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How many of us have noticed someone taking up an accessible parking space and then walking in a store with no apparent signs of a disability? They may have no wheel chair, cane or walker visible the driver merely stepped out the vehicle and strolls on their way. How many of us have complained about the number of accessible parking place at a local store? The word visible is the key here, what the eye sees may not be the whole story. Many of us may judge from a false assumption that these spots are just for mobility issues.

Some disabilities are more obvious than others. There are visible and invisible disabilities. So what are invisible disabilities? Simply, this refers to disabilities we cannot readily be seen. There is a whole gamut of hidden disabilities. Before we judge, make comments or worse yet to stare and giving “dirty” looks. Awareness of some of these invisible disabilities might benefit us all and enhance our understanding of not only our own lives but the difficulties others may face. Just like most people, people with disabilities strive and work, sometimes twice as hard, to be part of a community. People work to keep their life as independent as possible. This is not to say there aren’t people in the world who feel entitled and feel privileged about having a right to use these reserved spaces. Those people are out there and have to live with themselves. Invisible disabilities can offer as many challenges to everyday life as a visible disability, but because they are not seen they can add additional hardships.

To begin discussing invisible disabilities, there is a very good website: https://mymoderndeardiaryblog.com/2017/12/17/50-invisible-reasons-someone-needs-accessible-parking/

The site list 50 different invisible conditions, qualifying as a disability, warranting an accessible parking permit. It should be mentioned that this is by no means a complete list, but rather a good start at learning that there is often more than meets the eye. Here are a few other conditions which place a non-visible strain on the body:

Cystic Fibrosis: A genetic disorder, damaging the lungs and other parts of the body.

Congestive Heart Failure: The heart pumps an inadequate amount of blood for the body’s needs. Commonly people with this condition have shortness of breath and excess tiredness.

Pulmonary Fibrosis: A lung disease, damaging the lungs causing scar tissue to form. As a result there is often breathing difficulties with shortness of breath, weight loss, aching muscles and joints and fatigue.

Huntington’s disease: A progressive brain disease normally with uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs, face and upper body, also there is a decline in thinking and Reasoning skills which includes concentration and ability to plan.

Fibromyalgia: Often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, symptoms are generally wide spread muscle aches and fatigue.

This is by no means a complete list, these are real disabilities having a dramatic impact on a person’s life, but they are not readily recognized. For many of these unseen disabilities also have the side effect of unwanted weight gain, which bring about even more glares as if to say “if you parked at end of the parking lot and walked you wouldn’t be so fat.” We all need to understand that obesity itself is often the result of many different factors. Although it is unhealthy, we are not all petite sized and maybe totally unaware that not all weight gain is the consequences of being a lover of eating and laziness.

Finally, we have all heard criticisms relating to the number of reserved parking spots in front of our local mall or favorite store, but according to the U.S. Justice Dept. website at: www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm “More than 50 million Americans – 18% of our population – have disabilities and that’s on national level.” Looking a little closer to home, the New York State Department of Health website at: http://health.ny.gov/community/disabiity/prevalence.htm shows in New York State,” about one in five of the non-institutionalized population (about 3million people) or 22.5% of the population report an activity limitation.” While we consider the number of accessible parking places disproportionate, many have not taken into account the number of people with disabilities; thoughtful appreciation for those who are forced to live a totally different life style from many of us because of a disability is required. There is no doubt that anyone forced to have a special license plate or tag hanging from the rear view mirror, would gladly give it up to enjoy a non-disabled life.

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