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Disability Discrimination

Being someone who has Multiple Sclerosis, but doesn’t “look sick”… I tend to get some commentary from others when I’m out and about, and I need to use my handicapped placard.

Walking in extreme heat

I wanted to share with everyone something that happened to me not too long ago. I was at the grocery store, and it was PACKED full. I would have had to walk ½ a mile in 105°F heat, from where the open parking was to get into the store. So that doesn’t include me actually walking around in the store, getting my shopping done… then walking back OUT to my car. Let me just clarify that the heat bothers me in a BIG way.

Using my handicap placard

So instead of parking in the back of the parking lot, I used my handicapped-parking placard, which I really don’t like doing unless I NEED to. So I parked in a handicapped spot, went inside the store to get the things I needed, and then came back out to my car. So, I’m putting things into the back of my car, and I’m already leaning on my car for support because the heat and humidity at the time was just THAT bad.

Being called lazy

As I’m in the process of putting my groceries into the back of my SUV, I have this lady in full spandex ‘work-out’ clothes with perfect hair and make-up walk up to me – actually, let’s say that she ‘swayed’ her way up to me and decided to tell me what she thought about me parking in the handicapped parking spot. And by that I mean… she called me a lazy you know what (use your imagination).

I snapped back

Now, let me just say that yes, we all know that I have a hard time holding my tongue with comebacks to these small minded people, but I’ve been working on it – to not just go off on everyone all the time. But I was overheated, tired, weak, and just frustrated in general. And she hit my last nerve, pun intended. So I told her she needed to get the stick out of her uptight… yeah. She then proceeded to stomp away from me in a true temper tantrum fashion. All while I’m still at the back of my car, trying to not fall over.

Now, this little interaction that lasted maybe a minute ruined the rest of my day because I was already having a not-so-good day to begin with. But this is what brings me to the topic of Disability Discrimination. Because I know that I’m not the only one that has gone through this, and I won’t be the last.

I’m already defending myself

The way I see it is, I’m already defending myself from, well, myself. Why do other people have to add to that? I know that a lot of people are just uneducated, and don’t understand that not all disabilities are visible. This goes to show that there needs to be more awareness to the general public about diseases like MS, that aren’t always visible.

I guess I shouldn’t assume that everyone out there has the common courtesy of being polite and respectful to others. Because I would NEVER, EVER do anything like that to someone else.

I don’t know their story

It does irritate me when I see someone parked in a handicapped spot with the car running, and someone still sitting in the car, waiting for the other to get out of the store, using a handicapped pass. But I don’t know their story, so I’m not going to make it my business.

I also shared a photo the other day on my Facebook Page. It was a car that had a temporary handicapped placard, was still running, but it had no one in it. And it was using two parking spots. AND the door was not even 5 feet from where the car was. I walked in, and she is sitting there, signing her kids up for something, and I’m sitting there biting my tongue, because doing what she did is just flat out RUDE. Click here to see the pic.

It’s not like I want to use it

I just don’t understand why people have to stick their noses where they don’t belong, I guess. Would I still get ‘discriminated’ against for ‘abusing’ a wheelchair parking spot, if I walked with a cane, walker, etc.? NO ONE should have to ‘prove’ his or her disability to a COMPLETE stranger if you have a parking placard that was issued to YOU! It wasn’t done just for kicks. It’s not like I WANT to use it… I just NEED to at times. I really try not to use it if I don’t have to. If there is a parking space up close that isn’t handicapped, I’ll park there instead.

I don’t make assumptions

I do understand that there ARE people out there that abuse the system. There ARE people that abuse the parking pass, etc. But it’s not EVERYONE. I don’t sit there and make assumptions… because you know how that saying goes.

If you really think that someone out there is abusing the parking pass – let the cops handle it if you really feel that the person it was issued to is not using the placard appropriately.

The bottom line here is that you don’t have to be a certain age, weight, race, gender, using an assistive device, to be classified as disabled. I can’t say that I would have had this knowledge about ‘invisible disabilities’, had I not been diagnosed with MS. But I was raised with manners and common courtesy, and I would NEVER speak to a complete stranger about their personal health, making my own assumptions. I will defend myself at times, though I try not to allow the ‘small-minded’ people out there to bother me, but sometimes I can only handle so much at once.

