Kim Cooper, 53, stands next to her vehicle with a disabled parking pass permit on Wednesday, April 28, in Parksville. (Mandy Moraes photo)

Kim Cooper, 53, stands next to her vehicle with a disabled parking pass permit on Wednesday, April 28, in Parksville. (Mandy Moraes photo)

Woman with heart condition verbally accosted in Parksville over disabled parking stall

‘I just burst into tears… I mean, I was just shaking’

Not judging someone based on their appearance is a lesson commonly taught to children – and one a Parksville woman wants members of the community to remember.

On Wednesday (April 28) Kim Cooper, 53, pulled into a designated disability stall at a Parksville parking lot when a woman began to aggressively yell at her.

“I wasn’t even completely parked, my sign was on my dash where it always is. And I opened my door and said ‘are you yelling at me?’ And she said ‘yes, where’s your handicap sign?’ And I went ‘it’s on my dash.’ And she just kept going on and on and on.”

Cooper survived a heart attack approximately 10 years ago and has lived with congestive heart failure ever since, a chronic and progressive condition that affects the pumping power of her heart. Living with such a condition can leave her winded while walking long distances, which can stress her heart and further exacerbate her condition.

READ MORE: B.C. permanently increases disability and income assistance, senior’s supplement

Due to the nature of her condition, she has a disabled parking permit that allows her to park in the designated stalls near a building’s entrance.

“I was going to the dry cleaners, and she’s complaining about me in Bosley’s, and I went to open the door at the dry cleaners and she attacked me again.”

While still visibly distraught, the co-owner of Bosley’s by Pet Valu, Brianne Carson, approached Cooper and offered to walk her back to her vehicle.

“And I just burst into tears. She probably spent 35 minutes with me. I mean, I was just shaking,” said Cooper. “And it’s not right. I think we need to address the situation that ‘hey, not everybody has a visible handicap’.”

“To judge someone based on what we see is something we teach our children not to do, so as adults we shouldn’t be doing that either,” said Carson.

The chair for the Accessible Oceanside Association, Sandra Hobson, said while experiences like Cooper’s are uncommon, they are not unheard of.

“There are certainly instances where somebody who has a has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or a heart condition – they may not be able to walk the length of the parking lot. And they need those accessible spaces,” she said.

“It could also just be someone who’s really sick, or they’re recovering from a surgery. Even if it’s temporary, it might not be visible but it still is genuine.”

READ MORE: Canada home to 6.5 million people with one or more disability

Hobson said that while we think we’re not an ableist society, many instances show we are. Such a mentality may cause people with genuine disabilities hesitate to claim the services they require, simply so they’re not seen as playing the system.

“The more stigma there is, the less people are likely to claim very necessary services,” she said, noting such behaviour can injure a person’s self-esteem and cause them to feel further devalued.

As identified by SPARC BC, the organization to manage B.C.’s Parking Permit Program, someone who needs to park close to a building entrance because their health prevents them from walking far would qualify them for a parking pass permit. On their website it states that a parking pass permit for people with disabilities ensures that a person with mobility limitations can park in one of the designated parking stalls throughout British Columbia.

As per their application form, all applications require a referral from the applicant’s doctor.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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