This post is an elaboration of previous posts containing information about how someone with a disability may be incorrectly judged and labeled by onlookers in the public.
Many of us have seen people who are parking in disabled parking spaces, suddenly hop out of the car, and practically jog into a store. We may have heard about someone using their family member’s disabled parking tag illegally. This post is not about those such people who knowingly take advantage of a system, or of those who could manage but act without consideration of others strictly for their own gain.
Instead, this post is to address a major problem of lack of public awareness about non-visible disability symptoms that go beyond the parking lot.
When someone has a physically disabling disease, particularly one with neurological impact, the symptoms may not be readily visible, or they may be intermittent in that the symptoms may wax and wane in severity.
Symptoms such as pain, rigidity, cramps, and muscle spasms may not be visible to onlookers, or they may not be present when the person gets out of his or her vehicle, but may “hit” when the person is in the store. Further, memory issues may impair a person’s ability to remember where he or she parked, thus they may require parking in a visible spot at the front of a store.
Some argue that one must be in a wheelchair to be parking in a disabled spot. Yet others may argue that if you are in a wheelchair, you may need that spot less than someone who is struggling to walk and not able to rest in the comfort of a chair, nor be able to manage a wheelchair or lift by himself or herself.
The important thing to keep in mind is that not disabilities are readily visible. Many who suffer use the disabled site for reasons mentioned above: pain, stiffness, fatigue, memory issues, intermittent/unpredictable symptom onset episodes, etc.
It is unfortunate that many who are truly disabled, get the “evil eye” from onlookers, or they may overhear rude comments from onlooker individuals who are uneducated about the reality of “invisible” or non-apparent disability symptoms.
This principle of a uneducated public not only applies to disabled handicapped spaces, but other aspects of disability as well.
If some judges someone who “looks fine”, and makes a judgement that this person “should be working” or is “taking advantage of the system”, this judging person may not realize the possibilities of limitations that the disabled person may suffer from, which may include: sleep issues, bladder issues, dexterity impairments (not being able to write or type), balance issues, fatigue issues, pain, memory issues, other cognitive issues, etc.
It may seem flattering, but it can be insulting for a disabled person to hear repeatedly from others who learn that the person has an illness “but you don’t look sick” or “you seem fine” or “maybe the doctors are wrong”, etc. The saying about not knowing what someone is going through unless you have walked in his or her shoes applies here.