You aren’t alone

So if you have ever been discriminated against because of your disability, I’m sorry. But I want you to know that you aren’t alone. It happens WAY too often. We need to educate the public about MS and many other invisible diseases. We didn’t ask for this, and we’re already being punished enough by battling this disease on a daily basis. We don’t need anyone to add to it.

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

– Wayne Dyer


Ashley Ringstaff

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • rabcab
    4 months ago

    Oh, Ashley – I am so very sorry this RUDE and UNEDUCATED woman ruined your day. I am pretty sure you “know this” but only YOU can control how you feel about a situation like that. I get it, I totally understand, and you will not get any push back from me! Have you considered getting a handicapped license plate? I finally made myself tackle that issue several years ago and it’s one of the best things I have done for MYSELF! Because of the feelings that I had of not REALLY NEEDING THE PLATE, it took a long time to get over the guilt of parking (once I had it) but I realized it’s what I needed to do for ME, my comfort, my level of energy for that day, etc. PLEASE do not be too hard on yourself, it only hurts you and no one else. When you have the plate, you become accustomed to finding that handicapped space and you PARK! It truly just takes a tiny burden off of your shoulders when you don’t have to go through the “ritual” of hanging the placard which is such a visible sign that defines our feelings about ourselves internally. With the plate, you find YOUR space, you park, and away you go with NO GUILT!!! 🙂

  • Janus Galante moderator
    4 months ago

    The endless abuse that people suffer all because they have a parking placard is something that really gets under my skin. Not much rankles me and I am not one to get easily upset anymore. (I was the target so often in grade school and high school of bullying that eventually I just learned that there will always be cruel, thoughtless
    people out there.)

    This is a whole new area however, because the cruel, thoughtless words are coming from those who are supposed to be our equals in the adult world.

    I have no great answers to this seemingly endless problem concerning the much deserved parking placard,
    except never be ashamed or embarrassed. I know, easier said than done, but I know myself, and I know my limitations. I use it very frequently, especially when I feel like all my strength has just bottomed out through my feet. I usually have to do all errands and shopping by myself and you all know what effort that takes!

    The placard was prescribed for me like any other form of medication, by my neurologist.

    Thinking of all of you today using your placards. You go!!

  • Yoshitail9
    4 months ago

    Ruined your day ?. No way. When you told her to get the stick out of her you know what, (as far as I’m concerned) you became the female version of Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry


  • Tazz
    4 months ago

    I think all of us who have MS “get it”, even if our impairments are not so bad that we need a crutches, walker, or a wheelchair (yet). The response I had ready for if I ever got questioned about using a disabled spot (with my permit, she quickly adds) was to say something along the lines of “That’s fine, you can park here if you want, but you have to take my MS along with my permit, and I’ll very happily go and park elsewhere.” My “rationale” was pure and simple – to embarrass the crap out of whoever was so rude as to question me. Fortunately I never had to use my comeback lines, and now I’m on a walker all the time so “sadly” will never get to see the embarrassment I might have caused, or receive the apologies that I was entitled to.

    The abuse I did cop one day that shocked me to the core (i.e. lots of F words and shouting) was when someone who was clearly disabled was parked in a disabled space, and I very politely suggested it would be a good idea to remember to put his permit on the dashboard to avoid a fine. Well, what he had to say would have sunk a battleship.

    Where I live our permits are issued to an individual but if a disabled parking spot is being used the person who is the permit holder must leave the vehicle. Personally I think this is entirely reasonable – I have on far too many occasions been unable to park close enough to actually go to where I need to because “Granny/ Grandad’s relatives are in there doing errands (which may not even BE for Granny/ Grandad) and they leave Granny/ Grandad sitting in the car with the permit displayed. (Maybe that’s what Mr Foulmouth above had done – although he was not in Grandad age group maybe he was worried about being caught out.)

    Here’s a website that’s worth sharing wherever you can – Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media platform floats your boat.

