I originally came across this article via NPR a year ago, and shared it from my personal page. Today Facebook reminded me of the original share, and I realized that it is still just as true today as when I shared it originally, as well as when NPR first published it in March of 2015.
Last night I had a conversation with a friend about the importance of the evolving field of palliative care, in that it is no longer for strictly terminally ill people on hospice care. The field of palliative care medicine is changing rapidly to include quality of life issues, as opposed to strictly end of life care.
But I digress. While I plan to cover the palliative care topic in a future post, this post is focusing on invisible disabilities and the challenges faced by those who have been diagnosed with them. I am one of these people with an invisible disability. If I happen to be having an extremely good day and am able to ambulate even a short distance without my cane, the only obvious sign of anything amiss would be an altered gait.
I regularly encounter dirty glances, stares, or even outright accusations of faking when someone sees me get out of a vehicle in a handicap accessible parking spot. This is regardless of my ability to ambulate, or even when I must resort to using a wheelchair for mobility, as I’ve had to do off and on for a great many years. It is worth noting that the days where I have an obvious assistive device such as a cane, walker, wheelchair, etcetera, I seem to get the questioning looks less frequently.
But if I have a good day and try to go to the store and not use the cane, I notice I seem to get more stares and sometimes downright nasty looks. I’ve had both the general public as well as occasionally employees of a store I am patronizing question me as to my right to use the accessible accommodations afforded to people like myself under the law.
I’ve even had numerous occasions over the decades, where what I can only assume was a well-meaning citizen actually called the police to complain that I had abused a spot that someone else could use. While these situations have always worked out in my favor with little more than embarrassment at the fact that I was stopped and questioned in a public venue by police, this is not something that I should have to endure.
Granted, I would rather deal with a polite, respectful agent of law enforcement tha an irate, confused, or misinformed citizen who is not willing to be open-minded. However the fact remains that there are procedures for obtaining the privileges afforded to those with disabilities under the law, such as disabled parking placards, or license plates. As such, while I am sure abuses do occur, and I have seen it firsthand where a family member may use a disabled person’s vehicle or parking placard, I’d like to believe that this is the exception, not the rule.
It’s a shame….
The fact remains that if people can’t see an obvious disability, the typical reaction is that a disability doesn’t exist. It’s a shame that we’ve become a society that is so superficial that we either can’t, or won’t, take the time to look beyond what the eye can see. When will we finally begin to give our fellow human being the benefit of the doubt? When will we, as human beings, take the time to get to know more about someone who may be suffering with an invisible illness? I’d tend to bet that most of us know at least one person in our lives who struggles with some degree or form of an invisible disability / illness, that we may be very surprised to learn that they are dealing with.
We have become so entrenched in our own personal rat-race of life, work, and family that we often fail to notice or even care about the existence of such disabilities in others. This often holds true, even to those with whom we would consider ourselves close.
What are your thoughts on how we can try to change this?
Read the article below for more information by NPR: