A Paralympic gold medal winner was recently shamed for using a handicap parking spot—and that encounter inspired her to go on TikTok and talk candidly about the struggles she experiences as a double amputee.
Jessica Long explained that a woman pulled up next to her car, gave her a look of disgust, and told her she shouldn’t be using that parking spot.
Jessica then told the woman that she does not have legs.
In the video, Jessica also said:
“I was never bullied as a kid and I didn’t know that I was going to be bullied by adults because I park in handicap. And I get it. I’m young, I’m athletic, but I’m also missing legs! And I know I make it look easy, but it’s still really hard. My legs are heavy, they hurt me. I’m in pain…”
Jessica spoke with Buzzfeed about her condition and the incident, saying that she was born with a birth defect called fibular hemimilia.
“I was missing my fibula bones and several other bones in my lower legs. I did have a little foot with three toes on each leg. My adoptive parents had those amputated when I was 18 months old so I could be fitted with prosthetic legs and learn to walk.”
But she didn’t let her disability stop her from participating in athletics.
Jessica has 13 Paralympic gold medals and has been swimming since she was ten. She is the second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian of all time.
The experience Jessica had with the rude woman in the handicap spot happens more than she would care for.
“I get two to four comments per week, just going about my normal routine and parking in handicap spaces. I’ve had people yell at me, leave notes on my windshield, knock on my car window, or wait for me to get out of my car just to tell me I can’t park there,” Jessica said. “My worst experience to date was an older couple that followed me around a grocery store and kept making comments because they wanted the handicap spot I took and said that I didn’t need it. I even explained I had two prosthetic legs, and they told me I was a liar.”
“I’m open to explaining why I use my pass if someone asks, but I don’t understand blatant rudeness, especially based on assumption. I always try to be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt first, and I hope more people will choose that as their first response.”
Lead image: TikTok