Do you find yourself watching someone walk into a store from an accessible parking space? That could be invisible disability discrimination.
I am very aware of drivers who park in accessible spots without having the necessary license plates or hang tags for their cars. But every now and then I see someone jump out of their car — with the proper license plates or hang tag — and run into the store.
My first thought is, “How dare she park there! Is she so self-indulgent that she feels she should have parking that another person might need?”
I realize that I’ve been guilty of invisible disability discrimination. I know there will always be those who feel entitled to park anywhere, anytime regardless of how that choice impacts others. But for this discussion, I want to talk about some invisible disabilities — a respiratory illness, for example.
Jim may be able to jump out of the car, but by the time he enters the store, he’s lost all of his strength and is having trouble breathing.
Heart issues are the same. And some orthopedic disabilities may not be evident at first glance.
All of the above fall under the legal reason to park in accessible parking spots that are close to an entrance.
I also hear comments concerning an accessible bathroom or bathroom stall — and many times the comments are from those with physical disabilities.
“Why is so and so using that bathroom?” or “I had to wait for Suzie to finish before I could get into my bathroom.”
Once again, that is invisible disability discrimination. Just because a person doesn’t use a mobility device doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t need some extra space and/or privacy. For example, there are many bowel and bladder issues that require extra space. Someone who is overweight may need extra space.
You may not know a person has a disability because he or she has chosen not to share that information. Accessibility for bathroom needs is a private matter that does not need to be judged by others.
Finally, I sometimes see invisible disability discrimination when a Paraquad participant is being evaluated for needed services by a third-party provider. The disability can be a chronic and progressive illness such as multiple sclerosis or lupus, a traumatic brain injury, a mental health condition or a heart, severe arthritis or respiratory issues.
Someone not using or choosing not to use mobility equipment it is sometimes viewed as not needing help. That is invisible disability discrimination.
When you jump to judge or comment, first ask yourself, “Am I guilty of invisible disability discrimination?” You might be surprised. I know I was.
Nancy McGuire is a Consumer Directed Services (CDS) Supervisor at Paraquad. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo credit: Roadside Pictures