'You're not disabled enough to park here', Coast woman told
UPDATE: Arthritis Queensland health promotions officer James Bayliss said he frequently heard of cases like Sunshine Coast woman Katrina McMillan's.
"The majority of people with arthritis are of working age or younger.
"Even with parking permits, seeing people get out of the car and walk to the shops and not 'look disabled.'… don't make an assumptions based on what you see.
"What you see isn't necessarily what you get."
Arthritis is the second leading cause of disability in Australia, with 15 per cent of those with arthritis in Queensland aged between 25 - 44.
Mr Bayliss said it is very difficult to obtain a disability permit without due cause.
"It's quite a process to get a disability permit, you have to get a medical assessment and screening process.
"It's very hard to fib your way into one."
EARLIER: Harrassed, shamed, and abused: these can be day-to-day occurrences for Katrina McMillan.
The 24-year-old is routinely reviled by strangers for parking in disability spaces, despite having a valid permit thanks to multiple auto-immune diseases.
Most recently, she was confronted in the Sunshine Plaza carpark after pulling into a disability space on the ground floor.
"On that day I didn't have my walking stick on me but I was still pretty sore," Ms McMillan said.
"This woman pushing another woman in a wheelchair started yelling at me 'Oh nice disability parking spot', so I pointed at my sticker.
"She said 'Oh, I don't distrust you at all,' and rolled her eyes."
As someone who is treated like this frequently, Katrina tried to explain to the woman why she needed the space.
"I thought okay, I get this a lot, so in the interest of educating people about invisible illness I told to her thatI have Psoriatic Arthritis and Fibromyalgia... I'm on heavy medication, and I can't walk far."
The woman continued to harangue her - with Ms McMillan pleading "please don't judge me because I look young."
Diagnosed at 21 with the degenerative condition, Ms McMillan has good days and bad days.
"It depends on how I'm feeling," she said. "If I was parked in my disability space I can walk around the Plaza and walk to Coles.
"Some other days I can't go anywhere at all, I'll be in bed in that much pain that everything stops.
"It feels like something is eating the joints in my body - not just an aching but burning and swelling from head to toe."
Ms McMillan was bed-ridden for a day and a half, after the heated exchange caused an 'arthritic flare' - so much swelling she was unable to move.
"It's just frustrating that there's not enough awareness out there or that people just don't think," Ms McMillan said.
"I think if you're going to question someone, check their sticker first.
"Not all disabilities look like people in a wheelchair. Sometimes I'll have a walking aid, sometimes not.
"But it's not just about me - it's about everyone with an invisible illness.
"We get discrimination also because of age; but my auto-immune disease doesn't want to check ID."