Monday, June 20, 2011

Parking Rage: Why I Don't Use My ACROD Permit

There was an article on The Punch this week entitled 'What bastard would park in a disabled space?' that featured two stories from people with permits. The article made me sad, but it didn't surprise me, because I have experienced almost identical incidents.

But the comments? Well, let's just say the level of ignorance never ceases to amaze me. Ill-informed yet ready to sprout their 'wisdom' for all to see:

"People who have a gammy leg and go to their doctor and get a letter that the RTA then issues a Disabled parking permit on the basis of that letter. Because I ask all ypou (sic) punchers this. How many people do you see with a disabled pass get out of a car and use and aid for mobility. Ie wheelechair etc etc. The how many actually look like they have a limp or such when they walk.  I would reckon the answer would be close to one in every 15 vehicles."

I've spoken before about my chronic pain disorder and the fact that I have an ACROD permit (point #6) that lets me park in disabled bays.

I very rarely use it. And not because I'm not in pain.

I don't look disabled. My illness is invisible and because of this, "well meaning people" have blocked my car in, accused me of theft (of the permit), called security, abused me and threatened me. All for using a parking bay I am legally entitled to use, just because I don't fit in to their idea of what disability is.

My favourite, the one that is seared in my mind, was the woman who did almost all of them at once. She positioned her car behind mine, ranted on that I'd stolen the pass from my grandmother, called over security and said, in front of her two small children, "My husband works with retards, I know what it looks like to be disabled and you're not." Charming.

So let's clear up a few things here;
  1. Not all disabilities that qualify a person for a permit are visible; some muscle disorders, lung problems, and heart disease can all qualify and none of those are normally associated with a "limp or such"
  2. An intellectual disability doesn't qualify
  3. Permits can be issued if you need extra room to get out of a vehicle; if you can walk relatively fine but struggle to get in and out of a car in a tight bay then you may qualify
  4. It is not easy to get a permit; a letter from your doctor does not cut it. There is a form and a medical history which your doctor must sign before it is then reviewed by a panel
  5. They're not free; they're not expensive but you do have to pay for your permit

I have good days and bad days. A few years ago there would be one good day for every month of bad. Now it's a little bit more even, and thanks to mindfulness training and therapy I'm able to cope better with the pain (I was unable to stay on pain meds any longer - if I could've stayed on those suckers I would have!).

It still stops me from doing every day things, but I try not to let it stop me having fun. So I will go out, in high heels, and dance for hours, knowing that I will be in bed for days and have to use my permit for a week after... just so that I can feel normal for that one night.

I stopped using my permit unless I was in extreme agony, years ago. The stares, the comments, the abuse, it all got too much for me and I found that I would fake a limp just to escape the prejudice.

So when others, no matter how delightful they are, complain about non-parents parking in parent bays, I, in all honesty, can not join them in their fury. You can just park in a different bay, some days, without an ACROD bay, I have to go home.

Image by Jörn Guy Süß
Parents with Pram bays are a there as a convenience and run on a courtesy system - and obviously there are a lot of discourteous people. They might be assholes but they're not breaking any laws.

Yes it's a pain to lug our kids a bit further in a car park, but that's what prams and trolleys are for, and hey, at least you have a car, some people don't and have to do all that lugging on public transport. We don't deserve special treatment just because we've popped out a kid. And I'm expecting a few 'unfollows' for saying that.

So before you go shaking your head and tutting at the person who doesn't look disabled, check their dashboard or rear view mirror. If they've got a permit, reserve your judgement. If they don't, then feel free to tell them they're a schmuck.

EDIT: This post upset some people. This was written as is, before the post that it previously linked to was published and was therefore not an attack on said person. It was not accusing said person of parking in disabled bays, nor accusing them of abusing people who do or don't or whatever, as was suggested. It is not a rant at her, it is a rant, there is a difference. The point of this article that I wanted people to take away was that sometimes we have it so good and we can't see it - we complain about trivial things when really, we are so privileged. Sometimes, people will park in parents bays because the ACROD bays are full, and maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge that "those people" who are parking there without children are not in need of a closer bay. I simply cannot not get angry at the misuse of a courtesy bay when I would gladly take that inconvenience over the abuse.


  1. I have a permit for my daughter and I also struggle to use it sometimes. For similar reasons. However if we have a 10 minute window between screaming sessions, or the screaming is already occuring but I desperately need to go to the shops then sometimes I just 'take the risk and park in the accessible spot'. I have a disabled 6 year old child, who is the size of a 2 year old, so we use her pram for everyday trips and leave her wheelchair at school. So she looks like a toddler in a pram if you don't look too closely. we used the pram because if I can't access a disabled parking spot the wheelchair is almost impossible to manouver, plus it's even heavier than the pram and harder for me to get in and out of the car. Prams jump curbs, wheelchairs do not. 
    I get dirty looks because I don't have a disability, visible or not, and I assume they see Gracie as a toddler in a pram, not a 6 year old with severe disabilities.
    I'm waiting for someone to abuse me. I hope I can keep my temper and not abuse them back.
    if someone parked me in and started screaming I'd take down their license plate and call the police. That has to be a form of assault surely?

