Seeing To Believe
Last week I read a story about an ex-army squaddie who was lambasted for using a disabled parking space at the Tesco in Prestatyn. The complainant was unaware of the fact that this chap had a concealed prosthetic limb, so thought they were well within their right to publicly condemn him on Facebook. The squaddie took the incident in relatively good spirits and didn't seem to mind proving his eligibility - especially as the ostensibly negative attention had resulted in good publicity for his business.
In response to the accusation he wrote a message on Facebook where he identified the nature of his disability and its origin. For me, the most interesting part of his response is where he says: "...if you had taken the time to simply ask me on both occasions I would have happily stuck my prosthetic leg in your face." The idea that someone would confront another person to insist that they prove their disability is, quite frankly, uncivil. And yet it resonates perfectly with the current social climate.
Everyday, new stories appear regarding the injustice of the DWP's PiP assessment methods. Everyday, people of varying disability are being ordered to prove their impairment and push their ability to its limits. It's a disgraceful situation that reflects poorly upon our society and this government. And it's a mindset that's filtering into everyday life, where, instead of trusting that someone has an invisible disability, we feel the need to make them prove it.
The danger for the disabled community is that this ableist attitude toward non-visible disability becomes a divisive weapon that splits us into two groups: visible vs invisible. As a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, I am at the far end of the visible spectrum, and as such, will rarely ever have to prove my disability (though there was this one woman at a bar who refused to believe the wheelchair was mine, but that's another story).
The point is that, in some ways, I feel as if I have it easier than someone who suffers from an invisible condition because I'm instantly validated by society as a worthy recipient of the disabled tag. It's a strange mindset to occupy, because I'm potentially sympathising with people whose condition may not be as debilitating as mine, but who suffer a worse social stigma - one of suspicion and disbelief.