This is the note someone left on a York mum’s car

The note left on Sarah's car

Sarah Metcalfe had left her car in a disabled bay at Tesco’s car park at Clifton Moor last Thursday (April 30) while she went shopping with son Jack, 13.

Jack found this note left on the windscreen when they returned and handed it to his mum.

She couldn’t believe that someone had scrawled “Being fat and ugly doesn’t count as disabled (park elsewhere)”.

Following an accident, Sarah has fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

‘I choose to smile rather than cry’

Fighting back: Sarah Metcalfe, via Facebook
Fighting back: Sarah Metcalfe, via Facebook

York University PhD student Sarah, 35, decided to write her own letter back to the anonymous car park troll via Facebook. And it rocked.

I know I may not look ill, in fact I choose to smile rather than cry, but I do suffer from a long term condition that causes pain and fatigue all over my body and these symptoms are:

* increased sensitivity to pain
* fatigue (extreme tiredness)
* muscle stiffness
* difficulty sleeping
* problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”) – such as problems with memory and concentration headaches
* irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
* dizziness and clumsiness
* feeling too hot or too cold – this is because you’re not able to regulate your body temperature properly
* restless legs syndrome (an overwhelming urge to move your legs)
* tingling, numbness, prickling or burning sensations in your hands and feet (paraesthesia)
* anxiety and depression

‘Don’t be so quick to judge’

Sarah went on to explain that she works hard, never takes sick time and doesn’t claim disability benefits.

“I juggle work and family life. I was really just having a BAD and very painful day,” she wrote.

Please don’t be so quick to judge people by appearances. I fear one day you may say the same to someone and it could really push them over the edge.

Luckily I am open minded and know that appearances can be deceptive and that some people don’t know these things.

But I would just like to say to you if your reading this now that it’s better to be kind than hateful – quite frankly you never know what kind of day a person is having and what the consequences of your actions will be.

What does disability look like

The cruel note and Sarah’s tremendous response – including the hashtag #ExactlyWhatDoesDisabilityLookLike – drew a huge response from people in York and across the world.

Among the supportive comments were “can’t believe someone would actually be so mean as to do this”, and “how can a human being be so bloody down right nasty?”

There are many conditions and disorders that have no obvious physical signs and it is a personal choice as to whether an individual wants to be categorised as having a ‘disability’. It is not up to others to judge.

Sophie Drennan

I cried when I read your post. How despicably horrid.

ElizabethJane Matthies

Other people with disabilities joined in to say they have had similar experiences.

I have fibromyalgia with arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome on top. All invisible and all painful.

I also have a blue badge. I dont know how I would manage without it. I’d be even more home-bound than I am I think.

Helen Livesey-Jones

The blue badge

Sarah has applied for the blue badge which disabled motorists must display in their cars to use disabled bays in council run car parks.

It hasn’t arrived yet so she did not have one on display when she parked in the Tesco disabled bay. Disabled motorists are not legally obliged to have a blue badge when using private car parks.

However, private car park operators can ask for blue badges to be displayed by motorists using their disabled bays. This is enforceable by the operator of the car park.

Sarah explains:

I never park in blue badge spaces in town because my badge hasn’t come through and avoid such areas on painful days.

Tesco’s car park is huge. It doesn’t say you need a blue badge so thats where I go if I can’t walk far, as there’s loads of spaces close to the door and I’ve never wanted to cause any offence to anyone.

‘I can forgive them’

Sarah, who is also involved in setting up community project The York Real Junk Food Project, said the staff at Tesco “were nice and said if they had CCTV they would have helped but they claimed they don’t despite several people saying otherwise”.

She just wants to tell the person who did it the pain, hurt and worse they could cause.

This person needs to know that they could say the wrong thing to someone one day and the consequences could be disastrous.

All that person had to do was ask me why I parked in the bay if they felt so strongly, and I would have gladly took time out of my day to explain.

No one should ever judge anyone on body image especially with the risks of our slimming culture. I just want this person not to do it again.

– Sarah Metcalfe

And brilliantly, she adds:

I can forgive them, we all make mistakes.


