Arthro-Pilates and Lupus





Disabled Parking Passes…Stereotyping at its worst

“Stereotype”, a dangerous word defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a fixed or conventional notion or conception”.  I am sure we have all, at one time or another been victimized by another person who has labeled us based on a pre-conceived stereotype and who has subsequently assumed that we must behave in a certain way  in order to fit into their narrow definition of who they believe we are. People stereotype religion, ethnic background, and sexual orientation, to name only a few. Stereotyping can lead to prejudice, war and at the very least can make life unpleasant for those who are its victims.

I myself have fallen prey to this type of stereotyping since the age of eighteen when I was diagnosed with a severe form of arthritis.  I am now 44, and to date have undergone 11 operations to keep me functional.  The Ontario Government has decided that I will be allowed to use a “disabled parking pass”.  I use this pass only in times of need, during flares of my illness and when I have severe trouble walking.  Here is the negative general stereotype by society of a person who is allowed to use a disabled parking pass.  MYTH.. “You must have a visible disability, you must either use a cane or a wheelchair, you must be over sixty-five, and you must be driving a beat up car or a transport vehicle.” REALITY… “Not all disabilities are visible, not all disabilities require assistive devices, young people can have disabilities, and financial need and disability are not necessarily related.

Unfortunately many people in society believe the myth instead of the reality.  As a result I have been yelled at, physically assaulted, had my car vandalized, and have had the police called.  After all, I am, under sixty-five, I drive a sports car and worse yet a convertible, I look fit and healthy, and I fortunately do not need to use a wheelchair or cane.  In other words, I defy the myth. The worst-case scenario happened to me on a rainy afternoon in my local shopping plaza’s parking lot. I had just endured two cortisone shots to my knees, was having much difficulty walking and decided to use my pass. I was proceeding back to my car, when a woman who thought she was doing her civic duty, would not allow me entry to my vehicle. There I was, standing in the pouring rain trying to explain why I needed to use the pass. This woman had decided based on a stereotype, who is and who is not disabled and that I, was indeed fraudulently using the pass. She was going to take the matter into her own hands!  Now normally I wouldn’t even bother speaking with her, but I needed to sit down, and since there were no police in the area to assist me, I thought it would be a much quicker means to an end to offer up an explanation. Even after a ten minute discussion, she spit on the pavement in front of me and told me I should be ashamed of myself for using someone else’s pass. She finally left. Shaken up, I got into my car, had a good cry and then proceeded on my way.  While I understand that people do indeed partake in fraudulent misuse of disabled parking passes, it is impossible to tell who they are. Many disabilities are not visible. For example, someone with a heart condition may require a pass, but you would not be able to tell by looking at them.  Most people are kind, and knowledgeable but those who stereotype based on incorrect assumptions have made an already arduous medical condition more painful than it need be.

The next time you or anyone sees someone using a disabled parking pass, remember the stereotypes, and assume that this person has permission to use it. Stereotyping in general is a nasty business. Whether it’s stereotyping of religion, cultural differences, or the disabled, it can only hurt our society. 


©Lori Weisbrod


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