I recently attended a public consultation session to discuss potential federal accessibility legislation (there’s still time to contribute). Minister Carla Qualtrough was there, and people with all sorts of disabilities each got four minutes to voice their concerns and offer their input.

One person who has an episodic, invisible disability said that more distressing than her condition were the dirty looks she got from strangers who couldn’t reconcile her ability to walk with her disability parking permit. In an earlier post I mentioned the mental burden of the emotional labour people with visible disabilities have to do to get others to be comfortable around them and about their disability. It seems people with invisible disabilities have a different mental burden that comes from not looking disabled enough. Having to worry about proving their disability or justifying their use of services adds to an already heavy mental load from the condition itself.

I completely understand the urge to call out abusers of the system. We don’t like feeling deceived or taken advantage of, and we may feel as though we’re protecting the services for people who need them. But unless we are absolutely sure someone is committing fraud (in which case, report away to the proper authorities), our suspiciousness—or, rather, our physical manifestations thereof—seems to be twisting the knife on people who already have a lot to worry about.

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