Paralympic athlete Jessica Long highlights a common problem that many people with disabilities face: harassment from people who don’t believe they are out of balance.
The swimmer, who won 13 Paralympic gold medals, recently posted a TikTok in which she expressed her frustration at being ashamed to have used a disabled accessible parking spot despite having an amputee and ” it has a disabled parking permit.
Long said that once, as she parked, a woman in another car gave her a disgusted look, rolled down her window and informed her that she shouldn’t park there. Long explained to the woman that she had an amputee. In response, the woman “has just left in the car”.
In her video, which has over a million likes on TikTok, the 29-year-old athlete pointed out how often the “disability police” make her ashamed of using a parking spot she needs.
“I was never bullied when I was a kid and I didn’t know I was going to be bullied by adults because I parked with a disability. And I understand. I’m young, I’m athletic, but I’m missing legs too! And I know I sound easy, but it’s still very difficult. My legs are heavy, they hurt me. I am suffering.”
Long – who you can recognize in a Toyota ad about his life (above) – has fibular hemimilia, a condition in which she was not born with lower legs, as she explains in another TikTok video. Her adoptive parents had part of her legs amputated when she was 13 months old so she could learn to walk with prosthetic legs. She said she had undergone more than 25 surgeries and pointed out the physical pain of the whole ordeal. But at a young age she fell in love with swimming and at 12 she won three gold medals at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, making her the youngest member of the US Paralympic team to do so, according to the International Paralympic Committee.
Despite her accomplishments, Long said in an Instagram post she posted in September 2020 that she was regularly harassed to park in spaces accessible to people with disabilities.
“I get two to four comments a week, I just go about my normal routine and park in disabled spaces,” read the caption of his post. “I’ve had people yell at me, leave notes on my windshield, knock on my car window, or wait for me to get out of my car just to tell me I can’t get it. park. My worst experience yet was an elderly couple who followed me to a grocery store and kept commenting because they wanted the handicap spot I had taken and told me I didn’t have any need. I even explained that I had two prosthetic legs and they told me I was a liar.
Sadly, people with disabilities harassed by parking lot guards who don’t think they should park in places that are accessible to people with disabilities are incredibly common.
It is important to remember that not all disabilities are visible.
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