Reserved Parking Spaces

Earlier last week, Ken drove me to a doctor’s appointment. My lungs felt tight that day because of poor air quality, and I am still not fully recovered from my recent flare-up of pneumonia infections in my lungs caused by Pseudomonas Aeriginosa and MRSA, so we used my valid Disabled Parking Permit.

However, a stranger walking behind us decided to say something to us.

“It’s tough being handicapped, isn’t it?” the older man asked sarcastically. I didn’t hear what he said at first, I thought he was commenting on my Red Sox shirt because he was wearing a Red Sox hat. My husband, ken, heard it, though. He simply told the guy that I have Cystic Fibrosis – that I have bad lungs, though Mr. Know-it-all deserved no such explanation.

My Handicapped Parking Permit

This wasn’t the first time people have commented on my use of a Disabled Parking Permit.

When we lived in Massachusetts, where the Registry of Motor Vehicles print the name and driver’s license photo of the tag carrier on the permit itself, one woman who had parked next to me got out, closed her door, and walked up to me as I left my car, and asked to take a closer look at the tag. I wanted to say something snarky about glass being clear (she could just look at it hanging from my rear view mirror), but I just walked away.

In Connecticut, neither your name nor your photo appears on the tag, so it leaves even more room for people to make assumptions. I remember one day, as I unlocked my car door, I saw what looked to be a mother and small child walking towards me. As they passed me, she yelled out to me:

“You know you’re taking spaces away from people who really need them!”

Another time, a woman who seemed to be in her 40s or 50s came up behind me as I walked into a store and scolded me:

“You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Again, I said nothing. I always blank when it comes to this sort of thing.

If there are other closer spaces, I opt for those non-reserved spaces, and on days when I am feeling well enough, I prefer the opportunity to exercise my lungs, but there are times when I just need that help. The bottom line is that the state issued a Disabled Parking Permit to me for my personal use, according to recommendation from my physician(s). I follow the laws. I don’t share the tag or abuse it.

So what gives people the right or gumption to say anything? Because I might look young and healthy? Because they see no wheelchair or crutches? I get it – you can’t see my CF, and some people think that they’re doing a good deed. Even though it’s none of their business, I’d rather someone ask me politely than make assumptions and accusations.

On the Brighter Side…

I guess that I could use such events as opportunities to teach and spread awareness about CF. I recently had business cards printed that explain the basics of Cystic Fibrosis, and plan to give them to anyone who expresses an interest in CF. I also plan to give one to anyone who feels the need to comment negatively on my cough (which happens often). Now I have an additional audience!

I feel it’s part of my role in life to educate and correct misconceptions about CF.



When I cough, people think they’re going to get sick – I get that, too. But even after I tell them I am not contagious, they still don’t understand. I might even be so bold to give one to people who stare at me if I’m wearing a medical mask, which I do when entering any medical facility, or any crowded place during flu epidemics – for my own protection.

If I was sick and carrying something that I could give to healthy people, rest assured that I wouldn’t be out in public anyway (or isolated in my hospital room).

What’s that phrase? “Everyone has something that they’re struggling with.”


11 thoughts on “Reserved Parking Spaces

  1. I run to handicapped issues when transporting my wheelchair-bound mom. People seem to loved being passively aggressive and drop a snarky comment. Once a person shouted a comment at me, moments before spotting my mom in her wheelchair. I’m glad you’ve ‘armed’ yourself with those CF cards. There’s always an opportunity to educate.

    • Topher, I bet that person was eating crow after they saw your mom.

      I know that people have a hard time understanding an invisible illness, which is exactly why I had these cards made. Unfortunately, I can’t hand them out to people online. 🙂

  2. Sally says:

    The purpose of handicap parking is to provide access to goods and services to those who otherwise could not access them. They are not meant to be used for convenience, ease, or time saving.

    Simply having any disability, visible or not, does not automatically qualify one for a handicap permit. Your ability to walk must be severely limited. So much so that you cannot walk 200 feet. 200 feet is not far, the average speed of a normal human gait is about 3 miles per hour or 264 feet per minute. if you have a normal gait with no visible limitations you can walk 200 feet in 45 seconds. So if you can walk for 45 seconds with a normal gait, please do not park in handicap parking.

