Invisible Disabilities

An unseen physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity is a general definition of invisible disabilities.  We often see a person using the blue and white disability placard in a public parking area and we question the use.  The person appears to be able to walk and move without using major appliances such as a wheelchair or crutches.  How can the person be “disabled?”  We automatically make a judgment based on what we assume is that person’s situation.

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If the person has both legs and both arms, they should be able to walk around and function perfectly fine for themselves.  There should be no need for any additional consideration or help.  They should not be entitled to any special assistance…  Again, we make an assumption based on what we know not on what the reality may be for the other person.  We place our own reality on the other person.  All of us are guilty of doing this at one time or another in our lives – even the most compassionate of us.

I’m talking about the disabilities that we can’t physically see.  The medical and psychological issues that limit or impair the  ability to easily function as the majority of healthy individuals.  This area opens up into a valley of unseen vistas: low vision, respiratory, cardiac, muscular, auditory, sensatory senses of the body that limit the persons ability to ambulate easily through the normal activities of life.  Maybe it’s the person who parks in the disabled parking space who is undergoing chemotherapy treatments and just has enough energy that particular day to drive themselves to the local store and pick up their medication from the pharmacy.  Possibly it’s the daughter who has just been released from the hospital after a kidney transplant and she struggles through her first trip to the grocery store to restock her kitchen cabinets.  Or it could be a husband who has just been admitted to a hospice program for his terminal disease and he wants to make his last trip to the hardware store to buy some tools for that “one last repair job at the house.”  Yet it may be the wife who is the repeated victim of intimate partner violence and suffers chronic, debilitating back injury from her abusive husband.

Who are we to judge the use the “disabled” parking space?

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