An Aussie woman, with a painful chronic disorder, became too afraid to use her handicapped parking permit after receiving snide comments from motorists and offensive notes on her windshield.
Hannah Bennett, 24, has the immune condition multiple sclerosis (MS), but some strangers decry she isn’t entitled to her parking privileges because they cannot “see” her disability.
“It’s often people, they’re just driving past, and you get out of the car in the very obvious disabled spot and they’ll yell out something like, ‘Oh you don’t look very effing disabled to me,’” Bennett told news.com.au.
“They don’t have the guts to come say it to my face or let me explain it, they just drive by and yell it out their window.”
The Sydney-based speech pathologist often parks further away and walks the extra distance to her destination—risking painful nerve aggravation, making her legs feel like they are “on fire”—simply to avoid an upsetting confrontation.
“I avoid it completely unless I absolutely have to,” she explained. “I get so worried about the things people will say or do or yell.”
Bennett was 20 when she woke up blind in her left eye. She was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS—a potentially disabling condition where the immune system attacks nerve fibers, which causes the brain to have problems communicating with the rest of the body.
“I’d heard of MS before but I didn’t really know much about it at all. I was worried that I would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of my life,” Bennett said, adding that she’s “extremely grateful” she can manage with a walking stick.
Medication and physical therapy have so far allowed the 24-year-old to manage her symptoms and maintain her independence. Bennett was granted her parking permit a year after receiving her diagnosis.
Since learning to cope with MS, Bennett wants to impress upon others that disabled people don’t always show obvious physical signs. “Particularly with MS, it’s really important to me that people realize it can really be, quite literally, invisible,” she explained. “[It can be] a perfectly fit, perfectly healthy-looking person, young person, but on the inside they’re in a lot of pain.”
She shares her life experiences having the invisible ailment on her Instagram page, @rrmslife. While amassing a host of supportive, likeminded followers, Bennett also reached out to the charity Kiss Goodbye To MS.
In May, Bennett will join the charity’s May 50K fundraiser run and walk, where participants are challenged to log 50 kilometers (approx. 31 miles) throughout the month in support of MS research. There is currently no cure.
Bennett is aiming to raise AU$2,000 (approx. US$1,530) walking with her dog, Patch.
“I’m ready to smash those 50Ks through the month of May, and leave MS where it belongs … behind us!” she posted.