Every Monday Matters: Respect the disabled
By Matthew Emerzian and Kelly Bozza
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) 54 million or more people aged 5 and older have a non-institutionalizing disability.
25 million disabled are of an employable age.
78 percent want to be employed, but only 33 percent have a job.
Disabilities are more often caused by accidents, illnesses, or late-emerging effects of genetics than by congenital disorders.
Not all severe disabilities can be detected by the human eye.
More than 15 percent of the cars parked in a handicapped parking space are parked illegally.
TAKE ACTION TODAY
Don't park in a handicapped parking space or use handicapped plates or placards illegally. Designated parking for the handicapped is a necessity for them, not an opportunity for you to save yourself a few steps.
Don't use handicapped bathroom stalls unless you're handicapped. A handicapped person's need to use the restroom may be just as urgent as yours, and it often takes them longer to prepare to use the facilities.
Drive cautiously and courteously. When you see a handicapped license plate, slow down and show consideration rather than tailgating or honking.
Help people who need assistance by opening a door, rolling a wheelchair up or down an incline, carrying shopping bags, or offering an arm in challenging weather conditions or on uneven walkways.
The majority of people with disabilities want to be totally integrated into all aspects of society. With more awareness, respect, and helpfulness, you can make someone's life a little bit easier. People don't plan on getting disabilities, but it happens every day. One day, that disabled person may even be you.
"I always considered myself to be someone who respects everybody and is always looking out for other people," said Mark Garrison, of Lancaster, Ohio. "It is kind of the way our whole community is, so I guess I was just raised that way. It's that small town mentality."
Hearing about people like Mark is music to the ears. People who care. People who believe in community and the idea that we are all in this together. But sometimes life can bring little reminders that not only show us how we are doing things right, but also how remind us of how we could do it just a tad bit better. And, in the end, that's a good thing.
"I share this experience with you partially out of embarrassment, but also to show that there are so many little ways that we can make a difference ... or not," shared Mark. "One of my pet peeves is when I see non-handicapped people park in handicapped parking spots. It really upsets me."
Well, here is where life brings Mark one of those little reminders ...
Recently, Mark walked into a public restroom that was pretty crowded and he was in a rush. With all the regular stalls taken, Mark noticed that the handicapped stall was available. Because of the type of person he is, coupled with his aforementioned pet peeve, Mark was in conflict. He knew he shouldn't use it, but he decided to anyways.
"I think I stood there for a few seconds before making the decision. It was almost as though I had to look around first to see if the coast was clear," admitted Mark.
As fate would have it, as soon as Mark locked the latch, a disabled man came into the restroom in a wheelchair ... and he had to "go" (for lack of a better way of putting it). With Mark occupying the handicapped stall, there was really nothing the man could do but wait. And wait ... until Mark finally opened the door.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I opened the door," said Mark. "It was like I had been caught."
Not to take the story to a strange place, but now there was an emergency at hand because this poor gentleman didn't have a second to spare. He hurriedly rolled himself into the stall and slammed the door, while Mark stood there feeling awful about what he had done.
"It was honestly one of those moments I will never forget," said Mark. "I felt so bad that, even though I was already running late, I waited outside the bathroom until the man came out. I just had to apologize to him."
When the gentleman came out of the bathroom, Mark was there to let him know how bad he felt. The good news for both of them is that the man made it just in time and everything was OK. But Mark walked away with one of the little reminders that life can give us.
"I might as well have parked my car in a disabled parking spot," said Mark. "I will never do it again and hope that people can learn from my experience."
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.
© 2009, The Modesto Bee Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services