Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
“I don’t have legs!”
This was the response double amputee and American Paralympian, Jessica Long, was forced to exclaim to a complete stranger who reacted in disgust as she parked her vehicle in a disabled spot.
On 23 January 2021, Ms Long, 28, was simply taking a trip to the shops when a woman began to yell at the amputee, telling her she shouldn’t be parking in a handicap spot.
Shocked by the stranger’s bullying, the swimmer fired back, informing the woman that she is, in fact, missing legs, and accordingly, also has a disabled spot permit.
A disheartened Ms Long, who is training for the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo, decided to take to TikTok to share her frustration over the incident in a video that has since received over 4.4 million views.
“I was parking my car — and I hope she sees this — this woman just has the nerve to look me up and down disgusted that I parked in the handicapped spot,” the Maryland local can be heard recounting in the TikTok video.
“She just kind of rolled down her window and proceeded to be like, ‘You shouldn’t park there.'”
Ms Long went on to advise the woman that she is an amputee, saying, “That’s why I’m parked in the handicapped [space]. That’s why I have the handicapped pass”.
She noted that she didn’t need to tell the woman this, but she did so anyway.
The brazen woman simply drove off.
“Just Be Kind”: Amputee Offers Message to Bullies and Explains Difficulties of Being Born with Fibular Hemimelia Birth Defect
For Ms Long, sadly, the incident wasn’t the first she has been shamed for parking in a disabled spot.
In her video’s comments, the swimmer shared that she’d previously had people call her names and even leave notes on her car.
“This happens a lot, I was never bullied as a kid and I didn’t know that I was going to be bullied by adults because I park in handicap [spot],” Ms Long said.
“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 park there.
“I get it, I’m young, I’m athletic and I’m also missing legs.
“I know I make it look easy but it’s still really hard – my legs are heavy, they hurt me, I’m in pain.”
Offering a humble message for “all the handicap police out there”, she ends her video by saying, “Just be kind. You don’t need to know why someone is parked in handicapped”.
The amputee’s provocative video was quick to spark reactions from the public, with one person commenting, “Karens are always minding everyone’s business”.
Another wrote, “As long as there is a plate or placard it’s none of your business”, a sentiment which was agreed upon by a fellow amputee who said, “I love when that happens to me. I wish I could throw my leg at them!”
How Jessica Long Went on to Become Second Most Honoured Paralympian of All Time in the United States
Ms Long was born missing fibula bones and several other bones in her lower legs as a result of a birth defect called fibular hemimelia.
The defect meant that while she did have a little foot, each only had three toes.
The swimmer spoke to BuzzFeed about the incident¸ sharing that when she was just 18 months old, her adoptive parents had her undergo an amputation operation so she “could be fitted with prosthetic legs and learn to walk”.
In fact, throughout her childhood years, Ms Long underwent more than 25 surgeries as a result of the birth defect.
But it was when she discovered swimming that her life spectacularly changed.
Ms Long is the second most honoured American Paralympian of all time.
She was just 12 years old when she competed in her first Paralympics and since then, her career has seen her win a total of 23 medals for swimming, 13 of which are gold, while she has competed in four Paralympic Games.
According to the athlete’s Instagram page, she is optimistic she will attend her fifth Games in Tokyo later this year.
When asked why people regularly assume she doesn’t “look handicapped”, Ms Long told BuzzFeed she attributed this to her success and athletic physique.
“I’ve been through more surgeries than I can count. My whole life I’ve had to adapt. I rely on my handicap pass,” the swimmer said.
“I’m open to explaining why I use my pass if someone asks, but I don’t understand blatant rudeness, especially based on assumption. I always try to be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt first, and I hope more people will choose that as their first response.”
Ms Long has over 642,000 followers on TikTok.
She seeks to reshape the way society views disabled bodies while sharing her story with the world.
Disabled parking spaces exist for a very important reason, namely to assist vulnerable members of our community.
Across Australian states and territories, unless you hold and correctly display a current parking permit for people with disabilities, it is against the law to stop or park your vehicle in a parking area that is reserved for those who are handicapped.
In NSW, this parking offence is one of the more serious as far as penalties go, attracting both a hefty fine and demerit points.
Specifically, according to clause 203 of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW), unless you hold a current parking permit for people with disabilities, and you are complying with the conditions of use of the permit, you are not permitted to stop or park your vehicle in a parking area for people with disabilities. If dealt with in court, the maximum penalty is $2,200. However, this is usually dealt with by way of an on-the-spot penalty fine in NSW of $581 plus 1 demerit point. Upon payment of the penalty notice fine, the matter is put to an end without the requirement to attend court.
Why would this kind of matter be dealt with in court? Upon receiving the on-the-spot fine, you may elect to have the matter dealt with in court, in which case higher maximum penalties can be imposed. However, one may choose to court elect if he/she wishes to defend it, if there is a defence, or to seek leniency by pleading guilty in the hope to get a section 10 non-conviction penalty sentence to avoid the demerit points and/or fine.
In addition, it is an offence attracting up to $2,200 fine in court, or an on-the-spot penalty notice fine of $697 for displaying a mobility parking scheme authority either in or on a vehicle he/she is in charge with, in contravention of its conditions. The same penalties apply to a holder of this scheme authority to permit another person to possess or access it if the holder suspects or should reasonably suspect that the other person will use it in breach of its conditions.
Questions? Get in touch with our criminal lawyers Penrith branch today.