  2. I agree there are assholes either way. People should just respect it all and park correctly, sure there are times finding a spot is hard, but who are you to take someone else's spot they're entitled to if you aren't, or to accuse someone of doing the same. 
    Use your spot Glowless, you're entitled to it, and let people stare, at least you know if they call you out they will be embarrassed not you. 

  3. Also many a times we have let elderly people or disabled take out parents with prams parking over us taking it because i personally feel like both deserve the spaces more. 

  4. My 75-year-old aunt happily parks in parenting parking spots because 'there weren't any parenting spots when I had children, so why should I leave them empty for parents who have prams and so on that make their lives so much easier than mine was anyway'.

    As for disabled spots, I have a friend whose 12-year-old daughter has a muscular condition. She fatigues very easily and not having to walk across the car park in addition to walking through the shopping centre makes a big difference to the success of their trip. She can also find it difficult to get in and out of the car if they are in a tight spot, so the extra room in a disabled access carpark makes a big difference to them.

    If someone has a disability pass on their car, I am happy to assume that they have some reason to use that spot whether I can see what it is or not. I admit I rarely check, since I don't need to use those spots myself so I'm generally not all that concerned about who is parked there. I do get a bit ranty about cars parked in parenting spots when they don't even have booster seats in the car - obviously not a parent with a pram in that case. Once again, I'm not able to use those spots either (my youngest is 7), so I tend to just keep on moving and focus my ranty energy on other things (like the parents I saw yelling at their preschooler to 'shut up and not interrupt when we're busy' at our local shopping centre because both parents were occupied lighting up their cigarettes and she asked them a question).

  5. Actually, I'm going to follow you *for* that comment :-)

  6. Gill@AlicebecomesJune 20, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    Oh my god, I can't believe how vindictive people can be. Why assume you know anything about a stranger? Gill xo

  7. I agree with what a few others have said - use your spot, you deserve to! But it really is amazing how many people are out there judging what they consider a disability to be. I'm very fortunate to be healthy and have a healthy little boy but I got a tiny taste of what you and all the other ACROD permit holders must go through in the last few months of my pregnancy when I couldn't really do anything physically (long list of probs), and remember trying to plan places where I could shop for baby stuff/food/etc which would actually fit my abilities (park close enough, no steps, etc etc) and I certainly became an expert in online shopping because of that! And developed a bit more empathy for others. It's empathy which I see is lacking in so many people these days ...

  8. Some people are just too quick to judge others instead of finding out the facts.

  9. I think that's a good rule for life in general - don't judge unless you know the full story. Even then, be very careful with judging because you may just *think* you know the full story. 

  10. People are judgmental arseholes; the indignation I hear from people who have no idea what they're talking about never fails to astound me.

  11. Do you remember years ago on home and away when Angel had a disability and couldn't walk and someone parked Shayne (Dieter Brummer sp) in? It was sad! And then he had to carry her out of the car.

    Some people are just awful!

  12. Fussy Eater's MumJune 20, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    I once parked right outside a fish & chip shop with both girls asleep in the car. I ran in, paid and ran out to be met by an elderly couple that just about smacked me with their walking sticks. Boy did they give me a tongue lashing for parking in the disabled spot. As I looked out at the empty car park (save for our two cars) I said I was sorry but I had two babies in the car and was only going to be there for a minute. I learned my lesson - don't risk it!
    I think Amanda is right, empathy is lacking in society today. Obviously the woman who ranted at you wasn't seen at the Dali Lama event?

  13. I suspect I'm going to upset you or your readers but i have been known to feign a limp so that I can sneak into a disabled space (not very often I might add and I'm not trying to argue my case here) People didn't look to see if I had a pass as they were more tan satisfied with the limp - the fact that my son was scratching his head and asking me what was wrong with my leg was missed.

    As for the 'parents with prams' spaces, I don't use them anymore as mums with prams are far too feisty a bunch to take on, and my boys are now well past pram stage but I will say this. It isn't about being close to the store, it isn't about convenience for shopping. I always used to say that I wished they would put those spaces at the other end of the car park - so that it would be easier to get one. The point of them is that they are wider. They allow you to get young kids in and out of car seats in what would otherwise be too tight a space to do it. That is their purpose - how close they are to the shops is not the point at all.

    That's what the disabled spaces are for...

