Handicapped Parking Abuse: What Would You Do?

Handicapped Parking Abuse: What Would You Do?

Handicapped parking is reserved for those who have a valid permit, but what would you do if you saw two women, who obviously didn't need a handicapped parking spot, drive into one?

ABC News used hidden cameras to put that question to the test. We hired two actresses to drive a bright-red sports car and deliberately park it into the only handicapped parking space in the parking lot of a popular deli in Millburn, N.J.

One might think that a blatant violation would provoke immediate outrage, but it did not. So we raised the stakes by sending in an actress who was handicapped in real life.

'You're Unbelievable!'

VIDEO: What would you do if you saw someone park in an area meant for the disabled?
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Sometimes our handicapped actress demanded the parking spot from her van, while at other times she came out of her van and confronted the other actresses who were behind the wheel of the sports car.

Many people took action -- the reactions were very different from our earlier test, where the handicapped actress was not present.

A man with a young daughter came to our handicapped actress' defense and yelled at the other women. "Hey you kids are not supposed to park there. It's a handicapped spot."

Other outraged passersby shouted comments such as, "You're unbelievable!" "That's terrible!" or "That's disgusting."

A group of former schoolteachers on their way to lunch gave the actresses in the red car the equivalent of a ruler on the knuckles.

"That's awful, can you believe this. … It's a handicap. What the hell's wrong with you?" said Nancy Michenfelder, a former schoolteacher from New Jersey. She was provoked to act because "somebody needs that spot, took it and that's not right. When you have somebody that's needy, why should somebody that can park any place and get around use it?"

Bystander Norma Miller sided with the handicapped actress when the other actresses told Miller that there were more parking spots available in the back and that they snagged the coveted spot first. Miller stepped up and said, "You're really very fresh, and inconsiderate and thoughtless. Get out of the spot or I will call the police."

Mary Ann Gellar walked into our scene and became furious that the two women were not moving for our handicapped actress.

"That's totally rude, pull out and park down there," Gellar said. "You are not handicapped! Everyone else would like to park here, but it's saved for a handicap."

As the women adamantly remained parked in the handicapped spot, Gellar looked as if she was giving up. Instead, she soon returned with reinforcements. Gellar and Janet Schmidt, who until this day had never met, teamed up to take on the parking spot injustice.

Schmidt began yelling at the women. "This is a handicapped spot. You're breaking the law, now you can either move or we're calling the police department, it's up to you."

'You Have to Step Up'

After we told the two women about our scenario, Schmidt explained why she felt the need to intervene. "Well, you have to step up. If I wasn't going to help, who was? You know, you have to step up when the situation is in your face. So I always try to do that."

A visibly conflicted Manny Martins, whose father is handicapped, walked back and forth past the actors, trying to figure out whether he should say or do something.

After a few minutes of silent deliberation, he walked away from the scene without saying or doing anything. Later, Martins said, "Unfortunately, I should have done something there but, I was kind of hoping also that it would resolve itself, which apparently it did not."

Pattie Friend didn't need to see our handicapped actress in distress in order to step forward and say something to the rude girls. She boldly walked right up to the actresses and told them, "You're going to have to move out of that parking place. ... I'm calling the police right now."

She told ABC News that she fights for handicapped rights on a daily basis, even though she has "been spit at and had coffee thrown at me."

Friend takes this cause very personally because her husband is disabled and feels the need to speak up as "disabled people deserve a right to go out into this world, too."

Overall, more than 700 people passed by the experiment and their reactions were fascinating and unexpected.

Our handicapped actress, who deals with this situation on a daily basis, told us that she was pleasantly surprised by "how many people would stop and help out."

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