On 30th April, University of York PhD student Sarah Metcalfe discovered a note left on her car, telling her that “Being fat and ugly doesn’t count as disabled (park elsewhere)” after parking in a disabled space at Clifton Moor’s Tesco. In a Facebook post, Metcalfe explained that she had “a long term condition that causes pain and fatigue all over my body”.
In 2012, six of the biggest disability charities warned of an increase in resentment and abuse towards disabled people as a result of the government’s rhetoric.
Tom Madders, head of campaigns at the National Autism Society spoke of how some disabled people said that the climate was so hostile that they would not use designated parking spaces if they “don’t look disabled”. For example, there has been a focus on benefit fraud and “contribution” in the government’s rhetoric surrounding social security, and a stereotype of laziness in programmes such as Benefits Street.
These negative portrayals encourage a culture of suspicion around disabled people, leading many to attempt to deduce if someone needs disabled facilities simply by observation. Thus, those whose illnesses do not overtly manifest themselves are demonised for using disabled services.
People who have disabilities have daily struggles. We should alleviate those struggles by offering support rather than suspicion.