Everyone can agree that it’s important to keep handicapped parking spots open for those who need them. But what isn’t always so apparent is what someone with a disability looks like. Assumptions that people in need of the closer parking spaces are wheelchair-bound are all too rampant and so is nastiness, as Justine Van Den Borne, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, found out earlier this month.
After enjoying a pleasant day of shopping with her daughter, Van Den Borne returned to her car and found a much less pleasant note waiting for her on her windshield. The letter (“Did you forget your wheelchair???”) was as concise as it was cruel. While it certainly stung, Van Den Borne decided she wasn’t going to stay silent in the face of judgement; instead, she penned an open letter to its writer. What she has to say might remind us all to be a little more kind and think before we speak.
“To the person that left this on my car last week at Mitcham Shopping Centre-I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 35. Not just MS, but the worst one that never goes away and is slowly crippling my life. My kids have had to deal with things that kids shouldn’t ever have to deal with, and all of our futures are forever changed. On the day you saw me, I was having a good day; I was walking with my daughter unaided having a nice day. Thank you for ruining that. You made me feel like people were looking at me, the exact way I feel when I can’t walk properly. I am sick of people like yourself abusing me on my good days for using a facility I am entitled to. A disability doesn’t always mean a person has to be wheelchair bound, but lucky for you I one day will be. Right now my focus is to walk into my best friend’s wedding next September and not have to be pushed. I will be 42. Before you ruin another person’s day remember you don’t know everything, and just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean a person isn’t struggling to put one foot in front of the other.”