45 comments on “Disabled York mum gets abusive parking note – responds brilliantly

  1. People can be disabled with or without a blue badge. People are allowed to drive when they are disabled – and it is safe for disabled people to drive. You don’t need a blue badge in order to be allowed to drive. People who are disabled are disabled for very many different reasons. Parking near a shop rather than far away from it would be for people who find it difficult to be far away from the shop. This includes a huge array of people who are in fact very able to drive a car. You can drive a car with only one eye, you can drive a car with a bad memory, you can drive a car with no legs just to give examples. Parking near, rather than far from a shop makes it easier – but sometimes is essential to actually using the shop or facility. It is not laziness to use a space up near rather than far – if you don’t really need it – it’s just a bit unthinking or selfish, but quite a human thing to do. There are some reasons that aren’t considered disabled reasons where people need to be nearer. Taking an elderly person to the shops it is essential to be nearer, rather than a walk that could take 15 minutes at an older persons pace of walking. I don’t think there are any shops that say ‘for the elderly!’. Not being funny hear but people with children have a huge ability to walk from a parking space far away. It is not a disability to have children – nor are they unable to walk distances. Spaces should be called ‘need to be near’ not disabled.

    Discussing fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic fatigue, bad memory, and all mental disorders too – will probably help people who don’t have these problems to understand why they need to be near. These people are able and safe to drive – but on some days unable to walk safely for a longer way than necessary. The severe pain flare ups cannot be seen – the intermittent fibro-fog of the mind cannot be seen, the exhaustion cannot be seen, just to mention a few symptoms.

    No one ‘needs’ a blue badge or to be labelled as ‘need to be near’ – and no one should be paying to be nearer the shop either! Maybe doctors in conjunction with DVLR could just issue a passport of ‘need to be near’ that can be flashed or scanned or left in the dash board – in my opinion this has nothing to do with the council or social services where you have to ‘prove’ to them that you need it – it’s all medical reasons (including elderly) and should be left as such. These ‘need to be near’ passports should also be used to park without paying – to park anywhere that is safe to park.

    Here is a combo of what can happen –
    I remember one day when the car park was empty as it was very early, and I had my fibromyalgia fog flare-up in my mind. ( as usual dreadfully painful kegs arms and back ) I parked near to the entrance did my shopping and returned to the car. Didn’t know or realise I’d parked in a ‘I’ve got young children’s’ space – think it was probably automatic as that’s where I would usually park. Doesn’t make me unsafe to drive that it slipped my mind I didn’t have my children with me.!!! I got verbal abuse as I got in my car (car park still empty) shouting at me – ‘ do you have children!!!!!’ Because I was intimidated I answered ‘no’ oops sorry – then was bewildered by my answer because I clearly did have children!!! Just not with me at that time! I thought of nothing else for weeks with that nasty resentment tone in the scowling woman’s voice and have never forgotten it! I am feeling that the reasoning behind having a young children’s spaces near to the shop is that the car park is unsafe? So let’s have some safe sheltered parking walkways to the shops …

    I don’t think a doctor would give a parking passport to someone just because they’ve gone shopping with children!!!

    In conclusion if you are older, not well, or unable in mind or body of course just park where you need to for gods sake!

    I have never managed to get a ‘ blue badge’ for me (fibromyalgia plus) or for my elderly parents that I drive who are 88 and walk very slowly with sticks and sometimes use the wheelchair .. I shouldn’t really need to ‘apply’ like I say – GP’s discretion alongside DVLR – should medically issue parking passports.

    No need to attack people verbally or with words in notes! Or with typed words in here! Let’s solve problems rather than attack – we are all only human after all.

  2. Whether you have a visible disability or not if you do not have a BB you must not park in a disabled bay…it is that simple. Just because you think your entitled it does not give you the right to park in a disabled bay. What does it say about you if you just park in a disabled parking space without a blue badge? This woman should get a BB and then she can park in disabled spaces. It’s as simple as that and people who have made comments above defending her should also be ashamed. NO Blue Badge MEANS NO PARKING. What part of that do some on here not understand?

