Dan Trivett

Dan Trivett says he is quite open to answering any questions people might have about his need to use disabled parking spaces. (Submitted by Dan Trivett)

A Halifax man who has had 16 knee surgeries, uses a disabled parking pass and is in "extreme pain" when he walks, recently found a nasty note placed on his windshield questioning whether he needed to use disabled parking.

"I saw you walking. You seem to walk fine. Show some respect," said the note.

Dan Trivett is a 48-year-old father of two whose surgeries have included three knee replacements. Trivett was injured in a cycling accident in New York City several years ago.

"I have hardware from my mid-femur down to my mid-shin and lots of hardware in between," he said.

'Outwardly, I look OK'

He doesn't use a walker or cane and factors such as the weather and how much physical activity he's done in a day will dictate whether he will have a limp and the severity of it.

"Generally, I get a lot of stares from people because outwardly, I look OK," he said.

Trivett encourages people to ask him questions if they have doubts about whether he needs to use disabled parking spaces.

"I am very open to discussing my abilities and disabilities, and I mean I'm far better able than other people, but I do rely on the handicapped pass most days because for me to walk a long distance most days is extremely painful. Don't judge me," he said.

Trivett has had a disabled parking pass since December 2014, which is when he had his most recent surgery.

'Doesn't mean it's your right to take it'

He says sometimes it's hard to find a place to park because the disabled spot is occupied, sometimes by people who don't have a pass.

"If you see a handicapped spot and you don't need to use it — or if you don't have a handicapped pass — don't park there. That is a huge frustration," said Trivett.

When he sees people using a disabled space without a pass, he says he usually speaks to them and asks them to move their vehicle. Most of the time, they comply.

Abusing the privilege

Anne MacRae understands Trivett's concerns. She's the executive director of the province's Disabled Persons Commission. She tells the story of a family member with cancer who couldn't walk far and had a disabled pass.

"She remembers the comments she got from people," said MacRae.

MacRae says part of the problem is that some with disabled passes are abusing them.

"I think the frustration level is high because there are a lot of people using the passes that don't legitimately need them," said MacRae, who is quick to point out she does not doubt Trivett's need for the pass.

She says sometimes a person with a legitimate need will die and family members will use their pass.

"We know that happens," she said.

With files from Cassie Williams