My recent item about able-bodied drivers swiping parking spaces set aside for the handicapped prompted several readers to make an important point. Sorry to have overlooked it.

As Margaret Hernick of Riverdale puts it, "Please ask people not to be too quick to judge; an apparently able-bodied individual . . . may have a condition which may not be obviously debilitating but which equally qualifies them for special parking consideration."

That's true of those with heart conditions, lung diseases, kidney ailments and many other infirmities, Margaret. No slight intended to anyone handicapped in any of those ways.

Of course, as those folks know better than I, people are always assuming that anyone not confined to a wheelchair, or walking with a cane, is able-bodied. Several callers with "invisible handicaps" described how they'll be getting into a car parked in a handicapped-only space, and strangers will walk up to them and say, "Hey, lady, you look pretty healthy to me. Why don't you park where you belong? What's your handicap, anyway?"

I particularly liked the way a woman from Arlington deals with that last question.

She has kidney disease, which requires dialysis treatment every few days. The more she walks, the more quickly she needs treatment. So she has a clear need for handicapped-only parking, even though she'd look fine to you or me.

Whenever someone asks what's wrong with her, she will say:

"I'm blind."

Then she'll get in her car and drive away.