    4 months ago

    Perhaps offer to swap with them, and say “look I don’t want this chronic illness either” So what say you take this, I’ll happily swap and then I can park anywhere else too? Seriously take it I don’t want it”

  • Mo50
    4 months ago

    I was once so verbally abused for using a disabled parking bay that I couldn’t go back to that mall again. I now do most of my shopping online and pay for the delivery. For my bread and milk i go to a shop that knows me and is open 24 hours and the staff do my shopping for me. People just don’t know what ms is and how the heat affects our lives

  • JimmyMac
    4 months ago

    I’m rocking a wheelchair now but was handicapped shamed after being diagnosed with MS. I found the best way to respond is just to say, “Trade ya” and if this doesn’t work just say I’d like to tell them more but HIPPA. Most people don’t know squat about HIPAA and leave you alone, I’ve found proving yet again you can’t fix stupid

  • Sarasshore
    4 months ago

    I have also gotten “those” looks while using one of the carts most places provide. I had a t-shirt made and will probably order one that I’ve seen on Facebook to wear whenever I’m blessed enough to have the energy and feel good enough to go out and do some of my own shopping. The ones I’ve seen on FB have all the standard, yes ALL of them, listed out all over the shirt and something like “MS, the silent & invisible disease” printed boldly. I’m just tired of being judged by mostly middle-to a little older(50-65) aged women who see me, still somewhat young(39) on the cart and immediately make the snap judgement that I’m joyriding and don’t “need” to be using the cart. If I’m feeling good enough to be out shopping, I’m most likely smiling too, I’m a pretty happy person most of the time, when I’m feeling good, so they see this young(ish), smiling person and think there’s nothing wrong with me. Little do they know, I’ll most likely pay for those couple hours of driving that cart around with at least one, more likely two days of being exhausted and completely worn out, unable to do much of anything. It sucks! I used to be so active; hiking, fishing, hunting, just being out doing stuff, living life with friends/family. Now, I get judged by older women for shopping on a motorized cart and can’t do anything for the next couple days. It’s not fair! So, anyway, I hope the t-shirts will have some effect to stop the looks. Anyone seeing me get out of the car or, especially if it’s hot, getting put back in the car, they won’t say anything about where my car is parked, the disability is obvious.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi @sarasshore, it’s such a shame that there is not greater awareness and understanding of invisible illness among the general public. I wish we lived in a world that was more quick to practice love than judgment, and although it breaks my heart that you have to resort to wearing a t-shirt, I also think that’s a great tip for combatting the “looks”. I know others have shared that bringing a cane or another type of mobility assistance tool (even if they don’t need it) can actually serve as a really helpful “sign” to others as well.

    Thank you so much for sharing. Please know this community gets it and understands what a victory getting out to the grocery store is. Whether you need someone to celebrate with or vent to, this community is here for you anytime you need.

    – Shelby, Team Member

  • Sarasshore
    4 months ago

    In the middle of summer I got into a “disagreement” with a car full of non-disabled a-holes that had parked in a handicapped spot just to be close to the store so they could easily load their coolers with the ice & beverages they’d just purchased. I won’t say anything to anyone that has a placard or a DV/♿️plate because, as this story states and personal experience, you never know but, when there’s no placard or plate indicating a need to park in that space and the individuals moving in/out/around the vehicle are young, obviously healthy and just parked there for convenience, I’m saying something to those people. I know trying to get police there to give them a ticket might make them think twice next time, but it probably isn’t gonna happen in time because they’re almost ready to leave but being slow on purpose, doing extra stuff very slowly just to make me wait because they know it’s getting to me but, if that’s an option, the cops will arrive before the vehicle/buttheads have a chance to leave, a $500 ticket, might keep them from parking/sitting in a handicapped spot in the future. Anyway, if police aren’t an option, as in this case, I let the occupants have it and let them know that those spots aren’t there for when they’re feeling lazy or for their convenience, they’re to give people that have a hard enough life a closer spot to try and make shopping a little easier and that they, the s**theads parked there, are pretty crappy(POS), sorry excuses for human beings, waste of skin & oxygen because they’ve made a person’s difficult life even harder. I’m never, at all calm in these interactions because, it’s extremely frustrating for me when people don’t have basic human decency and like the writer of this, when I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t use the placard and would walk from the furthest spot if I had to because I knew that there were people that really needed to use those spots. Now that I HAVE TO use a walker/wheelchair 100% of the time, I’m one of those people that NEEDS those spots. It’s just another frustrating thing that this generation does because they’re not being raised right which means my talking/yelling at them most likely won’t do anything but cause a minor, tiny disturbance in their otherwise self absorbed day. If that’s all it does, I’ll take it, I hope it will have a lasting effect that keeps them out of ♿️ In the future but if not, there’s always karma.

