DEAR ABBY: I suffered a serious accident at work and have endured numerous surgeries, with another on the horizon. Because the injuries are in the cervical and lumbar areas, they are not visible.
Last week, I parked my car in a handicapped spot in the supermarket parking lot. Having a proper tag on my license plate, I didn't think twice about it. As I entered the store, a woman who had parked nearby started shouting at me, saying I shouldn't have parked where I did. I indicated she should read my plate, to which she then replied that I was "phony" for taking advantage of the system. I imagine she thought this because I was walking unaided that day.
Abby, please inform your readers that not all injuries are visible and not to assume that someone is taking advantage because he or she doesn't meet your expectations of how a disabled person "should" appear.
- Hurting in Northern California
DEAR HURTING: Gladly. This subject has appeared in my column before. You are correct that not all disabilities are visible. One that comes to mind would be a heart problem that prevents a patient from walking long distances. Another would be multiple sclerosis.
Readers, if you are concerned that someone is gaming the system, rather than confront the person, write down the license number of the car with the handicap plate and inform the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you are correct, the authorities will be interested in that information. And if you are not, you won't have caused someone who already has problems additional distress.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.