Seeing before Believing Problematic for Invisible Disabilities

At first glance, Florida resident Debbie Mizrahi doesn't appear to have a disability. Take a closer look, and you still can't tell.

Invisible Disabilities

One self-appointed parking lot watchdog couldn't tell either and decided a verbal assault was his best course of action. "You have no [use your imagination on the verbiage] right to be here," he told Debbie as she parked to go to the grocery store. But he's not first and—judging by the long track of nasty notes, smashed mirrors and other vandalism to her car—he won't be the last.

Trust that Disability Parking Tags Are There for a Reason

Here's what they can't see: Debbie is a brain cancer survivor. While the combination of surgery chemotherapy and radiation saved her life, it took its toll on her short term memory. In short, she can't remember where she parked. This is especially problematic at the big box stores with endless rows of parking spaces.

"If I have to park far, now what I do is I use my keys with the alarm and I try to find the car by listening," she explained.

Invisible Disabilities: Seeing vs. Believing

According to the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA), "The term invisible disabilities refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments. These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person."

Disabled Parking

Other examples of this would include congestive heart failure (which prevents people from walking very far), lung disease, neurological disorders, chronic pain, lupus and arthritis. The IDA strives to promote hope and understanding for that part of the disability community whose challenges are not apparent.

President and Founder of IDA Wayne Connell was not surprised at Debbie's predicament. "It's actually quite common," he said. "I've heard of people getting keyed, getting screamed at. They'll give you a dirty look. We hear this over and over and over. To be ridiculed while you're parking—sometimes what people say hurts more than the illness."

What Do You Think?

Of course, no one can ignore there are those inconsiderate enough to park illegally in these spaces "just for a second" or that nefarious characters scam the system and use tags that were not intended for them. However, with such a prevalence of invisible disabilities, can you really just assume?



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