I do have a handicapped permit, and I have had people yell at me for parking in a handicapped spot. Some people are just plain rude or rather unkind.
While I do use, and think I need, a handicapped parking spot, I actually think that most of the permits are probably given to people that don't actually need them. Where I live, practically every senior citizen seems to have a handicapped permit and this often makes it impossible to find a handicapped parking space.
Yesterday, for instance, I went to a supermarket that has about 6 or 7 handicapped parking spots, all of which were occupied when I arrived. I wound up parking at the end of this area, in a space that really wasn't meant for parking. As usual, I saw no one in the supermarket who was using a wheelchair, electric cart, walker, cane, or any other device, that indicated a mobility problem. It always amazes me that all of these handicapped drivers, who allegedly need to park close to the entrance, are suddenly able to walk all over that supermarket, for extended periods of time, without apparent difficulty. I was using a rollator (it's sort of like a walker) which has a seat, and I had to sit down on it several times just to be able to complete my relative brief shopping order. I seemed to be the only person in that very large supermarket who seemed to be having very obvious problems standing or walking. This seems to be the case most of the time at most of the supermarkets I go to--yet those handicapped parking spots outside the door always seem to be fully occupied. Are these people all miraculously cured once they enter the market?
I do think that in many instances these handicapped parking permits are being abused. I do think that they were originally intended for people in wheelchairs, or those who use electric scooters or walkers, or other mobility aids. That's why these parking spaces are wider--to make it easier to get such devices, and disabled passengers, in and out of cars. That's also why the handicapped spots are near the cuts in the curb, that allow a wheelchair to be pushed, or someone to walk without having to go up a step to the curb. You need the cut in the curb almost as much, if not more, than you need the closer parking space when you are pushing someone in a wheelchair.
Of course, people can have respiratory and cardiac and muscular and other problems that can make walking extended distances difficult--but then they would also be expected to have the same problems walking once they got inside a store too, wouldn't they? Yet this does not seem to be the case in many instances. Many people, particularly senior citizens, seem to be getting handicapped permits simply to make parking more convenient, and their doctors are willing to write them a note to get such permits. It's probably easier for the doctor to write the note than to argue with the patient. Not every medical condition constitutes a true disability, let alone a handicap for parking purposes.
My main gripe is mainly with handicapped parking outside places like supermarkets or shopping malls--places where people have to do a lot of walking once they get out of their cars--because I generally see no obviously handicapped people inside these places, even though all the handicapped parking spots are occupied. I notice that outside of places like medical buildings, or restaurants, these handicapped spots are much more likely to be used by people in wheelchairs or those with obvious mobility problems.
As much as handicapped parking helps to make my life easier, I would gladly give up my spot to someone who actually needs it more--someone in a wheelchair, or with a scooter, or who uses crutches or a walker--someone with mobility problems that really limit their ability to walk, someone who needs that wider parking space, someone who needs to be near that ramp or cut in the curb. That's who these spaces were originally meant for.
If handicapped parking spaces weren't so limited this wouldn't be an issue. But, since they are limited, perhaps we should restrict their use more than we currently do. They are not for everyone who happens to have arthritis, or a simple backache, or asthma. They are not just to make life easier or less stressful. They are intended to insure access to a building for those with severe disabilities that primarily affect mobility. That was the original intention, and I think we should get back to it. I think doctors should write the notes requesting handicapped permits only for those patients who meet relatively strict criteria. And, if that would exclude me, so be it, I'll manage with my rollator. I think the entire handicapped parking situation has really gotten out of hand.