Viral car park act highlights 'invisible' battle of millions

·Associate News Editor
·3-min read

A woman has issued a reminder that not all disabilities are visible following an unsavoury encounter while using a disabled parking space.

Katie Bennett-Hogg, who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), said in a now-viral tweet she was "tutted at" when parking her vehicle.

EDS is a genetic mutation, which affects the collagen in joints that helps keep the body together.

"I had all these tubes hidden under my clothes, so I looked like a young, healthy person," she explained.

"But in reality, I still have a disability, despite choosing to hide my tubes."

Katie Bennett-Hogg shared what most don't see when she's out and about. Source: Twitter
Katie Bennett-Hogg shared what most don't see when she's out and about. Source: Twitter/ Katie Bennett-Hogg

Ms Bennett-Hogg, an advocate for disability awareness who is a student at the University of Sheffield in the UK, shared photos of her outfit and the tubes she wears on a daily basis, which cannot be seen when fully dressed.

Her tweet quickly garnered a wave of responses, as well as more than 180,000 likes, with other users saying they too had wrongly been questioned about their hidden disabilities.

"We shouldn't have to explain our hidden disabilities to anybody, people should just mind their own business," one person said.

Another said the lack of respect for disabilities is "awful".

Ms Bennett-Hogg says she's repeatedly been questioned over her disability. Source: Twitter/ Katie Bennett-Hogg
Ms Bennett-Hogg says she's repeatedly been questioned over her disability. Source: Twitter/ Katie Bennett-Hogg

Ms Bennett-Hogg says she has also received unfavourable reactions for using disabled bathrooms.

Last year a Sydney man went viral on TikTok after he was called out by a woman in a McDonald's car park for using a disabled parking bay despite having a prosthetic leg.

Majority of Australian disabilities are hidden

There are 4.4 million people with disabilities in Australia and 90 per cent of those are deemed "invisible", advocacy organisation People with Disability Australia (PWDA) says.

"The fact is that lots of people have a disability that other people can't see or understand," PWDA CEO Sebastian Zegarella told Yahoo News Australia.

"So it's important that we all remember that anyone using accessible facilities like parking or toilets could have invisible disabilities, and could be entitled to use those facilities.

"Calling them out without knowing their circumstances is potentially making their life more difficult for them.

"A bit of understanding goes a long way."

Myths regarding 'invisible' disabilities

Stephanie Mantilla, who is pursuing her PhD on invisible disabilities at Sydney University's Centre for Disability Research and Policy, said there are myths and misconceptions about hidden disabilities such as depression and lupus.

She said people can often believe they are inferior to visible disabilities, and those who suffer from them are exaggerating their symptoms.

Melbourne woman Asher Wolf, who also suffers from EDS, previously told Yahoo News Australia more needs to be done to help those with hidden disabilities.

One step she believes that can be taken is introducing a unified scheme where people wear a badge indicating they have a disability, a system rolled out on London's Underground.

“I don’t want to have to explain my medical condition to a stranger every time I get on public transport," she said.

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