What cheeses me off – “parking permit abuse”

I bet this post is not what you think it’s going to be.

What cheeses me off is Temporarily Able-Bodied (TAB) folk leaping to attribute accessible parking problems to “permit abuse”. (This can be broadened to other disability accommodations, also.)

This is often their first and only response. “People With Disabilities (PWD) can’t find parking? It’s because of those nasty able-bodied folk who abuse permits, isn’t it?”

Abuse policing is a tiny part of what needs to be done. It’s not the only solution, and it’s not the largest part of a solution.

Because there aren’t enough spaces. Even when businesses comply with mandated minimums – which they often don’t – there are not enough spaces to guarantee availability. Mandated minimums are woefully inadequate. Spaces are badly allocated, spaces are poorly designed, and spaces are poorly placed. “Accessible” parking is frequently inaccessible.

There are also risks to zealous abuse policing. The harassment of people with invisible disabilities is a constant risk. Many PWD don’t use accommodations they need, because they fear misguided community outrage channelled into harassment. “But you don’t look sick” isn’t just a minor irritation; it’s a threat.

In my experience, permit-abuse grumbling is less about making life better for PWD, and more about TABs arguing amongst themselves. It’s more about that little voice saying, “why should SHE steal that good parking spot when I can’t?”

It’s about normals getting that little frisson of communal-whining pleasure at saying “We tried that, and it was only abused. We’re not going to try that again. All it does is let those bad people get away with something. I’m done with accessibility.”

And it’s also about deniability. Because normals just love to blame structural problems on individual deviance. They just love to think that what oppressed groups experience as systemic discrimination is caused by a few bad eggs. All you have to do is not park in a blue space, whinge at the screen when Today Tonight does a piece on parking abusers, and your job is done. It’s up to the others, now.

It’s not deviance that’s the problem; it’s normality.

Situation normal is for PWD to be discriminated against. Situation normal is for PWD to not have access to workplaces, to schools, to cultural activities. Situation normal is for PWD to be expected to fade into social and political isolation, unless they can Supercrip up and “overcome their disability” by themselves. Situation normal is for TABs to deny their own collusion in the systematic disabling of one-fifth of the population.

Blaming that nasty person over there lets you off the hook nicely, doesn’t it? It lets all good TABs off the hook. Because you get to believe that it’s not YOUR problem any more. It’s not a societal problem. It’s not a business owner’s problem. It’s not an organiser’s problem. It’s not a voter’s problem. You get to ignore it. You get to not notice it. You get to sigh, and tut-tut, and shrug, and go about your way.

Blaming permit abuse means that all you and your able-bodied privilege have to say to me is “Sucks to be you.”

When it’s not your problem, you get to deny responsibility for being part of the solution.



Categories: ethics & philosophy, media, social justice, Sociology

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Blaming that nasty person over there lets you off the hook nicely, doesn’t it? It lets all good TABs off the hook. Because you get to believe that it’s not YOUR problem any more. It’s not a societal problem. It’s not a business owner’s problem. It’s not an organiser’s problem. It’s not a voter’s problem. You get to ignore it. You get to not notice it. You get to sigh, and tut-tut, and shrug, and go about your way.

    YESSSS.
    This is why I love you.

  2. I believe I mentioned on a previous thread that I considered it a far bigger deal for PWD to not be able to access services than for people who do NOT deal with disability to abuse services provided for PWD…
    Still standing by that.
    hexy’s last blog post.."I do not believe that standing up for the rights of a sister to speak without being attacked, is an attack"

  3. Actually, this is the post I expected, and I agree with. It’s why the words “Wellfare reform” always raise my hackles… it’s always about the small problem (abuse) that lets you attack “evildoers” and never about the bigger systemic problems.
    Gr.

  4. PWD are less concerned with possible “abusers” of services that exist than they are with not having those services in the first place b/c people fear it would be “abused.”