  14. Glow, like you my mum has an acrod sticker but no visible disablity.

    she injured herself at work due to an unsafe environment and got Repetitive Strain Injury, which has affected her WHOLE life. She tires easily, has constant migraines, constant pain in her neck, shoulder and back.
    She does use her permit at shopping centers, but if she cant get a space, she will quite happily park elsewhere. but she does like being able to get the premo spot sometimes. depending on how much pain she is in. like you, she can spend days at a time bedridden.

    she is also put on weight restrictions, meaning that she cannot lift anything heavier than a kilo. which makes things very hard when you have grandkids to adore and cant lift them to cuddle them.

  15. WoW Glow, that's awful. I am speechless. I do think though that it's different to parents with pram places - they are different things and the latter goes to a sense of self-entitlement that people have, that they deserve a good spot even if it inconveniences someone else. As someone who often finds going to the shops with my children utterly exhausting, I appreciate the courtesy one of these spots offers because while I'm not entitled to it because I "popped out a kid" I do appreciate the thoughtfulness. We seem to live in a society where people think they can do whatever the heck they like simply because they are "special" and don't give a thought to the person coming behind them who is actually entitled to that spot because they fit the criteria - be that disabled or parent. I think what I'm trying to say is that they are two different things and I am pretty sick of road rage and car park rage in general!

  16. I've not managed to ever stand up for myself for more than a minute before breaking down in to tears... I wish I could be all clever and witty and tell them to go shove it.

  17. Your aunt sounds like a hoot! The parent spots are only a relatively new thing and everyone managed to get by without them, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

    How dare that preschooler interrupt valuable cigarette lighting time - it takes a lot of concentration to do that! (former smoker, don't sue me)

  18. Thanks, Cate, might be my only one by the end of the week :)

  19. I really don't mind people looking for the permit in my window, I actually like that they are policing the spots, but it's when they see it and STILL abuse me that I get angry.

  20. I don't need to use the disabled toilets, and when it's been the only toilet working (as was often the case at the shopping centre I used to work at) I've always felt guilty using them for that exact reason - what if someone who needs it comes by?

    An apology doesn't take much, not very thoughtful of them.

  21. I understand we all make judgements, but I think keeping them to ourselves, especially when we don't know the situation, is the only way to go. Perfect world though, right?

  22. It's definitely annoying for someone with armfuls of children and shopping to have to go to so much more effort when someone by themselves is using the designated parent spots, and I'm sure I will look upon them with more negative views when I'm struggling a few years down the track - but still, I can't get angry, we have it so easy compared to those who have to take the bus or walk.

  23. That's a really hard one, when you're temporarily injured or have a temporary condition that makes it difficult. You can actually get temporary permits, but sometimes by the time it takes to get the form, have it assessed etc the injury/condition is clear.

    A friend of mine got a temporary one when she had a knee reconstruction. She did limp and because of her age she got abused. Two people actually sat on the bonnet of her car and waited for her. Was a big mistake, she's actually a police officer :P

  24. Very quick. See someone relatively young and looking able bodied and automatically they're faking it or stealing.

  25. It's a fantastic rule, especially the disclaimer!!

  26. I was really surprised by the woman who said her husband works with people with disabilities (especially because that's not how she put it!) - you'd think she'd know at least a little bit and not be so quick to judge.

  27. I don't remember that?! I watched it then too because Angel was my roller skating teacher :P

  28. Surprisingly I didn't bump in to her there!
    Empty carpark rules are different aren't they???

  29. The amount of times I've faked a limp when people were watching... wow.
    The parents spots here aren't any wider, well at least none of the ones I've seen (or parked in). I have the dilemma of "do I take away a spot from someone with a disability who might need it more? Or do I take it away from someone struggling with their kiddies?" I don't know why I just don't just park wherever I bloody well like like everyone else does.

  30. It's really hard to explain to people sometimes why you can look and act completely fine one day and be bedridden the next. Our families might notice the movements becoming less fluid, but a stranger, even a friend wouldn't.
    I saw how much my Dad struggled not being able to lift Tricky for 8 weeks - I bet she's heartbroken she can't scoop them up to cuddle them :(

  31. It's absolutely annoying, and I don't for a second suggest that everyone who uses parents spots feel like they're special, just that I don't. This particular topic was the main reason I left one of the giant parenting forums; the slagging matches that went on about "How dare someone without kids park in MY spot" etc.

    My point is that I cannot get upset about misuse of a courtesy bay when I'm abused for the correct use of a legally enforced bay, and maybe someone using a parent bay is doing so because the ACROD bays were full - I know I've done it, as has a friend of mine who had a temporary pass.

  32. I don't have a problem with it (though I may mumble under my breath at you if I'm having a bad day).
    Driving past the Shenton Park rehab centre once I nearly choked on my water because almost the entire car park is ACROD bays! It looked so strange to see a sea of blue spaces.


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