Ask Ada: I’m Sick Of Arguing People About Handicapped Parking. Help!

Also: how to give your family something to remember you by, when you know you don't have much time left.

Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.

My Neighbors Are Harassing Me Because I Have A Handicapped Parking Space

Dear Ada,

I have a debilitating invisible illness, and because of it, I’ve been granted a handicap parking pass. I’ve also been granted handicapped parking in front of my home by my city. While you might think these are blessings for someone who has terrible pain and struggles to move around, it’s been a nightmare. Even though I had to pay for sign installation, etc, my neighbors are angry with me. They’ve said really cruel things and I’ve heard a few of them talking loudly about me as I pass. To make matters worse, none of them respects the pass. They park right in my spot, even though they don’t have a handicapped plate or a need to park there! In addition, people I don’t know are cruel too. I constantly hear people snicker and some even say mean things to me about how I don’t “need” handicapped parking when I’m out in public. What do I do?

Right now, you’re a sponge to other people’s toxic behavior. 

First, know that you shouldn’t have to do anything here. Getting a placard and sign should have been no big deal. Actually, it should have been something to celebrate. But unfortunately, you can’t feel that joy because you’re stuck dealing with other people’s reactions. 

Have you tried talking with your neighbors? I hate to even pose this question because it shouldn’t be your responsibility to prove to them that the spot is necessary, but sometimes, just broaching a conversation will help. 

It shouldn’t be your responsibility to prove to them that [you’re disabled], but sometimes, just broaching a conversation will help. 

Even if you’ve tried to speak with one of two in the past, you might find luck trying someone new now. It sounds to me like the disrespect is stemming from herd mentality. Maybe only one of two were originally upset about the handicapped pass, but because they complained loud enough others are joining in. And when one sees bad behavior occurring without consequences, they’re more likely to join in. 

It’s time for consequences.

Let’s focus on the illegal parking. First, take pictures. Then, call the police (on their non-emergency line). When you call, make it clear that this is not their first offense, but that you’ve been dealing with it for a while, so the officers understand that you’re being harassed as well. Hopefully this resolves the problem, but if it does not, keep calling every time someone parks there. Keep records of how frequently it happens, with images, and the amount of time it takes for an officer to appear. In the worst case scenario, this would be helpful to show a superior at the police department or a disability attorney. 

Now, doing this isn’t going to make you very popular with your neighbors. However, once it’s made clear that you aren’t backing down, they’ll eventually stop parking in your spot. 

Here’s the thing about the public harassment: you don’t know who you’re dealing with. It might be better to avoid all communication and go on your way. If you’re ever feeling worried, ask for a store representative or someone else to walk with you to your car. And if you think there’s an actual threat, contact the police and stay away. 

Remember this one thing: what people say and do is a direct reflection on them as a person. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with themselves. Don’t be the sponge. Don’t allow their hurtful thoughts and actions to affect you.

How Can I Help My Family Remember Me After I’m Gone?

Dear Ada,

I’ve just been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, and I want to do something for my children that they will have to remember me by. I have five children, and bless them, they are all currently searching for the miracle cure for me. I tell them that they are wasting precious time we have together, but here they are wheeling me to appointments and calling doctors about clinical trials all over the country. It’s exhausting. I had a close coworker die from pancreatic cancer a few years ago, so I know it comes on swiftly and likely, I won’t be around for much longer. How do I “memorialize myself for them and also for my sweet grandchildren — and the grandchildren who I’ve yet to meet yet? (My children are young and just starting to grow families of their own). I know this is a rather depressing subject, but I’m short on time and really looking for a way to stay “alive” in their memories.

No presents will ever give them what they really want: to hear your voice and see your face long after you are gone. 

However, there is something you can do that will help them quench that desire for you in their lives: personalized videos. If possible, hire a local production company for one day to film you and then edit the recordings for you. If finances are an issue, contact your local colleges who can put you in touch with students or recent graduates just starting out that will likely charge less. If neither option works, grab your video camera or your phone and record yourself.

Your first roadblock may be that you don’t know what to say. Here are a few ideas: 

Start off with a personal message for your child. To do this, try to reflect on the past, present, and future quickly. Share a few stories or mention moments as they grew up that meant a lot to you. Talk about what makes you proud of them. Discuss how you’d like them to process your death. Mention your hopes for their futures. Reflect on anything you wish you did differently in the past. Read them the books you read to them when they were little children.

Write a letter that can be shared with all grandchildren. In it, talk about who you are as a person. What you are currently like, and would have loved to be like, as a grandmother. Talk about what their own parents were like as children and share any advice you have for them as they go through life. 

If you have time to do more, think about what else sets you apart. Are you known for your singing? If so, have someone record you singing your favorite songs or maybe the lullabies you sang to your children and grandchildren. Do you have a rose collection that you nurture? Select flowers to be pressed into pottery for your children. Are you a skilled baker? Pull together 20 of your favorite recipes and make sure they’re written out for your children to use in the future. Are you known for a certain perfume? Spritz it on a card for each child to keep in a safe spot.

There’s one more important thing to do: decide when your children and grandchildren should receive these gifts. Will it be right after you pass or would you prefer some time pass before they receive these gifts? It might be best to wait briefly as your children will have heavy feelings they’ll need to process during the busy time after the immediate death. But you know your children best, and these videos and letters might help them process your passing. 

You’re giving your children and grandchildren a beautiful gift. One that will help them always see you as alive and caring and wonderful as you are in this very moment.

Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email and tell us your problem