Disabled York mum gets abusive parking note – responds brilliantly

Some of the many disabled bays at Tesco, Clifton Moor, York. Photograph: Google Street View
6 May 2015 @ 4.04 pm
| Health

This is the note someone left on a York mum’s car

The note left on Sarah's car

Sarah Metcalfe had left her car in a disabled bay at Tesco’s car park at Clifton Moor last Thursday (April 30) while she went shopping with son Jack, 13.

Jack found this note left on the windscreen when they returned and handed it to his mum.

She couldn’t believe that someone had scrawled “Being fat and ugly doesn’t count as disabled (park elsewhere)”.

Following an accident, Sarah has fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

‘I choose to smile rather than cry’

Fighting back: Sarah Metcalfe, via Facebook
Fighting back: Sarah Metcalfe, via Facebook

York University PhD student Sarah, 35, decided to write her own letter back to the anonymous car park troll via Facebook. And it rocked.

I know I may not look ill, in fact I choose to smile rather than cry, but I do suffer from a long term condition that causes pain and fatigue all over my body and these symptoms are:

* increased sensitivity to pain
* fatigue (extreme tiredness)
* muscle stiffness
* difficulty sleeping
* problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”) – such as problems with memory and concentration headaches
* irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
* dizziness and clumsiness
* feeling too hot or too cold – this is because you’re not able to regulate your body temperature properly
* restless legs syndrome (an overwhelming urge to move your legs)
* tingling, numbness, prickling or burning sensations in your hands and feet (paraesthesia)
* anxiety and depression

‘Don’t be so quick to judge’

Sarah went on to explain that she works hard, never takes sick time and doesn’t claim disability benefits.

“I juggle work and family life. I was really just having a BAD and very painful day,” she wrote.

Please don’t be so quick to judge people by appearances. I fear one day you may say the same to someone and it could really push them over the edge.

Luckily I am open minded and know that appearances can be deceptive and that some people don’t know these things.

But I would just like to say to you if your reading this now that it’s better to be kind than hateful – quite frankly you never know what kind of day a person is having and what the consequences of your actions will be.

What does disability look like

The cruel note and Sarah’s tremendous response – including the hashtag #ExactlyWhatDoesDisabilityLookLike – drew a huge response from people in York and across the world.

Among the supportive comments were “can’t believe someone would actually be so mean as to do this”, and “how can a human being be so bloody down right nasty?”

There are many conditions and disorders that have no obvious physical signs and it is a personal choice as to whether an individual wants to be categorised as having a ‘disability’. It is not up to others to judge.

Sophie Drennan

I cried when I read your post. How despicably horrid.

ElizabethJane Matthies

Other people with disabilities joined in to say they have had similar experiences.

I have fibromyalgia with arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome on top. All invisible and all painful.

I also have a blue badge. I dont know how I would manage without it. I’d be even more home-bound than I am I think.

Helen Livesey-Jones

The blue badge

Sarah has applied for the blue badge which disabled motorists must display in their cars to use disabled bays in council run car parks.

It hasn’t arrived yet so she did not have one on display when she parked in the Tesco disabled bay. Disabled motorists are not legally obliged to have a blue badge when using private car parks.

However, private car park operators can ask for blue badges to be displayed by motorists using their disabled bays. This is enforceable by the operator of the car park.

Sarah explains:

I never park in blue badge spaces in town because my badge hasn’t come through and avoid such areas on painful days.

Tesco’s car park is huge. It doesn’t say you need a blue badge so thats where I go if I can’t walk far, as there’s loads of spaces close to the door and I’ve never wanted to cause any offence to anyone.

‘I can forgive them’

Sarah, who is also involved in setting up community project The York Real Junk Food Project, said the staff at Tesco “were nice and said if they had CCTV they would have helped but they claimed they don’t despite several people saying otherwise”.

She just wants to tell the person who did it the pain, hurt and worse they could cause.

This person needs to know that they could say the wrong thing to someone one day and the consequences could be disastrous.

All that person had to do was ask me why I parked in the bay if they felt so strongly, and I would have gladly took time out of my day to explain.

No one should ever judge anyone on body image especially with the risks of our slimming culture. I just want this person not to do it again.

– Sarah Metcalfe

And brilliantly, she adds:

I can forgive them, we all make mistakes.