  3. I too have invisible chronic illnesses and have been subjected to actual her al abuse by some elderly – who think its only older peoe that should be entitled to a BB as well as a woman who this is its only.’wheelchair users’ who can have a blue badge…… BUT I HAVE A BLUE BADGE!!!!!!
    When I have re spied for my BB and its lateci have parked in ‘normal’ bays as I had no right I parking in a designated bay.
    This woman, although the note was unpleasant, SHOULD NEVER HAD PARKED IN A BB DESIGNATED BAY UNTIL SHR HAD A BB – END OF.
    This story is going g viral everywhere and its pathetic…… Would she have parked there if there were parking charges.
    IF SHE WAS THAT TIRED/UWELL WAS SHE RIGHT AND ABLE TO BE DRIVING THE CAR – do we not have a responsibility to ensure we are well enough to be driving!!!!!! I know when I am feeling really unee I Don’t Drive – I take responsibility so I am not putting g myself or others at risk …… Simple.
    Driving when you are feeling that bad can be as bad as driving g under the influence!!!!!
    Also on another post I have read this lady – who expects everyone to “feel sorry for her” should stop and think as she was very discriminatory against people, like myself, who use walking aids!!!!!
    This lady tur ex tour and stated that perhaps she shld use walking aids but she doesn’t because she want to go further in her job ………
    So in other words she is station g that she can not progress in her career if she is seen to be using walking aids.
    What a load of white and totally showing g discrimination towards us who use walking aids……
    Like I said maybe now give it some thought whether she really deserves people.feeling sorry for her or do they see her for what she is as someone totally hypocritical and the only reason she parked in the disabled bay, without a BB, is she knew she coud “get away with it” as very fee Tescos monitor their carparks and fine non compliant peoe abusing the specific bays.
    As a mum she should also be setting an example and not showing her daughter that breaking the rules is ok along with discriminating again disabled people who use walking aids!!!!!!

  4. i have to agree with what most people seem to be saying. the issue is not that the lady has an invisible disability its that she does not have a blue badge. i am disabled and although i look ok i use a stick (sometimes 2!) and i still get comments that i don’t need any walking aids or the blue badge. my daughter is 16. she has myasthenia gravis and malformation of her knees so walking is incredibly painful for her and often inpossible yet she has been stopped by security in supermarkets (yes more than one) and asked if she really needs her wheelchair or if shes just playing about! we were not able to do our shopping unless my husband was with us as we refused to use disabled bays unless we were entitled. we now have a blue badge and can shop when we want. however there are drivers that feel laziness is a disability ( abandoning a car so i can’t leave a bay so they could run to the cashpoint is laziness) and when i have GENTLY reminded drivers to display blue badges as i assumed they must have a hidden disability too i have been subjected to threats of violence and extremely abusive language. disabled bays are for blue badge holders and no one else. if you don’t have the badge don’t use the bay. when you do have the badge i like most on here will stand shoulder to shoulder to defend your right to use the bay when you have a hidden disability x

  5. The rudeness of the note is uncalled for but Ms Metcalfes attitude is ruder and even more insulting. I am a blue badge holder and on numerous occasions I have visited a supermarket to get essential food & sundries only to find no disabled bay available a a fai amount of them occupied by non-blue badge holders. As a result I end up having to go home without any food and sundries having to plan my next trip in a few days time as it’s more than physically exhausting to go out let alone try to shop for food and stuff. I end up sometimes going without food, even toilet paper for a few days before attempting a shopping trip again.
    I also understand that she claims there’s upwards of 40 disabled bays and no signage stating that the bays are for blue badge users only. I have yet to come across a Tesco store that has so many disabled bays and none not showing a sign in the area saying its for blue badge holders only.
    I would also like to know if she does get a blue badge or not from her ‘recent application’ for one as it’s not simply a case of filling out the application form and sending it off expecting to receive one anymore!

