An Embarrassing Sense Of Entitlement

Congress acknowledged that society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment. William J. Brennan, Jr.

I have a confession: I tend to get possessive and judgmental about disabled parking spaces.

Becky and I visited HOTEL COLORADO for a few days of R&R. This elegant old hotel opened in 1893 and has been modernized without losing its original charm. It’s fun to wander the porches and parlors and imagine the presence of wealthy, turn-of-the-century high society, adventurous dignitaries, and western legends.

Designers did a remarkable job of inconspicuously incorporating modern accessibility elements as they refurbished and updated. It’s a great example of how accessibility doesn’t need to compromise the character and function of a historic building. One challenge with any project like this is parking, especially accessible parking, and this is where I found some of my own attitudes challenged.

We all know that people misuse the reserved parking spaces in a variety of ways. Enforcement mitigates inappropriate use, but these and other accommodations really depend on the goodwill and respect of the vast majority. There will always be a small minority of abusers.

I mostly believe folks don’t understand the issues, and all disabilities are not created equal. Some people simply have difficulty walking more than a few feet, so they need to park as close as possible. In my case, I’d gladly push the extra distance from a normal space if there was room to load and unload my chair.

This weekend I found myself becoming angry as a large group emerged from an SUV that had just taken the last empty space. Everyone walked, no one seemed to be limping or struggling in any way. They filed happily through the hotel door while I seethed and muttered some rather un-Christian remarks. I waited for nearly fifteen minutes until someone, also walking with no visible impairment, vacated a space. Both vehicles displayed permits which I was certain had been acquired through an elaborate criminal conspiracy.

When I finally reached my room, I opened my email and read a description of Invisible Illness Week. As I looked through the information, I realized that my uncharitable grumbling revealed a terribly short-sighted bias. I was reminded that many people suffer from invisible illnesses and have needs that aren’t readily apparent.

I’m ashamed of my ungracious attitude. Of all people, I ought to know better, and I guess this just reaffirms that we all have our unique blind spots. Most visitors wouldn’t have even noticed those parked vehicles, but I’ve apparently developed a feeling of entitlement toward those spaces marked by the little blue guy in the chair. I’m not proud of that.

I try to focus on my ability rather than my disability. I’m grateful that I’m able to negotiate most situations pretty well, unlike those with less obvious but more disabling conditions. It’s a good reminder to avoid hasty judgments based on outward appearance.

What’s your reaction?

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all—the apathy of human beings. Helen Keller

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Copyright 2009 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site

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