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.