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Not All Disabilities Are Visible

Why We Shouldn't Be Punished for Something We Cannot Control

Image from: NC Phlexicare

More and more of late I have seen post upon post and complaint upon complaint about disabled people being ridiculed, shouted at, and abused in some way or another for utilising disabled facilities and parking spaces when they are not visibly disabled. 

As a person with multiple invisible illnesses and disabilities myself, I have also experienced ordeals like this several times.

When did it become imperative that a person with a disability must prove to an entire store full of people that they are, in fact, disabled? When did it become common protocol for staff members of coffee shops to scream and shout at someone, reducing them to tears and panic attacks, for entering a disabled toilet on their own two feet? Feeling it necessary to produce their disabled badges as proof of their illness? 

In today's progressive culture, it should not still take a visible ailment and flashing lights and arrows for people to believe that a person has a valid disability. 

Now, I myself have found it frustrating when someone parks in a disabled space and does not display a badge, but when a badge is clearly displayed in the car, the level of disability of the person using the space should not be questioned in any way by passers by and nosey Norberts. 

There are many, many invisible disabilities that make it difficult for people such as myself and others to walk long distances for long periods of time, or stand for hours on busy public transport on their way to work. There are people who cannot leave their houses through severe anxieties brought on by the outside reactions of the general public toward them. 

When a young woman exits her car, which is parked in a disabled space, clearly displaying a badge, should she receive the backlash of passers by shouting expletives and abuse at her just because she's having a good day and has the fortune of being able to walk the short distance to the shops that day? And believe me, that one good day of being able to walk really is a fortune for some.

When a man walks to the disabled facilities from his table in a coffee shop, should he be harassed and shouted at by a member of staff, causing the onset of a severe panic attack whilst having to produce his badge as "proof" before he can even use the toilet, a simple right for all human beings? 

Should a person who has had a long, excruciating day at work, who needs to sit close to a door on a train through fear of not being able to get off in the time allocated for the doors to stay open, be bullied into moving to the back of the carriage because another member of the public can't see their ailments?

When these circumstances are put into such simple terms, it seems absurd that anyone could deem it appropriate to demand proof of a person's disability before they can park or use the toilet. It seems absurd that anyone would scream and shout at a vulnerable human being in any way, given that their vulnerabilities could be seen, so why is it acceptable to do this to a person whose vulnerabilities  cannot be seen?

I am fortunate enough to experience days when I have to use walking aids to get around... but should I see this as a fortune just because it makes me feel like my disabled status is finally acceptable to other people. 

I should not be made to feel this way. No disabled person should feel as if their disability isn't valid because another person on the street cannot see it.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. If they're sitting in a disabled seat, walking towards the disabled toilet, or parking in the disabled space but are visibly okay on the outside, consider that they may have something going on underneath the surface that you can't see. Wait until they produce their badge before you judge, or if you must ask to see proof for some reason or another, do it politely. Do not scare them into moving just because you don't think they should be there. 

It's 2018. It's about time we showed each other a little compassion and respect. Please try to think about the connotations of your actions before you make them. 

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