As an individual who currently deals with several “Invisible disabilities”, I can assure you that they are real. Currently, I live with psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism. They all come with varying levels of symptoms that I deal with on a daily basis. There are some days when I have to lie there in bed for about 10 minutes due to really bad pain before I can get up. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and literally can’t roll over due to pain. It all depends.
Several years ago, my doctor told me that I was “eligible” to apply for a handicapped placard for my vehicle. For me, it was never an option to apply. I had a few people tell me I was “crazy for not going for it” and how easy it would be for me on days when it was pouring or during the holidays when trying to park. Personally, with the issues I deal with, parking as far away as possible allows me to walk more and combat the pain that comes from being sedentary at times when I’m in pain. Also, I believe that there are many more people who NEED the space and I don’t at this time in my life.
That’s not to say that there aren’t people with advanced or more severe disease progression than I am and are very much in need of that placard. I’m just not one of them.
A disturbing trend that I’ve seen lately is the public shaming of people utilizing these parking spots. I’ve seen various stories in the media that tell of individuals in possession of a placard returning to their vehicle to find incredibly nasty notes, some with profanity and threats of calling the police to report them for illegally using their placard. Personal insults abound calling them fat, lazy or otherwise unqualified. Oftentimes, people write down questions, like “Where’s your wheelchair?”
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t have the time to go around with a full writing pad and haunt parking lots and seek out people and try to determine their medical status. I’m not trying to be funny. In fact, it’s kind of disturbing that people have this much time on their hands and the nerve to do that.
Raising two children with Autism, I’ve been privy to the question, “But they don’t LOOK autistic” on several occasions, so I’m used to contemplating these silly questions and statements. However, I do believe that society in general is sorely lacking when it comes to understanding disability. For example, someone who has just had major heart surgery may need to limit their trips for a few months. Parking closer might allow them to get in and out of the store faster. We never know what others are going through and I wish that we as a society could try to be kinder to one another.
Can you imagine what it might be like for someone treating an illness with high doses of steroids and also combating sudden weight gain from them getting a note telling them they are fat and not disabled? We are all on different paths of our life journey and a little kindness can go so far. Try it sometime; I promise it will make you feel good as well as the person you’re kind to.
So the next time you see someone parking at a disabled spot and your first instinct is to say something cruel or write a nasty note, think about how not saying or writing anything can make a difference in not just that person’s day, but your own.