If You Can’t See It …

invisibleOne point amongst many brought up during the Taxi Driver Case, is that invisible illnesses can be tricky.

That’s not to say a more visible form of MS than mine is any easier – far from it according to the large amount of emails I’ve received, in which people have told me taxis simply drive past them when they see a wheelchair or walking sticks.

It just seems harder to ‘prove’ you have a disability if, at first glance, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with you. However, some place the number of people with chronic conditions which could be deemed invisible as high as 96%. Whether or not that is true, it is indicative that there is more understanding needed.

This can take a tragic turn, as in the case of Brian Holmes, who was killed with a single punch in 2013 after another man took exception to him looking ‘like he could walk’ when parked in a disabled space at a supermarket. Little did he know, he was the driver for his wife – who was disabled, and had a blue badge – and who was shopping at the time. What he also didn’t know was that Brian was days away from an all-clear from cancer.

Cases like this show just how difficult it can be to judge who is disabled or not. On the flip side, I live near a busy shopping area; on weekdays, parents park in disabled spaces as they are one or two metres closer to the school than the plentiful other spaces, and ‘what’s the harm?’. On weekends, car after car parks in the supermarket disabled spaces, as they are ‘just popping in, what’s the problem?’ In the morning, builders vans park there, as ‘disabled people are lazy and don’t have to get up early like we do’.

These quotes are real; I’ve spoken to these people. They become aggressive, threatening and abusive. Such are the feelings disabled parking can arouse. Last year I called the school where the majority of parents took their children to. I spoke to the headmaster, who told me in no uncertain terms, ‘it’s not my problem’. I have also raised the point with my MP, who said he would look in to it.

Disabled parking spaces are there for more than convenience. If you are ill and finding it difficult to get out, it can be a smidgen of hope that after the palaver of getting ready to go out, you can just about be guaranteed to find a space. Granted, this is not always the case, but the hope is there. It’s psychological, apart from anything else health-wise.

It’s all too easy to languish at home, constricted by health, lack of parking and society’s attitude towards you.

You make people uncomfortable. And that’s all the more reason to be seen.

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6 thoughts on “If You Can’t See It …

  1. JUDY EPSTEIN says:

    Once again girl, I can only say “well said”!! People, WE ALL have to learn that there are others out there who have all kinds of things going on! Respect that parking space and parking badge! It could be YOU needing them someday! I was a hill and mountain climber my whole life. Now I’m one of us! Enjoy it, whatever it may be.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Thank you for your comment!
      It’s a big bugbear for me, the casual ‘abuse’ of blue badge spaces. Makes me mad.

  2. Debra Smith says:

    The comments about the misuse of disabled parking spaces is all too common in the UK. I can only make an apocryphal comparison with the attitudes of people in rural France (where my parents live) towards those with disabilities and unfortunately the UK does not fair well!

    In in their local commune in France, disabled people are given useful roles such as gardening, wood clearance etc. and are often seen in the local villages and supermarkets. They are generally treated with respect and this extends to ‘disabled parking spaces’, which I have not never seen being misused. There are fewer of them (obviously) as they are located in a rural area, but rather than having to accept abuse and intolerance, whenever I have had to use one people nearby are very helpful regardless of their age and my own stereotypes. For example, I have to admit that I was wary when a young man pulled up alongside our car at a supermarket with his music blaring! However, on seeing me get out of the car assisted by my partner who had unloaded our wheelchair, he immediately offered to help and even after we politely declined, he was charming and held the wheelchair still whilst my partner helped me sit down and sort out my feet on the foot pegs.

    And it doesn’t stop there – the small supermarket has only 3 tills, but one is clearly marked as being designated for the disabled and pregnant mothers. Whenever we’ve arrived at the till, the shop assistant waves for us to come through and the people already using the till start to get out of the way and move their shopping back down the belt. We often wave them forward, saying that we are fine to wait in the queue and we often have a quiet chuckle about their politesse (all this from a nation who are not renowned for queuing, unlike us Brits!)

    • stumbling in flats says:

      wow! It sounds a whole lot better in France!
      I can only relay the experiences I have had with my mum, who has a blue badge. She’s had a terrible time this year, yet looks ‘well’. We’ve had numerous comments and snide remarks when we park in a disabled space. So I tell them my mum is ill and her driver has MS. Usually makes them pause for thought!

  3. Jane says:

    Ooooooh. Don’t start me. I’m obviously too young (thanks, I suppose) to park in a disabled spot. The glares can be ferocious, only fading slightly as my wheelchair is produced from the boot and I peel myself from the car and in to an unequivocal symbol of true cripdom.
    That’s not the case for everyone of course, and I shamefully do find myself judging. People who are truly entitled to a blue badge must be more obviously disabled than me. I catch myself far too often with these thoughts. Of course I know not all disabilities are visible, I know that the driver might be waiting for a disabled person to come back, but the population in general doesn’t care or is looking for a fight or playing disability Top Trumps. In short, people will always behave this way. Keep calm and let their tyres down.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      I think we’re all guilty of judging others in blue badge spaces?
      I would far rather have someone approach me and ask what the problem is, rather than glaring at me. Perhaps they could end up slightly more educated! Such as taxi drivers …
      The big problem is definitely invisible illnesses, and like I mentioned in my blog, for some of us it can take a monumental effort to get out and about and just knowing there may be a disabled space for us makes the whole thing easier?

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