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"An Eye-Opening Experience"

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Dear Tasha,

I really don’t know where to begin, because I’m really embarrassed to tell this story and ask for advice. I have a good friend that I’ve known since junior high school and let me just say that we are in our luscious forties now. She and I don’t get the opportunity to spend a lot of time together due to our family responsibilities; husbands, jobs and just life, but when we do we have a great time. However, we do make time to talk on the phone at least once a week and text mostly during work hours when we want to share something. I must admit that what I’m about to share I hold myself accountable for as well. My friends mother has a disability, which is barely noticeable at times, but when she’s having a bad day walking is difficult for her. A few years ago, her mother received a handicapped sign for parking, so when she takes her mother out for whatever reasons she can use it for parking. With the excitement of her having the handicapped license we would go out and park at the first available designated handicapped spot, even when her mother wasn’t with us. It didn’t matter where we were; shopping mall, grocery story, bank, or school. If it was a spot open, we were taking it. All this seemed harmless, until my job conducted a sensitivity simulation at work and I was the person with a disability and confined to a wheel-chair. As we were conducting the simulation I had to rely on people to help me with everything; getting out of the chair, getting back in the chair, opening doors, moving objects for me to pass in the aisle. I felt so bad and realized that what my girlfriend and I was doing was wrong. My eyes have been opened to the reality and struggles that people with disabilities face daily. I need to help her understand that she should only use the sign when she’s with her mother and not for our outings.

Signed, Shameful Acts

Dear Shameful Acts,

My dear friend, yes this is a shameful act. However, I appreciate you owning up to your indiscretions and your eye-opening experience is something that a lot of people need. Everyone wants to have the close spot when they are out taking care of business, going to the restaurant, shopping or whatever, but there are a few of us that don’t mind walking to get in those extra steps. What really bothers me here, is that you and your friend should understand what it’s like for people with disabilities, especially your friend, because her mother has a disability and I’m sure it took a lot of paper work and proven medical conditions for her mother to obtain a special tag for her disability. People with disabilities and the ones with serious disabilities had to take the long road to have special rights in this day. Many years ago, they didn’t have the opportunity to experience a life of freedom, they were unable to go into public places because the accommodations were not available. Can you imagine what it’s like to not be able to go to the movies? The inability to wheel themselves into doors? But, with new laws, this required owners of businesses and anyone providing services to people to install proper ramps, widen doors and make accommodations in restroom. People with disabilities have the right to be accommodated when they are out in public just like people without disabilities. Share your training with your friend and let her know that you would prefer to walk and allow the opportunity for a person with a disability to utilize the open handicapped spot. I’m sure she will understand and come to the same conclusion that your previous acts were wrong and shameful. My dad always said; “Walking is good for you and it’s not out of style!”

Signed, Tasha

Talk to Tasha @ [email protected]

 

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