"Tonight, we'll be investigating the growing use of handicapped parking spaces...by people who are not handicapped." (ominous music)
I cringe when I hear this sort of thing, mostly because I've learned over the years to expect more than one instance of idiotic, self-righteous vigilantism backlash after these nighttime news "investigations". This comes from two sources...the healthy uninformed, who equate all disability with apparatus (wheelchair, crutches, prostheses) and/or some sort of dramatic deformity, and the disabled self-centric, people who remain ignorant of all issues not their own and who are sure that in one way or another they're worse off than you.
I have a handicapped placard, even though my disabilities prevent me from driving. I have it with the full blessing of my specialists, all of whom are quite aware of the periodic upsets the spinal cord tumor and spinal scar tissue cause with my mobility. In addition to that, walking on slippery pavement is dangerous when you have a broken, radiated and dead cervical spine that can't be repaired. I'm not supposed to walk far, in the touchingly optimistic belief that less distance equals less risk. I've lived a good chunk of my life paralyzed, through some medical miracle I'm not-quite-paralyzed at the moment, and given the choice I'd rather remain as I am. So I come by the placard honestly, and then some. I'm supposed to carry it with me, no matter who drives.
So let's all agree that I may make spinal cord cancer and a broken neck look good, but at the end of the day it's still spinal cord cancer and a broken neck. People remark on how "healthy" I look, but they don't have MRI vision and can't see what's going on in there. I might limp if I'm having a bad day with the spinal stuff, or if all the postsurgical arthritis is getting the better of me, but otherwise people see me getting out of a car with no wheelchair or missing limbs and all they can think of is, "Fraud! Handicapped parking fraud!"
Today, I finished shopping in a store before my mother, who was driving us. She asked me to take the baby to the car, which was parked in one of several available spots (the pavement was wet, but I never take the last spot- I will only use my placard if other parking is available). I walked out with the baby, got her into the car with great difficulty, went through the usual routine of positioning her where she can climb into the seat herself and I could buckle her in.
I was still working on that, half in and half out of the car, when I noticed a large silver Jeep behind me. A woman was hovering, obviously waiting for the space, thinking that I was buckling my baby in before hopping into the driver's seat and vacating the apparently coveted spot. I guess she couldn't have known that I can't drive. She was getting impatient with how slow the buckling process was going, and she started yelling at me from her car and gesturing angrily. There were other spots, but this one was hers, damn it.
I decided to ignore her, since I literally could not do anything that was going to make her happy, got the baby buckled in, and did my arthritis-hobble back around the car to the passenger seat. When I got in there instead of driving off and relinquishing the space, it was too much for her. She tore into the space beside ours, screeched loudly to a halt, and got out of the car.
This is a rather scary scenario for someone with a delicate spinal situation. I locked the door and stared back at her as she shouted and gestured some more, and then she did what I guess I expected her to do the whole time...come around the front of the car and lean on the hood, angrily scanning for the handicap placard she thought wouldn't be there.
But it was, and she stormed off, and when my mom got out of the store we got out of there.
I never figured out exactly what the woman's problem was, other than her apparent obsession with the parking space and her certainty that I wasn't there legitimately. I'm not sure which camp she was in, the ignorant able-bodied or the self-righteous disabled. She was scary.
It's sort of sad that this comes up now and then, but it does.
My opinion is this...if someone has a placard or plates, it's between them and the DMV how that came about. If the placard or plates are there legitimately, it's no one else's concern. And there are so many mobility-limiting but not physically dramatic disabilities out there, I don't know how anyone could be so confidently self-righteous about it with absolutely zero information. Snap judgments gone bad, I guess. And sanctioned by the local news, to boot.
As for the people who park in handicapped spaces with no right to be there, or people who sneak in with Grandma's placard, I'm not too keen on them. As a friend once said, "There are the disabled...and the not disabled yet." It could happen to anyone, so why not behave yourself while you're ahead?