When a Park Ranger Questioned My Invisible Disability
I love camping. It’s one of my favorite things to do and I wasn’t about to let my disability keep me from doing it. So I organized a camping trip with 6 friends.
We went to Saddlehorn Campground, just a little bit out from Grand Junction, Colorado. I chose it because it had cemented paths and disability spots. It was absolutely beautiful as well.
We got there on a Friday in the late afternoon. Within 5 minutes, a man rode up on his bike. “Why are you parked in a disability spot?” he asked me in an accusing tone. My official placard was hanging in the window.
In immense pain from the 4-hour drive, I responded, “Because I’m f**king disabled.”
He stood around and added, “But I’ve seen all y’all walking around.”
At this point I wasn’t alone in my anger; my friends chimed in. “Go away! Mind your own business!” they exclaimed while I yelled, “Just because I can walk tiny distances, that doesn’t mean I’m not disabled!”
He angrily, and obviously not convinced, jumped on his bike and rode off. I tried to not let it bother me, but it did. It was still gnawing at me when the park ranger came to our campsite.
“I need to see whatever proves you are disabled.” Obviously, my new “friend” had tattled on me. While the ranger was saying this, my disability placard hung visibly from the rearview mirror of the car.
My partner stood up and ushered her to look at the placard — literally right beside her. She walked away huffily as well. No apology for her hugely inappropriate behavior. Nothing.
I chose Saddlehorn for its disability-friendly campsites, but was harassed instead of finally being able to enjoy camping. Apparently, you have to be visibly disabled to not be harassed by other campers and staff.
Newsflash, Saddlehorn Park Ranger: Not all disabilities are visible. Not everyone who needs those spaces uses a wheelchair 100% of the time. Disability placards exist and aren’t easy to get without an actual condition! It is important to me to still do one of my favorite activities despite my disability, and you made it more difficult.
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