The USA's second-most decorated Paralympian Jessica Long takes down a woman's idea of what 'handicapped' looks like in a now-viral video.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 26, 2021. It has since been updated.
Jessica Long is a decorated swimmer who won one gold, three silver, and two bronze medals at the 2016 Paralympic Games. She is an amputee who uses two prosthetic legs. Despite her long list of accomplishments, she is still a victim of everyday ableism. In a video uploaded to TikTok, she shares an incident when a woman assumed she did not have a disability and wrongly parked in a handicapped spot. Long ultimately calls on the "handicap police" to mind their own business as they do not need to ask why someone is parked in a handicapped spot, Bored Panda reports.
"So, it just happened again," she begins in the video. "I was parking my car—and I hope she sees this—this woman just has the nerve to look me up and down disgusted that I parked in the handicapped spot." Then, showing her blue handicapped parking tag, Long reiterates, "I don't have legs. But she just kind of rolled down her window and proceeded to be like, 'You shouldn't park there.'" She proceeded to inform the woman that she is, in fact, an amputee with a verified pass. The woman apparently just drove off.
"I was never bullied as a kid, and I didn't know that I was going to be bullied as an adult because I park in handicapped," Long states. "I get it. I'm young and athletic but I'm also missing legs." Her video is a reminder to everyone that no one should assume someone does not have a disability. An invisible disability is just as valid as a visible one, and it is time for abled folks to widen their worldview to include all forms of disability—even ones that do not fit in their very small box of what constitutes a disability.
Long, who was born with a condition known as fibular hemimelia, is the second most decorated US Paralympian of all time. Through her social media handles, she challenges the status quo of what it means to be disabled. She said in an interview with BuzzFeed, "I get it, I don’t 'look' handicapped, but what does that even mean?! I’ve been through more surgeries than I can count. My whole life I’ve had to adapt. I rely on my handicap pass. Every day is different... Some days my legs don’t hurt as bad, but for the most part they cause me pain. So, when I park in a handicap spot, I actually need it. There’s some people who will abuse handicap parking, but mostly I believe people need it."
The Paralympian affirmed that she was open to talking about her disability, but that she does not "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," she stated. "I absolutely love sharing my story and journey with the world. I hope to educate how amputees use their prosthetic legs." You can follow Long on Instagram to learn more about her journey, future plans, and everyday life.