Jessica Long has gone viral on TikTok after a woman shamed her for using a handicap spot.
But what the woman didn’t know was that Jessica doesn’t have legs and is an amputee.
The clip, which now has over 4.2 million views, Jessica says: “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…”
“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,” she explained.
In a two-part TikTok series where she explains it all in greater detail. Be sure to watch both Part 1 and Part 2. But as someone with prosthetics, Jessica wants to showcase that disabilities don’t look a certain way. “I have 13 Paralympic gold medals! I’ve been swimming since I was 10 years old. I’ve competed in four Paralympic Games and I’m the second most decorated US Paralympian of all time. I’m aiming for my fifth Games in Tokyo later this year,” she said.
But Jessica says the rude woman in the handicap spot is not an isolated experience.
“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. 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,” she revealed in a post just last September.
Jessica went on to say that when other shame her — it never stops hurting.
“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.”
And while it is tough to take the higher road — Jessica is committed to helping others understand her journey.
“I think people are afraid to ask questions because society says it’s rude, but a lot of times that translates to shame around the topic of disabilities. I absolutely love sharing my story and journey with the world. I hope to educate how amputees use their prosthetic legs. We make it look easy and it’s a natural part of our everyday lives, but it’s also hard and can be painful.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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