Major fail on the part of the website Ya Jaoff! with regard to stereotyping people with disabilities, especially those that are considered “hidden” or “invisible.”
We first met the “YaJagoff” team via Twitter. The site is a series of submissions by Pittsburgh folks who encounter quintessential examples of “jagoff” behavior. I should acknowledge that I submitted a situation involving a parking lot and two “jagoffs.” It never made the blog, but I don’t think that biases me on this particular situation.
Perhaps you are not familiar with the term? A jagoff is a Pittsburghese term for a jerk, a rude person, and sometimes used in other far more crude situations. But it fairly common in these here parts and oft pronounced as “Ya.” I believe “Yinz Jagoffs” is the proper plural expression.
The post on December 26, 2011 essentially lambastes a Giant Eagle shopper who used a parking spot reserved for persons with a disability without any visible sign of a disability. A reader named “Beth Ann” (we think – a little hard to tell) posted this story on the YaJagoof Facebook page. It boils down to a person with a disability placard (hanging on rear view mirror) but not a license plate using a this designated parking spot.
Oh, the horror of it all. But it gets worse. This person did not “look” disabled. The jagoff spotter makes a point to describe their seeming mobility including the sin of running across a parking lot while a poor old man using oxygen had to park further away from the entrance to the store.
To clarify, there are indeed people who abuse these spots. But this is not one of those situations. Or at least you can’t possibly make that call based on the facts as you present them.
Here’s how the folks at YaJagoff summed it up:
This spot is for people that actually have a challenge getting from this parking spot to the front door. The fact that you are running late are in a hurry is NOT a handicap.
The post itself is titled “You Make the Call”
Actually, Beth Ann and the YaJagoff team are dead wrong on this one. YOU don’t make the call. YOU make the assumption without a single fact. YOU make the leap to labeling someone a jagoff based on your ignorance and lack of information about disabilities. Actually, YOU make the assumption in the face of a fact – the tag hanging on the rear view mirror as per the law.
The DOCTOR makes the decision if someone is disabled and needs this accommodation. YOU don’t. I don’t. Giant Eagle employees don’t. Now the man using oxygen? He made the decision that for this particular trip to the store, he could handle it just fine without your determination that he is worthy of the handicap parking spot. But this is not a privilege up for a vote by the public. It is a medical determination made be a licensed physician and vetted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is a series of legal criteria established by our legislators.
Now, as for who has a disability, you are in fact a “jagoff” for jumping to conclusions. In 2011, there is simply no excuse to be unaware of the range of medical conditions that could constitute a disability. Just because YOU can’t SEE the impairment does not mean it doesn’t exist. Can you see cancer? Can you see a heart condition? Can you see anxiety? No. I’m confident you didn’t suddenly have access to this person’s complete medical history so the answer is no. In fact, there is an array of hidden disabilities that can impair one’s ability to go about daily like tasks. Like shopping.
Hidden disabilities can include some people with visual impairments and those with dexterity difficulties such as repetitive strain injury. It may also include those who are hard of hearing or have mental health difficulties. However, it is probably more commonly used in relation to people who have disabling medical conditions of one sort or another.
The list of medical conditions that may be regarded as hidden disabilities is very long and the effects of these different conditions are many and varied. It can include people with epilepsy, diabetes, sickle cell condition, chronic fatigue syndrome or ME, cystic fibrosis, cancer, HIV and AIDS, and heart, liver or kidney problems.
If you want to judge anyone in this scenario, dear jagoff spotter, I suggest you start with Giant Eagle and other retailers that allocate the bare minimum of spots for persons with disabilities. Or perhaps the marketing genius who snatched a few of those spots for MOTHERS who are pregnant or with young children. (What about fathers or others accompanying young children to the store? Think about it.)
However, when you wag your condescending, judgmental finger at this unknown offender of your delicate parking sensibilities, you need to take a look at the three fingers pointing back at you.
- You are not a doctor. More specifically, you are not this person’s doctor. You are not in a position to make this call.
- Instead of tsk tsking, do something constructive. Park in the spot the absolute further from the door (if you are able) every time you visit. This is the best way to leave the closest spots available for others who made need them. Seriously. Do something. Stop whining.
- Taking the time to post this on Facebook and get your little moment of fame on the YaJagoff site has helped perpetuate stereotypes and has encouraged others to feel smug about their own ignorance of disabilities. Congratulations for contributing to bias and discrimination against the very people you profess to defend with your post. Undoing that damage is pretty tough.
- Go to the Giant Eagle website and ask them to allocate more spots for persons with disabilities.
- Google “hidden disabilities” and educate yourself.
- Make a donation to an organization that supports persons with disabilities. The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania will even give you a bag which you can donate to my project to make me less pissed at you.
YaJagoff, well what can I say?
- Take down the post. Or update it to show where you made factual errors that actually hurt people like me. Perhaps do both?
- Do something positive to help identify real jagoffs who harm folks with disabilities with their ignorant and judgemental ways.
- Put your powers to use for the good of people with disabilities. You are incredibly creative so I’m sure you can come up with something to undo the damage.