  6. Theres no excuse for been rude like this, i myself have been approached with well you don’t look disabled, what does this look like ? i even got asked is the photo on the back you, so swiftly showed them my pass. I really feel sorry for the lady and even if she wasn’t disabled thats not a excuse for been so nasty. Take care of yourself xx

  7. i have fibro, that note was out of order, having fibro is bad enough as it’s the invisible illness and people are too quick to judge. However I wouldn’t park in a disabled bay simply because I don’t have a badge, it’s like someone ,parking in a parent and child without children..

  8. OMG!!!!!! People !!!!!!!! Can u stop rugby now!!!!! U are attacking her for having a blue badge or not-yes-I do understand law and regulations -it’s up to tesco if she would get prosecuted for it or not-the point of that post is too make us all released how judgmental people from outside are and how rude!!!!!! Which u can see by reading most of post here -no one have a right been abusive to her and leaving abbusive messages -because she has not fall out from a Wchelchair while getting out of the car it does not make free of disability -if u not happy with someone park in a space without prop badge -report them to tesco customer service -u don’t have to leave abusive messages which-like she said-her son picked up and give it too her -I’m not sure if her child can read yet- but it would be upsetting for him for sure if he can -u all arguing about badge now instead of commenting on the world think they can say anything to anyone now matter of the circumstances of that person

    1. Kat. I think you are rather missing the point. If all and sundry choose to park in a disabled bay then the person that needs a bay is unable to park close enough to even get into the store to make a complaint. Sarah Metcalfe chose to go to the press because someone left her a nasty message, she has done the disabled people who have a blue badge a great disservice. She not only chooses to ignore the fact that she took a space reserved for those in genuine need, but has announced to the world that it is ok to park in a disabled space as long as it is not a council one. In a council one you will get fined but according to her in a private one it is ok because no one checks on them.
      Not satisfied with that, she says she has applied for a blue badge, why did she bother? if it’s ok for anyone to park in these spaces why would she pay for a blue badge? Most of us have paid for the badge in the hope that we will be able to park close to where we need to go. She has made a mockery of that so why would she bother to apply for a badge?

  9. Its because people dont see a wheelchair crutches or frame no white stick your not disabled thats how people judge you . invisible illness its called there are people like the woman in this story mental health problems bladder/bowel problems anxiety and depression deafness most have nothing to see so people think your faking it.if she is a genuine case and I say she is why hasn’t she got a blue badge.good on daughter fighting back.

    1. And hopefully she will get her Blue Badge. However, there are separate issues here….’Invisible illness and disabled parking’ (I.e with a Blue Badge) and ‘Using disabled bays without a Blue Badge’.
      It is possible the person that left the note was angry because the car had no Blue Badge. I do not condone the abusive message that was left though.

  10. I think it’s very important to seperate out the issues here. ‘invisible illness’ and ‘Parking in a disabled bay without a Blue Badge’.

  11. People have no idea how hard it is living with ME, and you literally have to live with it because there is no cure, I know because I have it! I run a house, look after my family and have a full time job, so obviously I must be ok!!! People don’t see the days I can’t get my legs working or the days I am in pain. Do your homework before making such judgements.

    1. I too have chronic, incurable conditions Lisa. However, this is about Blue Badges and Disabled Parking.

    2. I also have ME and it’s very hard indeed but she doesn’t have ME its Fibro two different things as I have both its not about her illness it’s about parking in a disabled Bay without a BB and she feels she has being wronged by a disgrace someone would leave that note but she shouldn’t have parked there she hasn’t even applied for a badge so if it’s so much for her to walk then apply

  12. I have an invisible illness AND I have a blue badge. People judge those with invisible illnesses when we park in disabled bays legally so I find it incredible that this woman, who was in the wrong, is getting so much sympathy.
    Thanks for giving those with no blue badge another line to use when taking up a space they are not entitled to, along with “I’ll only be a minute” etc.

    This woman has done those of us with a Blue Badge a great disservice and should be ashamed of herself courting all this publicity when she was in the wrong.

    IF she gets a badge she will see for gerself how frustrating it is to see these bays abused.

