It’s Called Handicapped For a Reason

Seriously, Modern Family?

Your show has given me great empathy for gay couples who want to marry. You have given me compassion towards families who are blessed by an interracial adoption. Your show makes me laugh and cry with its painfully accurate, often hilarious takes on what a family looks like in 2015.

Yours is the only show that my disabled 19 year-old son and I can watch together and both laugh. It is one of very few things we enjoy together. We both understand the humor, the characters and the Emmy-winning writing. Your comedy is so well-written that it is universal.

Will you try to imagine my outrage at September 30th’s episode? Luke is wearing fake glasses as part of the uniform he and his teenaged friends have chosen.

Alex says, “As an actual glasses wearer, this is offensive. It’s like non-disabled people who park in handicapped spots.”

Claire responds, indignantly, “I was in and out in three minutes, young lady. And it was your stye medication I was picking up.”

News flash, Modern Family writers: three minutes is too long. Why is it that you have opened the hearts and minds of millions to so many social situations yet you are trashing one of the few rights that belong to the disabled?

I’ve written before about how my family has been accosted for using our perfectly legal handicapped permit. A man went after my 19 year-old daughter who had taken her brother to the grocery store and parked in a handicapped spot. He followed her through the parking lot and ended up banging on her windshield demanding to know what the handicap was.

When my family and I exited a restaurant in Brandon, Florida, someone had taken the time to go into the restaurant, request a cocktail napkin and write a note to me, the driver, which essentially said that my only disability appeared to be mental retardation.

No one ever thinks a handicapped placard is for a kid. Maybe it’s too painful. Maybe it’s easier to think that someone is abusing the right to park in a handicapped space. Trust me, it is not, in any way, a privilege. In order to receive a legal placard, you need a doctor’s signature on a state-issued form, and you need to take that form to the DMV, and wait in whatever long-line hell is before you. There’s no special line for the handicapped.

My friends and I have been in countless situations where someone thinks it’s okay “just this once” to park in these spaces. No one who does this ever stops to think that maybe they took the last space. Maybe they took the space from the mom who has had to drag her disabled sick kid out to get acetaminophen. Maybe they took the space from the elderly man whose pain is so great that he risks the nerve-assaulting steps into the pharmacy just so he can get medicine to help with the pain.

It doesn’t matter. If you don’t have a permit and the handicapped person isn’t with you, it is illegal for you to park in that space. There’s no “it’s okay because it’s only three minutes” space. There’s no time it’s ever okay.

Here’s the raw, uncomfortable truth: handicapped spaces should be the least of our concerns. Our kids have pain and challenges that most of the population can’t begin to even want to understand.  When I requested Caleb’s doctor to sign for the form, he qualified in so many areas that she didn’t know which to fill out.

“Take your pick,” I said, trying to keep my chin up so I wouldn’t cry.

Here’s the bottom line: let’s all stop acting like it’s okay to ever, ever take up a handicapped spot if we don’t have the placard and the handicapped person in the car with us.

Trust me. You most likely would not want to trade even three minutes of our lives for three minutes of the blessedly uncomplicated lives that you live.

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