InvisidisabilityReading Time: 4 minutes
People really like to have their opinions on the world. People also tend to enjoy things being either black or white, visible or invisible, is or is not.
Some of the most divisive arguments I’ve had are based on people’s thinking being black and white. Politics tends to be this way, I know I’m not alone in getting this (as a friend has described their experience with this to me), but people really have it drilled in that if you don’t agree with 1 thing then you’re on the opposite end and the worst person.
For example, I don’t think Greens policy is very practical. It looks nice, sure, but I don’t think it is costed properly and I don’t think people realise that the money needs to come from somewhere. Because of that, I must love the Liberals and, by extension, be a racist homophobe who wants to tread on the lower class. Yes, people think that. You don’t like one thing and you’re not on their side so you must be the polar opposite.
I can shrug off that sort of mentality, I don’t think it is productive, but if I had to explain and correct this every single time it happened I’d drive myself insane.
This black and white attitude though, does piss me off sometimes, and it comes down to disabilities. I’m going to leave my learning disability out of this one today because that’s a subject I want to write about on it’s own. But I will go in to detail about, well, I don’t think of it as a disability in the sense that I don’t want it to affect my life, but it is there and it does sometimes affect it.
For background, about a year ago, I had a reasonably minor motorcycle accident. I want to say it wasn’t major, but the bike got written off and I do now have constant pain in the shoulder and in the knee. Because of that, I have trouble walking long distances without it becoming painful.
I can stand fine stationary without issue, put weight on it, things like that, but the motion, it causes pain, and depending on the day it can be walk 50 meters and enjoy a nice case of ‘fuck you’ pain for the day. It doesn’t help that I also have arthritis in the knee too (thanks mum!).
But alas, this qualified me for a disabled parking permit, and, though I again, don’t want to face it, I guess it is a disability.
You Look Fine
I don’t use a walking stick, I don’t have anything externally visible that shows I have a busted knee, except a bit of a limp. I also continue to ride my motorbike everywhere.
Because of this, I look fine! This is where people’s black and white views come in. I don’t look disabled, I can ride a motorbike perfectly fine, so obviously it isn’t real. Obviously you’re not disabled and you certainly don’t need to park in a disabled spot.
I don’t deserve to have rights because my disability is invisible. That’s what some people seem to think.
What gets to me though, is some of my friends think this way too. Then that makes me feel guilty or ashamed to have to ask them to use a disabled bay or try and park closer to wherever it is we are going.
I live in Victoria, so 99% of the time, I don’t actually need or use the disability permit. Why? Because parking on the footpath, which is legal in Victoria, is still closer than most disabled bays.
The only time I really use a disabled bay is at work, purely because they won’t allow me to park on the footpath. Which is fine and is fair.
I don’t own a car. So I never really need to use my permit outside of work. But when I do, I’m almost guaranteed to have someone make a snarky comment about how disabled bays are not for motorcycles, or how I don’t look disabled, or any number of things.
That’s not your right to comment. If you’re genuinely concerned, call whoever manages the carpark and they can go through the motions, that’s fine. But you’re not a parking inspector or a doctor, and I’m not going to explain what’s wrong with me to every random Karen who doesn’t like it.
Cars and Friends
When I’m interstate, is when I use the permit most. Either I’m borrowing a car, or I’m out with friends. I bring my permit just in case I’m having a shitty day and my knee is not playing along.
I was assessed for the permit and given it based on the assessment criteria. My doctor checked my injuries, the legislation, all of it, and submitted the paperwork to the relevant authority who then issued the permit. So, based on the above, I was deemed entitled to have one.
I’ve had friends who refused to park their cars in a disabled bay even with my permit on display. “You don’t need it, it’s only a little further” or “I don’t want to get a fine because of your dodgy permit” are some of the excuses I’ve heard.
I’m not happy with the fact I have to put up with a permanent knee injury because some dipstick P plater didn’t look out the window before changing lanes. But that’s the cards I got handed to me.
I do still ride my motorbike, because 1, it doesn’t make my knee worse as far as I can tell, and 2, because I’m not giving up something I love because I need to fit in someone elses box on how the world should be.
It hasn’t been something easy to accept, that there are things that I might not be able to fully do. I don’t let it bother me. I try to push hard at the gym, try and improve the muscle mass around my knee, try to do the things I can to make it better for me.
On good days, I do try and walk as far as I can. To enjoy a good day, and to to make things go backwards.
But hearing people judge me because I don’t look disabled, telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, that is offensive and that does hurt. It reminds me of my own limitations and also reminds me that people are cunts when they want to be.
Even worse is when it comes from friends. It makes me feel I can’t ask you to show courtesy, or that I, once again, need to hide something from you. Pretend everything is fine, pretend I’m not experiencing pain because you think my problem doesn’t exist. Is that really how you want to treat a friend? Like a liar or a fake?
Disabilities aren’t black and white. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t make it less real. Think about it before you open your mouth about it.