  13. The internet most definitely does not love this lady. Check the disability groups and see what they have to say.
    The fact that she had a rude note left on her windscreen which most people would have thrown away, does not excuse the fact that she selfishly parked in a space she was not entitled to use. Had she not done so she would not have got the note.
    Simple. Don’t use spaces that are for people legally entitled to use them and you won’t get notes left on your car by someone who is obviously sick of not being able to park where they need to, when others decide they are ‘entitled’ because they are having a bad day, it’s raining, I’m only going to be a few minutes etc,etc. if this lady ever gets a BB she will no doubt come up against this mindset, she might see it in a different light.

  14. I am a wheelchair user with several rare and painful conditions, one of which causes frequent dislocation of my joints, and I don’t park in a disabled ‘blue badge’ bay if I don’t have it with me.
    If you don’t have a badge in your possession right at that moment, you should not park there. Full stop. End of story.
    The note left was rude and body shaming, but your behaviour in wrongly/illegally parking there and then going on to publicise yourself like this is just as bad if not worse! Neither of you are in the right, and bringing this to the press both local and national is just going to further increase the already vast number of able-bodied people abusing these precious spaces.

  15. My husband suffers chronic pain but,like you gets on with life.. The woman (assumed with paper)is a thoughtless gutless dare anyone write anyghing like that about anyone .. I hope he/she comes forward…what’s the betting they’re too cowardly to do it..oh yes. Just leave an anonymous note brave ..good luck to you.. X

  16. Wrong on both sides of this situation I’m afraid. I am disabled and a blue badge holder. The note left was unnecessarily cruel and I do not condone it. However, Ms Metcalfe, although having applied for a blue badge does not currently have one and subsequently should not use disabled bays unless and until her application is successful. Whilst the parking in question is on private land, and therefore not subject to highways laws, Tesco customer service did confirm to a group concerned with parking provision for disabled people that their disabled parking spaces are indeed for blue badge holders. Unfortunately far too many people consider disabled parking as fair game – I’ve have so often heard a plethora of excuses. Simply abiding by the laws (or rules of a shopping establishment) removes any subjectivity from the situation and ensures that those people who have been assessed and found in medical need of accessible parking have a fair crack at finding a space. I sympathise with any condition that causes pain and difficulty walking – these are issues I deal with on a daily basis – however when I applied for my blue badge I didn’t park in disabled parking until I was successful in my application and had received my badge. Again, I do not condone the note in any way – but nor do I condone the actions of someone who chooses not to abide by the rules set out to help others.

  17. I should perhaps explain that I am aware you have / had no Blue Badge after reading your story in the Daily Mirror.

  18. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that the action of leaving that note and the wording upon it was despicable and cruel (no excuse for that!), this lady does not own a blue badge and should not abuse a disabled bay by parking there. If she needs a blue badge then she should get one! I too have the same disabilities but if I ever left my badge at home, I would not park in a disabled bay! Too many do who do not own a badge and it is a major problem, especially in store car parks.

  19. Hi there. You were both in the wrong. You were in the wrong for parking in a disabled bay without displaying a valid Blue Badge and the note writer was in the wrong for being abusive.

  20. on her facebook she states she doesn’t claim disability benefits nor does she currently hold a blue badge just applied for one. thus does not qualify for her to park there. and shes lucky she didn’t have a fine slapped on her windscreen instead. as the fact she is not a blue badge holder she wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

    1. We have updated the story to make clear the legal position on blue badges (not required for private car parks such as Tesco’s) and Sarah’s position on this.

      1. Hi Jules,

        If anyone is seen parking on a disabled space without a Blue Badge, they will be asked to move.

        I have great sympathy for Sarah and her condition and think that what has happened to her is appalling.

        From reading the posts I can see that the store has expressed their concerns and empathy about what have happened in regards to the nasty note. However, I am sure that Sarah now understands that she needs to display a Blue Badge when she parks in our disabled car park spaces.

        I’m glad that Sarah has applied for this so that she will be able to use our disabled bays to make her shopping experience easier.

        Kind regards

        Linda – Customer Care

        1. This is a response from tesco. Common curtosey would say not to park there. Sarah also states that she doesn’t use walking aids as she is young and has a career! How dare she. She’s self entitled and needs to look around her, the people who don’t think she’s right far outweigh the ones that do!

