Do you remember when you applied for a handicapped license plate?
I put it off for quite a while after I was diagnosed. After all, I could walk several city blocks fairly easily. I could still play a little tennis. Why did I need to park in a handicapped spot? But, there were days when I did. I needed that privilege when it was hot. I needed it when I was extra tired, or when rain or snow made slipping a distinct possibility.
The thing is, as many of you know very well, I didn’t look like I was dragging. I didn’t look like someone with a handicap. That’s the problem that Aneta Prantera, who has MS and lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, recently faced.
Aneta is 29 years old and she was diagnosed about four years ago, after she lost the vision in one of her eyes. She’s an example of someone who looks healthy but who needs to use her handicapped parking permit on those tough days that we all have. That’s what she was doing, not long ago, in the parking lot of a large shopping center near her home. When Anita returned to her car after shopping, she found an angry note on its windshield. “A handicap permit is meant for handicap Only! You are not handicap. You should be assamed (sic) of yourself for taking a handicap spot simply because you are Lazy. Shame – shame.”
Aneta told the St. Catherine’s Standard newspaper it wasn’t the first time she’d heard about where she parks. But this was different. “There’s always a comment. There’s always something under someone’s breath. I shake it off when I hear it, but to come out to a letter on my car like that, I was taken back and in shock that people are that ignorant.” In tears, Aneta called her sister Christina to tell her what happened.
It all might have ended with that call. Another “shake-off” of another person who just doesn’t get it that some disabilities aren’t obvious. But Christina wouldn’t let it go. She posted a photo of the note on Facebook, along with this comment:
“I don’t usually make posts like this one but felt the need to share and hopefully educate this person or anyone else how feels the need to not mind their own business. This afternoon around 3pm my sister Aneta Prantera called Jada Melia and I very upset (crying and shaking to be honest) some extremely ignorant uneducated person decided it was their duty to leave this horrible msg for her on her car in the pen centre parking lot. As many of you know my sister was diagnosed at a very young age with multiple sclerosis. This chronic progressive disease is a daily struggle for her and the last thing she needs to be dealing with is being upset or feeling ashamed because she needs to park close to the entrance. Instead of taking the time to write this hurtful hateful note you need to spend more time educating yourself. Luckily she will get over this and move forward with her fight against this terrible disease that takes over too many young women’s (and peoples lives) but how disgusting of you to belittle someone else when you have no clue what they are struggling with. SHAME SHAME you say…. Shame on you!!!! I don’t know how you sleep at night. Please help me out and share this post so that maybe it can help educate people so that this type of nonsense doesn’t go on anymore.”
Christina’s Facebook post was shared more than 2,500 times in less than a week. She told the Standard, “I wanted people to understand that this isn’t acceptable. Something that was really bad and negative … turned extremely positive. By the end of the day (Aneta) was so overjoyed by the response that she got.”
Bravo, Christina! But, here’s the thing. The person who wrote the note, as nasty as it was, may have truly believed that Aneta had no handicap. He or she may have a relative with a disability, or may even be disabled … but with no understanding that some disabilities, like MS, can have symptoms that aren’t evident to someone watching.
So, here’s my question to you: how can we educate people about the sometimes invisible symptoms that many of us carry? What can be done so that there are no more nasty comments or notes, like the one that was left for Aneta?
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Multiple Sclerosis.