    Too many people today with placards do not meet this severely limited qualification. They may very well have limited walking abilities, but are not severely limited. This is one of the main reason the number of issued handicap parking permits has skyrocketed. Add on top of that the fraudulent use of placards (friends and family using placards being #1) and those who blatantly park in handicap parking without a placard. No wonder its very difficult these days for those who truly cannot walk 200 feet to find open handicap parking spaces. And even harder for those requiring van accessible spaces.

    If you have the means, even if it takes extra time and effort, please park in non-handicap spaces. Leaving the handicap spaces open to those who otherwise, even with extra time and effort, can not access goods and services without parking in them.

    • Sally,

      Thank you for taking the time to point out the purpose of Handicapped/Disabled parking tags.

      If you are concerned that someone is using a tag inappropriately, I suggest speaking to local law enforcement, the state office that issues the tags, and/or the governing body responsible for approving applications.

      Thanks for reading!

    • Amanda says:

      Do you have cf or know anyone with cf personally? Because from your comment it does not seem that you do. Or if you do they (or yourself) are in good health.

      Do you know what it is like to gasp for breath after taking a few steps? Or have a coughing fit because you walking from inside to out and the change in air made your lungs spasm? Do you know what it is like to lug around an O2 tank? Do you know what it is like to feel some what normal one day and get knocked down the next and taking a shower is all you can do for the day? What about having to ask someone to go grocery shopping with you so someone can carry the bags because you physically can not move them from cart to car? Do you know what it is like to be “sick” for weeks, have to be in the hospital at minimum 2 weeks at a time, only to return home on IVs? Taking weeks to recover from a cold, instead of a few days. These things can all happen and do happen to a person with cf on a regular basis. It happens to me and I don’t even qualify for oxygen, and yet I can find myself gasping for air after only walking 30 feet. And yes on those days I rarely go anywhere by myself unless absolutely necessary. I have had days when my husband forces me to get the motorized cart because I can not make it 15 feet without turning blue. This is where we as a patient struggle with “invisible” illness, it looks as if we are functioning properly but our bodies feel as though we can barely stand at times.

      A handicapped placard is more than just “convenient” to a person with cf, it can be and is necessary. And please do not say if we feel that bad to stay home. That is laughable. If we stayed home every time we felt that way, nothing would get done, we would hardly ever leave home. And frankly just because we are sick doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to try and enjoy life…even if its just a trip to the store. Appointments would be missed, and groceries would not be bought. Saving those extra steps to the car after grocery shopping is like heaven on occasion…not because it is convenient but because it feels like we just ran a marathon and are struggling to reach our car.

      Sure some doctors might hand out placards out willy nilly, but those are usually temporary tags. For a person with cf to get a handicapped placard they have to qualify under stringent guidelines. Most cf doctors do not even sign papers for them unless there is a physical need.

      Saying someone can “simply” walk negates their need for the handicap spot is misinformed. I understand what you are saying and I agree to a certain point. If you can avoid it don’t park in those spots so someone else worse off can use them. Yes I agree with that 100% However there are days when a person with cf is the one that needs to use that spot.

      • You’ve reiterated the points I was trying to make, one – that “disability” isn’t always apparent, and two – to think before you make a snarky comment to someone. Thank you for your reply!

  3. I hear ya!!! God if I had £1 for every situation like that I was in. Yes there are people who abuse these spaces but I would never confront someone who displayed a badge. Ignorance is bliss.

  4. Don says:

    I live in Massachusetts, and the language used in the DMV application for disabled parking placard/plate does not limit an applicant to someone who cannot walk 200 feet. It allows for those who are legally blind, and those who cannot walk 200 feet without rest or use of an ambulatory aide.

    The application itself lists six clinical diagnosis, INCLUDING chronic lung disease. It then asks for PFT and O2 saturation. Perhaps to someone without a lung disease 200 feet seems a fairly short distance. The assumption of a normal gait being 3 mph Does NOT apply however when one is operating at 30 percent lung capacity. My ability to walk 200 feet unaided does NOT mean it is a short distance, nor does it mean it is easy for me.

    People in parking lots only see you for a brief moment in time. They cannot know all the effort it took to get a shower that morning, do all your breathing treatments, and basically function prior to their glimpse. Let them walk 200 feet in your shoes and I guarantee they will be screaming out for more oxygen before they hit 30 feet!

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