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27 Sep 07, 10:45 AM - Take My Disability. Please.

Posted by lilwatchergirl

"Just because they're disabled, everyone else has to suffer."

I'm actually hearing these words on this morning's BBC Breakfast News. It's 8.45am, and I'm at home today. This is because I can only do about six hours at work before needing at least thirty-six hours in bed to recover. Abject poverty follows, not to mention boredom and a serious lack of career development opportunities, but I am at least fortunate enough to have an employer who's willing to let me do hours that work for me. Hence being free to sit in front of breakfast television all morning. But back to the subject at hand. (A wandering mind and frequent digressions are part of my impairments. Seriously. I wonder if there's any cheese in the fridge. Would my flatmate notice if I ate the chocolates she left on the table?)

Today's news features ASDA stores in Merseyside which are imposing fines on people who park in spaces designated for disabled customers (as well as those for parents with young children). The above comment came from someone rather smug-looking being interviewed about what the newsreaders called "controversial measures" of this sort.

Several things strike me about this story. Firstly, I can't believe that these fines aren't being imposed already. Disability Now has been researching and covering the issue of misused parking spaces since 2002, but it's taken 'til now for a supermarket to do enough about the problem to interest the mainstream media. Secondly, I'm very surprised to hear that this is, according to the supermarket, only a trial: they actually want to see how other shoppers react before deciding whether or not they're going to meet their responsibilities under the DDA - which is in fact the law, in case you hadn't noticed, Mr/Ms Regional Manager of Major Supermarket Chain. And finally, I'm quite appalled that people can say things like that on television without their attitudes being challenged. But the last one is probably just me being oversensitive. Right?

There are a lot of people who say slightly idiotic things to disabled people, along the lines of "I'm so jealous of your blue badge/Freedom Pass for London transport/electric wheelchair that means you don't have to walk anywhere/discount at the cinema/time off work so that you can recover from severe mental illness/Disability Living Allowance/part-time hours [complete with horrifically low pay. Did I mention that?]" I'd put the above reference - to how non-disabled people have to 'suffer' because disabled people need accessible car parking spaces - into exactly the same 'stupid and unthinking' category of comments about access. Most people's remarks may be less overtly disablist, but they're equally offensive. In response to such ideas, The Girl would like me to put a sticker on our car saying something like Want my blue badge? Just take my disability too. Never content with half measures, I'd quite like to extend it to When you take my [insert expletive here] parking space, you only serve to add to the considerable inequalities and barriers that make my (already stressful, painful and generally quite tricky) life more difficult, and you contribute to the overall package of social, medical and ideological rubbish that makes me disabled. So if you assume all you're doing is parking your car, please think again. And if, having thought about it, you'd still like to partake in all of that, you can have my [insert expletive here] parking space and I'll take your pain-free body, properly working brain and fully mobile legs, then I'll take public transport and go for a run round the supermarket.

Admittedly, that's not quite so catchy. It might entertain people sitting behind us in traffic jams, though.

• For more complaints about parking and other badly-enforced accessible facilities, visit Through Myself and Back Again

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At 10:44 AM on 30 Sep 2007, davinia wilkinson wrote:

after reading your letter,all i can say is well done to you,you have made me feel very proud to be in the same category as you are,dont forget people see you in a wheelchair they think your a bit slow as well,i think you have just proved them wrong,well done.

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At 09:52 AM on 01 Oct 2007, Dave Hingsburger wrote:

sorry to be nit picky but if they had a properly working brain they wouldn't be parking in our spaces

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At 11:19 AM on 01 Oct 2007, mdoyle wrote:

Well said! Please would you be prime minister?

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At 05:53 PM on 01 Oct 2007, lilwatchergirl wrote:

Dave: OK, good point. (I was thinking more neurologically. But, yes.)

Mdoyle: I would if they'd cut it down to an eighteen-hour-a-week job for me...

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