Last year, when we went to an amusement park, I used a disability fast- line pass – which allows people with disabilities to avoid waiting in long lines for the amusement park rides. This line pass was a godsend, as it enabled me to avoid unnecessary fatigue in the heat, and also allowed my family to have a fun time with me, when we otherwise would have needed to leave the park very early and subsequently, the kids would have missed-out on having any fun. During the use of this line pass, I had a couple of negative experiences involving people whispering, with many giving me dirty looks, etc. It was embarrassing. I had a cane that I was using, but I don’t think that helped some people’s impression, as I look younger than my age and sometimes can pass as not appearing to have anything wrong with me.
This year, my children want to go on another mini-vacation and go back to the amusement park.
If I don’t obtain and use the pass, it will be a hot miserable experience. Yet, if I do, I am sure to face crowds of angry faces and maybe some more dirty looks, perhaps even hear some rude comments.
My symptoms are more apparent now than they were a year ago, so it may not be as big of an issue, as there could be less people thinking that I am somehow cheating or “faking it” to get some special treatment.
I have decided that, regardless of the rude looks or comments, I will use obtain and use that pass. My family deserves a fun time, and that is more important to me than what some strangers may think or communicate.
When someone with a disability gets stared at, it could be for many reasons: because the person gawking at him or her may have sympathy, pity, maybe understands from having a family member with a physical condition, is curious as to what is wrong, or maybe even has scorn. Either way, it is that person’s own thoughts, feelings, and interpretations and I have little control over that.
In other aspects of being disabled, I still avoid taking the last handicapped parking spot and try to walk from a regular parking space if I am feeling up to it (as to avoid occupying a spot that someone who is in worse shape than myself can access the spot). I do find myself using handicapped parking more often these days, because my disease has progressed to the extent that certain factors such as: fatigue, uneven ground, amount of walking needing to be done, energy level, and medication effectiveness at the time I am needing to go to whatever the place is, now have even more of an impact on my ability to walk and maintain balance and stamina. In addition, I have noticed that sometimes parking in a disabled spot has an alerting effect that I have a medical condition – as opposed to people assuming that I might be intoxicated or perhaps high on some drug; as there are times when my Parkinson’s symptoms could easily be confused as alcohol intoxication (I wobble, slur my speech, etc.) or I could be confused as having effects of methamphetamine (I have myoclonic jerks, twitches, and a blank facial/eye gaze).
When people meet me and ask what I do (for work), I tell them that I am retired – which usually brings up more questions. When I tell them that I am disabled due to Parkinson’s disease, I occasionally (on a really good day or time) will get the response, “But, you don’t look sick”. Thankfully, for that moment, I can point to the effectiveness of my treatment and explain to the person that if he or she lived with me, or was around me for an extended period of time, that it would be apparent to him or her that I truly do have a debilitating condition. Unfortunately though, those comments aren’t happening as much as they used to.