Letter: Able-bodied people should think before using services for disabled

To the editor,

The editorial, “Lack of strict guidelines leaves door open for people to take advantage” (Citizen’s News, Feb. 9, 2018), about the lack of strict guidelines concerning the liberties able-bodied people take when our laws do not clearly prevent them from doing so made me think.

Obviously there is a need for those with “true disabilities” to have laws protecting them. But this article struck a chord in me and brought to mind a quite different abuse by those who are able-bodied.

That is the abuse of the parking spaces designated for handicapped individuals.

In the years after I was diagnosed with NASH, a non-alcohol related congenital liver disease, I went through periods when I needed one of those spaces and other times when I felt well enough to choose a different space. In other words to walk.

We have all seen people who drive around the parking lot looking for a handicapped space and then get out and walk and walk around the mall or Wal-Mart or another huge retail environment. My mother, who had a handicapped tag, once asked, “If they can walk around the mall, why can’t they walk from a further parking space into the mall?” My mother seldom used her handicapped tag except on those days when the pain from her twice broken and surgically repaired hip was intense.

In the years after my diagnoses I hardly used the tag I was entitled to. Up until the last eight months before I was hospitalized, I tried to keep up my health and physical activity was a must.  Most people do not know of the harsh toll having a congenital debilitating disease takes on the whole body. I am glad they do not. NASH or any other disease of its type is not something I would wish on anyone.

Able-bodied people who take advantage of any service designated and reserved for those with a disability, whether it be those emotional support animals as mentioned in the editorial or those motorized carts that stores provide or those handicapped designated parking spaces, should think about the individual who truly needs those things. It is an insult to those with true disabilities.

As my disease grew worse and my legs gave out, I needed to use those handicapped spaces. I could no longer drive, but the person who brought me needed to get out my wheelchair and then help me to get out of the car and into that chair. Those larger spaces are designed for that. Seeing all of those designated spaces full and watching someone with no outward appearance of needing one, get out and run into the store was heartbreaking.

Today, almost a year and half after my transplant surgery, I am happy and proud to say that I, again, no longer need that parking space at least on most days. I just want those who think “going first class,” as it was called once by someone I was talking to, is not a joke. Those who need those spaces would give most anything to not need them.

If having a disability is “going first class,” I’ll ride in coach.

Patricia Smith Zappone