A harsh note placed on an Australian woman’s windshield has spurred her to speak out on the stigma faced by those with “invisible” disabilities.
Justine Van Den Borne, 41, and her teenaged daughter saw the note underneath their car’s windshield wiper after they returned from a morning at a shopping center, reports The Age.
The note, placed right above Van Den Borne’s disability parking permit, bluntly read “Did you forget your wheelchair???”
Upset by the note, Van Den Borne posted a picture of the note along with her story on Facebook. She revealed that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, whose symptoms include fatigue and walking difficulties.
Of the MS that she has, which she was diagnosed with six years ago, she wrote that it is “the worst one that never goes away and is slowly crippling my life.” She added, “My kids have had to deal with things that kids shouldn’t ever have to deal with and all of our futures are forever changed.”
Van Den Borne admits it happens “all the time,” as last week alone it happened three days in a row at different shopping centers. Some people actually wait by her car in order to confront her over her parking in a handicapped parking space.
“Because of my age, they look at me, and automatically presume I’m doing the wrong thing,” she said. “But actually I can’t carry my own shopping, can’t walk long distance, I have the bladder of an 80-year-old.”
In order to get her disability parking badge, she had to provide two doctor’s letters, with one coming from a specialist.
In the next few years, Van Den Borne expects to have to begin using a wheelchair. Currently, she sometimes uses a stick and is unable to work because of her condition.
“It’s difficult, every day it gets a little bit harder,” she says. “I can’t do zips up, can’t do buttons up, probably won’t able to drive soon and lose a bit more independence, unfortunately.”
Van Den Borne’s Facebook post in full:
“To person that left this on my car last week at Mitcham Shopping Centre- I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 35. Not just MS but the worst one that never goes away and is slowly crippling my life. My kids have had to deal with things that kids shouldn’t ever have to deal with and all of our futures are forever changed. On the day you saw me I was having a good day, I was walking with my daughter unaided having a nice day.
Thank you for ruining that. You made me feel like people were looking at me, the exact way I feel when I can’t walk properly. I am sick of people like yourself abusing me on my good days for using a facility I am entitled to. A disability doesn’t always mean a person has to be wheelchair bound but lucky for you I one day will be.
Right now my focus is to walk into my best friends wedding next September and not have to be pushed. I will be 42. Before you ruin another persons day remember you don’t know everything and just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean a person isn’t struggling to put one foot in front of the other.”