I was in two different...discussions (I don't want to call them arguments because they were mostly civil) this week in regards to disability. Both left me very disappointed and a little hurt because of some of the remarks made by people of whom I thought better.
The first came because someone was complaining that their boss "played favorites" by cutting a co-worker who was going through personal issues slack and the person who was initiating the conversation was resentful that they had to do what they felt was extra work. My first response was to pose a question:
"I don't mean to be offensive- but you do know what this person has going on that may be causing the manager to cut her some slack? For example- I have medical conditions that are chronic and painful. I have learned to live with them but when they flare up at best I can manage to get to work and give customer service all day, There are days I can't lift a stack of 5 mass market paperbacks to save my life. There are better days when I power through a pallet of textbooks by myself. Just looking at me, you would never know and I don't update everyonebecause my medical issues are between me and my regional and I know that I give 100% of what I am capable of every day."
The immediate response behind me was:
They hired that person under the condition that'd they be able to lift a certain amount and do a certain amount. I think it's unfair if they have a medical condition. Why should you have to suffer. (I am a rotten human being, PS.)
My next thought was "Wow, so this person thinks that my fellow chronic illness people and I should just go away so we don't inconvenience anyone?" I said something to that effect and that when I was hired I was perfectly healthy- that the illnesses didn't start for several year and that when I am doing well I work my tailfeathers off to sort of "make up for" when I am not well- and that I don't feel the need to broadcast when I am not feeling well and why because it's between my boss and I and my medical issues are no one's business. They replied that we (people with chronic illnesses) should just get a new job because it not fair to anyone else that they would have to pick up our slack. I was even more dismayed when several other people chimed in with the same attitude along with sharing articles about "dealing with lazy-coworkers" and such. Now- not everyone was like-minded. That cooled the steam coming out of my ears but I had to walk away because until then I had not encountered in "real life" that attitude and I was too shocked to be civil.
The second was regarding handicapped parking spaces. The Today Show did a story on Facebook "Name and Shame" pages because someone left a note on a Coke truck parked in a handicapped spot to unload that said "Congratulatons! You will be featured on the Disability Parking Wall of Shame. Take care!" Someone that I know casually replied that they see able-bodied people get out of cars in handicapped spots- what's the difference?" A couple of people replied that not everyone who is disabled needs a wheel chair and one woman said "You may look at me and see a full-bodied person but not all disabilites are visible."
There was a bit of back and for but to which the person I know replied" Well if you can physically walk and move around then no need for a permit!!!! There are all kinds of disabilities and some do not require a front row parking spot!!!" to which I finally chimed in with: "Actually- I have several illnesses that are chronic, incurable, painful and limit my mobility. While I may look great getting out of my car, I use the cart to lean on for balance and just walking around Kroger and standing in line can cause my joints to flare up and my back to go into spasm. Looking at me- you don't know that I am legally disabled, but I am and that's why I have a handicap plate on my car. I shouldn't have to tattoo my medical conditions on my forehead because someone doesn't think I look disabled enough. Many of us in the autoimmune disease community deal with this all the time- and it only adds to the stress of living with the diseases.
There has been no reply since so I am hoping that we made her think. I was a little taken back though. I have dealt with people like that in my real life so it was less shocking. I just think what threw me was who it was coming from and how adamant they were.
Perhaps it's because I am taking longer than normal to "recover" from my Rush period; perhaps it's because I have been having more "I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired" thoughts of late but I seem to be more hypersensitive to the school of thought that if people are disabled they should just go away so able-bodied people are not inconvienced or that unless someone can see what's "wrong" with you, you must be trying to abuse the "privliges" that really disabled people get.
I guess what I want to say is this: Unless you know someone personally, unless you know what's going on in their lives, don't just look at someone and make a snap judgement. It's no one's business WHY we have a handicapped plates on our car. It's no one's business why we are allowed to take it easy at times. Unless you want us to ask you about extremely private questions about your life, your medical history- don't expect us to divulge that information just because you decide that we don't "look disabled" enought for your tastes.