originally published in THE PENN

LORI FERGUSON Penn Contributing Writer
Issue date: 9/27/04 Section: Opinion

I knew it was going to happen someday — I had been expecting it for years — but I was shocked when it did. When I pulled out of a handicapped parking space a man stared at me with such hostility that I felt like the most vile creature on the planet.I yelled out my window, “It’s my tag!” in reference to my blue handicapped parking tag, but I don’t think that appeased him.Did I need to show him the scars from the 10 surgeries I’ve had in the past four years to prove to him that I “earned” the right to use that tag?I am only 33, and I do not “look” disabled.My disabilities are not obvious, for neuropathy, fibromyalgia, arthritis, tendinitis and other conditions I am afflicted with are not outwardly visible.When I say I cannot do something, it’s not laziness. It’s not a “bad attitude.” It’s not me trying to get you to do my work. If I can’t do something, it’s not from a lack of desire, but from a lack of physical ability.Do you have any idea how hard it is to not be able to do simple tasks, like tying a knot, that others take for granted?I am not looking for sympathy. All I want is understanding and less condemnation — and a little more patience.It frustrates me when a cashier shoves my bag and change at me, and the next customer literally breathes down my neck! I’m not trying to “hold up the line” — my hands are so sore it’s hard for me to put my change away quickly. I’m moving as fast as I can! And I need the elevator because navigating stairs upwards wears me out and hurts too much — not because I am lazy.My gratitude goes out to Cherie Wein, whose letter in the Sept. 22 edition of The Penn also addressed hidden disabilities.Knowing that I am not alone in this plight helps. Perhaps our combined efforts will aid others to be more conscientious of disabled people like us.