One of my pet peeves


A van with two handicapped stickers on it
You're lucky you have those stickers Mister, or I woulda run you off the road.

You know what really gets my goat? People who put those blue handicapped/wheelchair stickers on their personal van. While I was out and about last week I spotted this van in London, which was plastered with handicapped stickers, and could only grit my teeth and cringe at the sight. Why does it bother me so much? I’m not completely sure, but I think it has a little something to do with intent. Why would someone want to specify/identify their vehicle as being one that is carrying a “disabled passenger”?


Most people assume these stickers are simply required by law if you want to park in a handicapped parking spot: not true. Simply putting handicapped stickers on your vehicle does not mean you can park wherever you want. Rather, you must go to the Ministry of Transportation to pick up a handicapped parking permit and display said permit on your dash to avoid an extremely costly ticket. Admittedly though, having these stickers does likely limit the number of people who yell at you for parking in a handicapped spot if your driver is able to walk. Yes, there have been times when people will yell at my aids when they hop out of the van and then are mortified when the lift deploys.

Perhaps herein-lies the answer: maybe there is a belief that people will be nicer to you on the road if you’re disabled. For some reason I just can’t see someone saying to themselves “Arrgg, you jerk! I’m totally going to ram you into oncoming traffi…oh, wait. No, they’re disabled. I better not.” While being in a wheelchair does mean the odds of being punched at a bar are pretty slim, I don’t think road ragers really cares about your life situation. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think the roadways are full of maniacal drivers looking to smash and bash their way on a daily basis so this explanation doesn’t seem to really fit.

Another possible explanation is that people believe it will prevent others from parking too close to their vehicle, thereby preventing the deployment of a side-mounted lift or ramp. While this seems plausible, I know from experience that people don’t know (or care, apparently) about your need for 3m clearance to drop a lift. In fact, a friend of mine even had a sign printed on the side of his van asking people specifically not to park beside him and they still do it all the time–when people are driving they are usually in their own little world and just don’t care enough to look at a sign, think about what it means, and act accordingly.

The only other reason I can think of to explain this phenomenon is perhaps people are proud of their disability and want to show it, sort of like a bumper sticker. While it’s true that people often live out their identities through the things they put inside and on their car, this one really doesn’t hold water for me either because the handicapped sticker is only representative of a small part of the disabled population (those who use manual wheelchairs) and is generally used to identify “access” and not the people. This almost makes matters worse, as it’s almost like these people are rubbing it in everyone else’s face that they have an accessible vehicle, but only they are allowed to use it. Trust me, I tried to flag one of these vehicles down to pick me up and they just yelled something about “No tramps allowed” as they drove past. I’ve always seen myself as more of a drifter than a tramp…

Anyway, it makes sense to me for specialized transportation, like Paratransit, or city busses that need to differentiate between accessible and inaccessible vehicles to slap on these stickers, but putting them on your personal vehicle is just downright silly. And you don’t want to be a silly, do you?

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.

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