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Woman with hidden disability abused for parking in accessible bays

Hannah Bennett
Hannah Bennett Image credit: news.com.au

Hannah Bennett has every right to park in an accessible bay when she pays regular trips to her local supermarket in Sydney.

When she was 21 local authorities granted her a disabled permit after she provided proof she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a condition which has left her blind in one eye.

But because Hannah has a hidden disability she is being continually bullied by strangers mistakenly thinking she is abusing car parking spaces reserved for disabled people.

Bennett told news.com.au: “I’ve had some very colourful words yelled at me, things just by complete strangers.

“I’ve had notes left on my car with all sorts of horrible things written on them.”

Speaking of the first time she was diagnosed with her illness Hannah said: “It was just a lot of shock really, a lot of shock and worry.

“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.”

Hannah is “extremely grateful” that she does not require a wheelchair to move around, she just uses a walking stick but when the MS becomes severe it’s “really tricky” and painful.

Bennett also uses an accessible bay if she is unable to walk far, but when she does it leaves her open to abuse.

“I avoid it completely, unless I absolutely have to,” she said. “I get so worried about the things people will say or do or yell.”

The constant worry about being shouted out and being classed as a fake brings on anxiety attacks.

Hannah said: “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,’ or things like that.

“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 abuse Hannah goes through has encouraged her to launch an Instagram page to raise awareness about invisible illnesses.

“I shared one of the notes on my Instagram a year or so ago and so many people commented and said, ‘Oh that’s happened to me,’ or ‘Horrible nasty people commented to me,’” she said.

In a couple of moths time Hannah is participating in the May 50K, a charity event raising money for MS research.

“You can’t always see chronic illness or chronic disease as well as disability – people can be disabled without having all the obvious features,” she said.

“Particularly with MS, it’s really important to me that people realise it can really be quite literally invisible.

“(It can be) a perfectly fit, perfectly healthy looking person, young person, but on the inside they’re in a lot of pain.”

For more information about The May 50K visit the event’s website.