        2. I shop at Tesco and disabled bays are always taken by none blue badge cars, it is very frustrating and I have complained about it. Tesco say there is nothing they can do. Why can’t it be monitored . I have sympathy with the lady in the news but she did not have a blue badge so she shouldn’t have parked in the bay.. I also do not agree with the person who wrote the note it was very nasty.

      2. Your response seems to imply that there are no restrictions in private car parks. I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Whilst a private car park is not subject to highway law, the owner/operator can choose to specify that disabled parking is for blue badge holders only, and may impose a fine for improper use. Tesco customer service confirmed that this was indeed the case – that their disabled parking spaces are for blue badge holders, and whilst someone ignoring this may not be breaking highway law, they would be asked to move by staff. Perhaps the news item could be amended again to ensure your readers do not infer from your comment that disabled parking spaces are fair game for all if not on highway land?

        1. Hi Sarah. We’ve amended the article to make this clearer. Presumably there would be some discretion by the private car park operator to talk to the motorist to ascertain whether they were, in fact, deserving of the bay whether or not they had the blue badge.

          1. Thank you for the amendment. As I think you can see from other comments on here, Tesco did actually confirm to a Disability group that focuses on disabled parking provision that they do require blue badges to be displayed when a customer uses disabled parking at their store. As for whether they would apply discretion, I think that would best be answered by Tesco themselves. I do think though that speaking to their customer service people before printing this article may have been prudent. Issues around the legitimate use of disabled parking are difficult enough for those of us who are blue badge holders without your readers being given an inaccurate idea of what is required where.

      3. Tesco are quite simply in breach of the Equality Act 2010 by their failure to enforce disabled parking rules – something they have been taken to court for in the past I believe.
        In simple terms, if you park in a disabled bay without a disabled parking permit/Blue Badge on private ground, you can be clamped and/or fined. Do the same on public/council ground and it us illegal, you will be fined.

        1. The fact that Tesco do not enforce disabled parking rules, and therefore breach the Equality Act 2010, does not justify an individual flouting the rules.

      4. This is the response we (Disability Group) have now had from Tesco:

        “If anyone is seen parking on a disabled space without a Blue Badge, they will be asked to move.

        I have great sympathy for Sarah and her condition and think that what has happened to her is appalling.

        From reading the posts I can see that the store has expressed their concerns and empathy about what have happened in regards to the nasty note. However, I am sure that Sarah now understands that she needs to display a Blue Badge when she parks in our disabled car park spaces.

        I’m glad that Sarah has applied for this so that she will be able to use our disabled bays to make her shopping experience easier.

        Kind regards

        Linda – Customer Care

        Please post this response

        1. The reply from Tesco states that if someone parks in the disabled bays without a badge they would be asked to move ?? I totally disagree with this reply as having been into Tesco store myself and complained that people are parking in disabled bays without a badge their response was “they don’t get involved as they do not want the verbal abuse” hence I am left having to struggle from a parking bay that is not for disabled users ! and I DO have a blue badge but just cant seem to park at Tesco stores with it as its a free for all !!

  21. The Internet does NOT love her. Check out disability groups. You are ONLY entitled when you HAVE to a Blue Badge. This woman has made it clear that she has only recently bothered to apply. Until she has a Blue Badge (and we only have her word that she has applied or is even in genuine need as she says she doesn’t receive any benefits) she has no right to use disabled bays. It’s hard enough for this of us with invisible disabilities to explain why we have Blue Badges without people like her abusing the system! I do think the note was wrong and does nothing to help our cause.

  22. Even when you’ve got a blue badge people sometimes stare when your family gets out of the car, as if they’re checking out if you can all walk. It’s as if they think you’re cheating if no one collapses dramatically out of their door into the nearest wheelchair.

  23. I also have fibromyalgia and get funny looks, I would not wish this disease on anybody, and struggle with daily tasks, I also have a blue badge I would be house bound with out it, well done Sarah for being the stronger person, there’s too many people out there who are to quick to judge. Let them walk a week or so in our shoes then they can have an opinion xxx

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