  5. This denialism is so instinctive, and therefore so insidious. On a societal level, every time a structural inadequacy is attributed to accumulated incidents of individual deviance rather than to systemic flaws it lets the Establishment off the hook. Disability is not the only issue swept aside this way.
    But disability is one of those issues that often triggers individual disgust at the not-normalness of the disabled person, and feeling disgust makes people uncomfortable with themselves, triggering that Imustbeabadpersonforfeelingdisgustedbythiscrip and IamNOTabadpersonsoI’lljustlookaway and stopthinkingaboutthem shit. so On a personal level, it’s almost totemic thinking about being able-bodied, as if not thinking about disability will prevent the disability fairies noticing you and coming to visit you with an affliction.
    It’s lack of self-examination and lack of critical thinking skills all wrapped up in a comfortable doona of ignorant self-satisfaction.

  6. Ah, yes. The obligatory “If we just made it harder for people to get permits, it would be better for everyone!” Because PWD have so much time and energy to jump through additional hoops.

  7. I used to drive my mother around every week. After she suffered a stroke, she started using a walker and moved very slowly.
    It was then that I really began to notice all the handicap parking spots that were so distant from the entry doors (I guess the architects like a nice long clean entrance look or something), and how few of them were suitable for vans with wheelchair lifts. The long, long ramps that go way off to the side of the building and back, next to three steps that don’t have a function. The special doors or lifts you had to get someone to unlock and operate for you because otherwise “kids would play on them and might get hurt,” and good luck finding that person if you’re outside and they’re inside, and whoops maybe they don’t work any more.
    Sure, I’ll bet some of the people parked in the handicap spots were not entitled to use them. In my city, handicap hang tags are the second most commonly stolen object in car break-ins. But a lot of people who were entitled to use them probably didn’t, because they were essentially worthless anyway. Without another person’s help navigating these accommodations she’d have had to stay home.
    So parking permit abuse is way down the list in terms of universalizing accessibility.
    I keep thinking someone could make good money building a mall with real accessibility built in. In the US, the baby boom generation still has some money and they’re getting older and less mobile by the day, so there’s a growing potential market.
    I’m of two minds about it — obviously all public locations should be fully accessible, and this could lead to a “ghettoization” of accessibility in the guise of a libertarian “solution.” But then maybe, if they were successful, the competition would push some other public accommodations to follow suit, would prove that it won’t drive everyone out of business, would show how to do it right (you’d build it with consultants who actually live with a variety of disability), and also, of course, it would be the right thing to do.

  8. I had an acquaintance who would often rant about fakers getting disability benefits, and how Social Security needed to be restricted to help benefit people like me, so the fakers wouldn’t be stealing my money.
    I fought and fought with him. He never seemed to understand when I said “getting those benefits is enough of a battle, I really don’t think additional hoops will be any good for disabled people” or when I said “how do you know whether this person isn’t disabled?” (he liked to complain about one guy who played softball with his friends very occasionally, OBVIOUSLY if he wasn’t totally comatose he couldn’t be disabled right?) or when I said “I don’t even care if that guy gets benefits dishonestly, if it makes it harder for me or any other disabled person to get them, it’s NOT WORTH IT.”
    None of that ever got through his skull. Cuz he wasn’t interested in helping *me.* He was simply using my good-crip status as a tool to come down harder on the crips who did make him feel threatened.

  9. I’m filling out an submission from a small business perspective. It was actually quite difficult to get a second disabled parking spot in town – there was one outside the supermarket, and we wanted one outside the pharmacy (for obvious reasons) but it took over a year of talking to the council to get it in place. The “people will just abuse it” excuse was used all the time, by other business owners, customers (even though we weren’t losing any parking spaces to gain the disabled space) and even one of the council officers.
    Because normals just love to blame structural problems on individual deviance.
    Oh yes. There’s still not enough disabled spaces in town – we have to run out of the shop to help people who can’t get a park and have to prop behind the other cars – and yet people mostly talk about people abusing the permits.

  10. Heh. The Punch is linking to this post in its “Opinion From Everywhere” sidebar, with the link text “Don’t park in disabled spots”. I guess their News Limited drones don’t look past the headlines.
    So G’day, Punchers. Read this:
    ”CALL TO ACTIVISM – Many people with disabilities to be excluded from accessible parking under proposed scheme”

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