a lot more interesting.
Fun? Also yes.
I’m by no means saying that anyone else should do this, just that I have. It could be argued I’m just as bad, but I’ve yet to have that follow up conversation with any of my assessors – as they don’t tend to linger.
To balance this post, it isn’t only those who don’t require the bays that take part in this vehicular vigilantism, it’s also those who need the spaces themselves.
I’ve regularly been glared at by other disabled drivers and passengers. You know what this feels like! Why do it to others? No two conditions are exactly alike but we’ve got battles to fight as a collective, lets not waste energy by spot checking each other.
I won’t judge you, please don’t judge me.
Parking attendants and law enforcement are certainly within their rights to assess the situation, not the disability, pedestrians aren’t.
It’s not for others to quantify how disabled I am. Do your shopping, mind your business and stop staring.
For many of us leaving the house can be a triumph, don’t make it harder for us. There’s no need for it.