Disabilities not always apparent

In regards to the article that was written in the Sept. 28 issue of the Pioneer concerning “lazy” people who have been observed using the buttons to open doors or who use the handicapped stalls in the restrooms, but aren’t relying on crutches, canes or wheelchairs, allow me to share some information. This article, if left untouched, can create a hostile environment for students that is unnecessary and unwarranted.

The simple task of opening a door that is pressurized, such as the ones we have at OCCC, is extremely difficult if you are in acute pain or if you have difficulty maintaining your balance. Some students are suffering from non-physical, but equally debilitating illnesses such as [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] and leaving home is a struggle every day. They may have no problem bumping the button with a fist, but touching a door handle could be unmanageable.

According to USA Today, a study completed with Stanford University noted that “as many as 40 million people” suffer from chronic (and sometimes debilitating) pain, 44 percent of those are “acute or short term.” According to the UOCD, about 3.3 million adults have OCD.

I suffer from a disorder called fibromyalgia. I also have arthritis, hypothyroidism and a severe neurological disorder from an accident with a semi (among other things).The joints in my thumbs have been removed and ligaments are threaded through bone to allow some use of them. I’ve had surgeries on my knee, feet, and both hands. It is difficult to get up and go to school each day. No, I don’t use a cane, crutch, or wheelchair. That doesn’t mean I’m not disabled.

I push the button to open the door. My hands have problems pulling it open and it causes pain in my joints as well. I use the handicapped access stalls because I am disabled and the higher seat and rails help in ways a healthy person could never understand. You may see me walking, but may notice I have to sit down every so often because the pain is too bad.

You can’t judge a person by their outward appearance. You never know what they are feeling or experiencing unless you take the time to get to know them.

The person who seems grouchy may have just lost a loved one; the student who is behind on homework may have been in the emergency room during the last week and is now receiving care from a cardiologist (as in the situation with my daughter, also a disabled student at OCCC). The healthy looking guy sporting a six pack may be diabetic and require dialysis.

The first day I visited this campus, the woman who gave the tour ranted endlessly of how a disabled person in her class took advantage because she was allowed to use a special pen to write with. Since then I’ve heard other negative remarks and judgments about the disabled.

(Many times) I enter a classroom to find the disabled chair has been moved, and I have to [move] it and the chair that was put in its place. Sometimes it’s missing, behind a professor’s desk or has a student sitting in it. What about the people who park in the handicapped spaces to “just run in for a minute” so that I can’t find a space? There are more examples, but you get the point.

It’s time OCCC began educating students and faculty about what a disability is and isn’t, and why accommodations are necessary. If someone says they are disabled, don’t judge or assume that you understand what [that person] can and cannot do. Let Student Services take care of the verifications.

Remember the adage of “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, at least in this situation it is true.

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