It’s Invisible Disabilities Week, which is a cause close to my heart. I just had to take a sec and share my thoughts.
I was still in college when I first got sick. A very helpful school councilor was able to give me some suggestions on how to keep up my strength so I could finish. One of her suggestions was to get a handicapped placard so I could focus all my energy on learning rather than wasting it walking to class.
One day I came out of class to find a parking ticket on my car. The violation listed was “Driver does not match placard description.”
For those of you who don’t have to deal with the ins and outs of handicapped parking, here are the rules. (at least here in the US) Every handicapped placard has a name listed on it, and that name should exactly match the name on your driver’s license. Your doctor is the one who does the physical assessment on if you qualify for a placard. A police officer cannot ask you anything health related, but they can ask to see if your license matches the placard.
This officer had asked me nothing. I never even saw him. He apparently saw me park in a handicapped spot from some hidden location and, because I did not have an obvious disability, he was certain that I was using someone else’s placard. His actions were absolutely, 100% inappropriate. I immediately went and spoke to the head of the department to explain the situation. I thought he’d apologize, maybe even call the officer in and explain his misstep.
The department head didn’t believe me. When I showed him that my placard had my name on it -proof that I was in fact disabled- he looked at me like I was a little girl who’d gotten away with stealing a cookie. “Oh…ok” He said. And I swear he winked at me. He went on to explain that on campus I could park in any spot with a handicap placard. He suggested that if I chose to continue using my placard on campus, it would be more appropriate to leave the official handicapped spots to the students with “real disabilities”. This was the first time I’d experienced something like this, and I hadn’t yet built up my repertoire of appropriate responses. I was so shocked I just walked away. And then spent the next two days in bed recovering from the physical exertion I’d spent trying to fight the ticket.
You guys, this stuff happens ALL THE TIME. So often that there is an entire week devoted to Invisible Illness fighters just convincing the world that we are actually sick. I mean, COME ON! This is kind of the most pitiful awareness campaign out there! We aren’t rallying for special treatment. No new politically correct vocab words to learn. We just want to say, “Hey, I’m sick. Please believe me.”
I hate that there is such a need for this. There are people out there who are suffering so much IN ADDITION TO THEIR DISABILITY simply because others choose to be judgemental. And as dumb as I think it is that we even have to fight this battle, the truth is that it needs to be fought. So here I go…
Hi, I’m Jessica and I’m sick, even though most the time it doesn’t look like it. I hope you can believe me.