  • rmdanielsom
    2 years ago


    Ashley, I’m glad you have the option of using the handicapped parking spots. I don’t. I hope you never end up in a wheelchair because of your MS. Being chair bound sucks.

    Because I am chair bound due to my PPMS, I learned a little known fact about that handicapped placard. In Minnesota (and maybe all states), if an able bodied person is running errands for a disabled person with a handicapped placard ****that able bodied person is legally allowed to use that handicapped spot and placard****. That errand may be critical for the well being/health of the disabled person.

    As demonstrated by your experiences, the lack of knowledge about MS and other disabling conditions that are invisible (cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, etc.) by the general public is appalling, the only ones I’m concerned about and will engage with are law enforcement. They are the ones who write out the $200 tickets for violating the handicapped parking laws.

    You DO NOT have to explain or justify yourself or apologize for having MS to anyone. If your state felt your medical condition was such that it warranted a handicapped placard, then use it and display it as required by your state. Then the next time some ignoramus starts making comments, point to the placard and go about your business. You will never win by engaging with them.


  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 years ago

    Oh I have pointed to my placard… but they then feel like I stole it or I’m abusing a relatives. I’ve gone through the whole entire scenarios this way and that way.

    I do know the frustration you speak of with being chair bound, I was chair bound when I was initially diagnosed in 2010. It’s no bueno.

  • Cindy L.
    4 years ago

    Thanks Ashley… Do you know what I have resorted to when this happens? I’ve taken pictures of my bruises from my falls, put them in a little photo book and put it in my glove compartment. When something like this happens, and happens, I ignore the person…go to my glove compartment and pull out the photo book and hand it to them. I then say something like, “I have Multiple Sclerosis. THIS is what happens if I am too hot. The heat is kryptonite to me the longer I am in it. I fall. THAT is why I need to park here and I normally don’t if there is a close space and it isn’t hot.” At this point, they have looked through most of the pictures. They usually just look at me and say they are ‘so sorry’…

    That’s how I have dealt with it. It is still so upsetting to feel the need to go that far. 🙁

  • qsy72b
    4 years ago

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. Because our MS is “invisible” people make assumptions all the time. I also only use my handicapped placard on those difficult days; heat and humidity are my worst enemies.

    When traveling by air last year, I requested wheelchair assistance from curbside to the plane. When being wheeled through security, I told the person who was helping me that I could walk through the security booth to which she replied cooly, “Then why are you in a wheelchair?” I was thrown off by this comment and I’ve thought it over many, many times. I believe if this happens again, I shall stand up, face the person, and say, “My neurologist tells me it’s multiple sclerosis. If you don’t know what it is, look it up. Pray you never get the diagnosis.” I’d love to say more but somehow it seems futile.

    Try to not let the bastards get you down! XO Carla

  • Dianna lyn
    4 years ago

    Yes Ashley, it has happened to me! An elderly gentlemen with (4) dogs in his car had approached me at the bank, while getting in my vehicle. He was yelling all kinds of bad words to me. I tried to defend myself and say I have MS, the guy says to me, “people with MS run marathon’s” and I just looked at him, and said, well I have MS and I can’t run period. Then I got down the road crying bad to pull over from shaking, it was awful, to put someone with MS through the stress. We need more awareness about the REAL MS people. Nothing upsets my husband more than seeing magazines of MS people bike riding or ice skating. That’s not us?? We are lucky if we get one (1) load if laundry done for the day, or prepare our own meals?? We need people to understand the REAL disease, instead of what it’s being perceived to be??..maybe, those people with MS can do that..heck, I want what they are taking..LOL

  • Dave
    4 years ago

    It happens frequently, so frequently that I had info cards made to ‘kick start’ the conversation. I agree, putting persons with MS out there who do some things we all could do prior to MS, does a dis-service to us all.

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