Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Not All Disabilities are Visible

Who among us has ever looked at a person getting out of a car in an accessible parking space and thought, “she doesn’t look disabled to me”? I will admit that sometimes that thought still runs through my head. I should know better – and I do. Let’s face it, it’s hard not to judge.

When I do start to feel a little judgy, I try to put myself in that person’s shoes. Maybe she feels okay at this very moment, but she knows that when she leaves the concert she’s at or when she walks out of the home goods store that she’s going to be in pain. 

My rheumatologist is always very cautious when she provides a handicap parking permit. Ultimately, she wants her patients walking as much as possible. When I finally went into her office and told her about all the things that I don’t do because I’m afraid that it will be too painful for me, she immediately gave me what I needed to go to the DMV.

You may find it hard to believe, but I hate to use these special parking spaces. The intent behind them is to make life easier for those with a disability. Most of the time, I want to believe that there is someone out there who needs this more convenient parking space more than I do. But sometimes, the pain is too much for me. Or, the distance is so far that I know that I might be able to make it to the place that I’m going, but when I leave, I might not be able to make it back to my car. So, there are times that I use that parking space.

When you’re parking in these accessible spaces and you don’t have some sort of medical device such as a cane or a knee brace, people aren’t shy about looking at you with judgement in their eyes. Or, maybe I’m just being paranoid and making assumptions about what’s in their eyes. But probably not.

Able-bodied friends, please be patient with those of us who take advantage of accessible parking. Recognize that we’re likely embarrassed to be parking there. We want to be healthy enough to park where everyone else parks. This is not what we want, it’s what we need.

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