The Abuse of Disability

      If you had an opportunity to park in a disabled parking spot, even if you aren't disabled, would you? Apparently, lots of people would. Last month, a state audit in California found that "roughly 2.9 million people with disabled parking privileges likely are dead." (Miller) But how could something like this happen?

     In large part, is has to do with the legal authority of the California DMV, which lacks "the legal authority to require applicants to provide documentation of their full legal names." (Miller) This means that someone who has a name similar to that of a deceased, disabled relative can continue to renew and keep their permit. Additionally, over 25,000 of the people who are listed as holding permits in the system are estimated to be 100 years old or older, while the estimated number of California residents of that age is less than a third of that. When someone has a permanent disabled parking placard, the state has no way to follow up on that person and ensure the placard is cancelled when they die. One proposed solution is to give the DMV the authority to match its records with those of the Social Security Administration's death database in order to suspend or revoke placards of people who have died, as being able to ask for documentation of a person's full legal name to prevent placard fraud.

     At the beginning of this semester, a comment was made in class about how able-bodied people use and take advantage of services that are intended for disabled folks, such as large, wheelchair accessible bathroom stalls. It really stuck with me, and I think this article is an important example of how that happens. People who occupy privileged statuses in society may simply not think about the ways they affect those with stigmatized statuses when they use their resources, or they may actively try to take advantage of what they see as a benefit to having a stigma. (Rosenblum, 213) Clearly, this is what is going on in this instance. People without a disability are trying to get in on what they see as a "privilege" of being disabled: having access to a parking spot close to the front door of wherever they are going. As I know from the experiences of my dad, who had a brain injury, it can be difficult for people to respect the allotments made for someone if their disability isn't visible and obvious. There is a stereotype out there that people with disabilities should be clearly disabled, and if they aren't why should they get "privileged" parking spaces? This is an incredibly harmful belief, because people who have legitimately applied for and received a disabled parking permit have it for a reason!


Seattle Department of Transportation.  (2016, June 20). "Don't Use It If You Don't Need It." "Disabled Parking in the City of Seattle." Retrieved from

Miller, Jim. (2017, April 28). "Are dead people taking your parking place?" The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Retrieved from

Rosenblum, Karen E. and Toni-Michell C. Travis. (2016). Framework Essay II. The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race and Ethnicity, Sex and Gender, Social Class, Sexuality, and Disability (193-224). (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education. 

Rosenblum, Karen E. and Toni-Michell C. Travis. (2016). Framework Essay III. The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race and Ethnicity, Sex and Gender, Social Class, Sexuality, and Disability (339-358). (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education. 


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