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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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We need to change the disabled parking logo - so people stop telling me that I'm not disabled when I am

‘I find these interventions by members of the public quite insulting and extremely embarrassing,’ writes cystic fibrosis advocate, Benat Broderick, 15.

Benat Broderick

I WAS DIAGNOSED with cystic fibrosis when I was 19 months old – it is a genetically inherited disease that primarily affects the lungs and pancreas.

Ireland has the highest rates of cystic fibrosis in the world per capita and more than 1,400 people here suffer from it. 

I often get chest infections due to my condition and when I do I get very breathless so I can’t walk as far as other people. 

Sometimes I really struggle with my breathing, especially when I pick up an infection.

Thankfully we got a disabled parking badge for my mum’s car a few years ago and it is really helpful when I’m sick. 

The only problem is that unfortunately, some people in society don’t seem to understand that there are many forms of disability and some of those disabilities are not immediately visible. 

As cystic fibrosis is a hidden disability people regularly come up to myself and my mum and challenge us for parking in the disabled space. 

They ask us if we are aware that we have parked in a disabled space? Sometimes they inform me that there is ‘nothing wrong with you’ and ‘you shouldn’t be parked there.’

This is despite the fact that my mum’s car is displaying the disabled parking badge. 

Recently a member of the public actually followed us to see where we were going and to challenge us for having parked in a disabled space.

I found this incident quite scary.

I find it upsetting that people are implying that I don’t look disabled and that we are wrongly using the spaces.

What is worse is that even if we inform these people that I have a chronic lung disease, so I do have a disability – instead of apologising they usually continue to say that since I can walk, we shouldn’t be parked in the disabled space!

I find these interventions by members of the public quite insulting and extremely embarrassing. I’m only 15 so I find the whole thing quite shocking.

It seems that many people misunderstand the purpose of the disabled spaces. They do provide extra space for a wheelchair user to get in and out – but they are also the spaces nearest to the doors. That is why people like myself are entitled to the badge. 

When I am sick with cystic fibrosis I feel very uncomfortable and nervous going out in public and I need to be parked near the entrance to the building. 

At those times I’m already feeling vulnerable and I don’t need this harassment from members of the public. 

Even at the hospital, I feel that everyone is looking at me and judging me when we park in the disabled spaces, simply because I don’t appear to them to be disabled.

Unfortunately, I think the design of the disabled parking badge may be contributing to this problem because the logo is a representation of a wheelchair. I think it needs to be redesigned to something that signifies and is inclusive of all disabilities. 

I’m sure lots of other disabled people are having the same problem, the public just doesn’t seem to understand that not all disability is visible. Not every disabled person is in a wheelchair. 

Likewise having the wheelchair logo on the spaces themselves, also gives the impression that the disabled parking spaces are only for wheelchair users – which is not correct.  

I’d rather not have to speak out about this issue, to be honest – but people need to remember that you never know what someone else is going through.

This is true in all aspects of life, everyone is dealing with challenges and frustrations in their lives that others cannot see. Individuals with hidden disabilities are just one example. 

I think it would help if the disabled parking logo was redesigned or simply replaced by the word ‘disabled’.

Benat Broderick is a cystic fibrosis advocate & ambassador and a secondary school student. 

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