While reading this morning's newspaper, I noted the editorial piece from the Voice of the Times, June 23, 2007, re: the "unhandicapped."
I have been a clinical social worker for 20 years, often serving the elderly and disabled, so I have always been angered by abuse of this system. I once received sage advice from my first professional boss that I will never forget. When distressed over office gossip, he looked at me and said, "You are young, fairly attractive and in a position of authority. They are going to talk."
Well, that was 20 years ago, and while I am not quite so young anymore, I am still fairly attractive. I am no longer in a position of authority as I am disabled with degenerative disc disease at 42 and largely homebound, only driving when my husband is unavailable. Yet, still they talk.
This afternoon, I had an experience that seemed too coincidental to not be influenced by this editorial. I had to drive to Carrs for a prescription. While in the parking lot, I waited for an older gentleman to cross before pulling into a handicapped space. This man stared at me intently as he proceeded to his truck. As I hung my decal on my rearview mirror, he shook his head, seemingly in disgust.
I do not know if he continued to watch as I exited my vehicle, using the fender for support and taking very small steps due to pain. I slowly made my way into Carrs, only to realize that I had parked at the entrance closer to the pharmacy but farther from the motorized carts. As I am unable to walk that distance, I gingerly made my way back to my vehicle and drove to the other entrance so I could get a cart.
It seems this man made an assumption since I am relatively young and attractive, I must be abusing the handicapped decal system. I wish I could once again park at the far end of the lot so these spaces would be open for those in need. Unfortunately, I am now one of those in need of these spaces and of the motorized carts.
Too often, people give me the strangest looks when I am in the motorized cart, as if to say, "Is she too lazy to walk?" There are many who treat me with respect and kindness as did the young bagger at Carrs, Kayla, who bagged my few groceries, put them in the basket and walked with me to my vehicle to return the motorized cart. To these people, I wish to say thank you.
To the others, and especially the gentleman who shook his head, I ask that you take an extra moment before you pass judgement. Many disabilities are not obvious and being relatively young and attractive does not make one immune to a physical handicap. But by the grace of God, go you.
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