Handicapped Parking: A Guilt-Free Zone

One of the most universally recognized symbols is that of the handicapped parking space. We all recognize the blue wheelchair and what it means… but not all handicapped people use wheelchairs.

There’s nothing quite so irritating as watching a perfectly healthy-looking person step out from a handicapped parking space and stroll into the store. But things are not always as they seem.

People with multiple sclerosis often appear healthy and strong even though they have difficulty walking for any length of time. Problems with fatigue, stamina, balance, and coordination can interfere with daily activities, but there are tools at our disposal that can make normal daily errands much easier. One of those is the handicapped parking placard.

If you have difficulty walking or standing for more than a few minutes, you might want to consider applying for a placard. The ability to park close to a place of business or shopping center could make all the difference in the world when it comes to maintaining a sense of independence.

How to get a handicapped placard or license plate:

- The information you need, along with the application, are available online from the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state. Details may vary from state to state.

- You may request a temporary placard (used for injuries or illnesses which are expected to heal) or a permanent one (used for permanent disabilities). A physician’s signature is required.

- Choose the license plate or the placard that hangs from the rear view mirror. The placard is more versatile– you can carry it with you and use it in any vehicle– and is legal throughout the country.

What you should know about your handicapped placard:

- It is illegal to lend your placard to anyone else for any reason and can result in heavy penalties. And it’s just wrong to allow able-bodied people to take up handicapped parking spaces.

- Place the placard on your rear view mirror when you park and remove it when you exit. Do not drive with it hanging from the rear view mirror if it is blocking your view.

- Don’t get in the habit of using it when you don’t really need too. Whenever possible, take advantage of those few extra steps to work your leg muscles.

- Forget about guilt. The handicapped parking spaces exist to help people like us. Life is tough enough without feeling guilty over this minor “perk.”

- If you happen to run across the disapproving looks of passersby, don’t let it get to you. You are under no obligation to explain yourself to strangers. If you’re so inclined, you could use it as an opportunity to spread awareness of the reality of life with MS.

Multiple sclerosis, like other invisible illnesses, can conjure up all manner of emotional turmoil. It’s hard to understand what you can’t see, and equally difficult to constantly justify yourself to other people — but there’s no reason in the world why we should have to.

My handicapped parking placard, though seldom used, gives me tremendous peace of mind. More often than not, it remains in my glove compartment, but when called into action, it makes an otherwise daunting task manageable. That’s not something I’m going to feel guilty about.

Got a story involving handicapped parking spaces? Share in the comment section below.

Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a multiple sclerosis patient, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a regular contributor to Care2.com’s Reform Health Policy blog in Causes.

65 comments

W. C
W. Cabout a month ago

Thanks for the information.

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William C
William Cabout a month ago

Thank you for caring.

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FOTEINI H
FOTEINI h8 months ago

sign petition about handicapped people: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/672/098/742/3-wheeler-for-physically-handicapped-persons/

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K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

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Anne W.
Anne W.6 years ago

Multiple Sclerosis is NOT an invisible illness. How incredibly selfish to put MS patients in the same category as those with 'invisible' non-mobility disabilities. MS is a legitimate, not to mention terrible disease. that virtually always causes some type of mobility impairment.

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Tony B.
Tony B7 years ago

I believe if you have the permit you have the right to park there. Technically the handicapped parking permits are only for disabled drivers. Disabled passengers are supposed dropped off and picked up at designated loading zones. Unfortunately most places do not have theses loading zones.

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Dan S.
Dan S.7 years ago

I recently had foot surgery and was given a temp. disabled placard to use which made my life so much easier! Now my foot is healing but the MS fatigue, numbness, and dizziness is still there and I asked my neurologist if I could keep my placard. He said no! I guess I am not "disabled enough" to him to deserve a permanent card.

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Zach V.
martin damskov7 years ago

Look, here is the ONLY test that need be applied. If someone is going into the grocery store and walks 2 miles through the aisles, then a HANDICAP SPOT isn't needed, they can easily walk the eXtra hundred feet to the store entrance..
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What you people DO NOT understand about the handicap spots IS they allow those of us who have been paraplegics all our lives is they ALLOW US To OPEN OUR DOORS FULLY to load our wheelchairs into the car. If we are unble to FULLY open the car DOOR then we are STUCK!
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Anyone who can walk to the DOOR OF MALL doesn't need a handicap parking spot, period. Why? because you are going to walk 5 miles through the damn mall before it's all said and done.
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Why do I see people who can walk park in those LARGEST HANDICAP SPOTS at Walmart, Or Sams? I ask people who have just walked out of Sams WHY they park in a handicap spot and they try to give me that crap about MS, but I just got done following you through Sams, and was in line behind YOU!
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My best friend who is now deceased had MS, Doug told me that people with MS who become tired for walking Do NOT risk being CAUGHT out in public TOO tired to walk, I believed him because I watched him progress, plateau and repeat that cycle until he passed... Doug said that handicap spots with MS people using them are people taking advantage of their Diagnosis. He said by the time he was ill enough to take advantage of Handicap parkingm the short distances that he could walk, then be forced to rest made goi

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Cindy C.
Cindy C7 years ago

I am always the passenger. Never have I driven a car. I get tired after walking 50 feet. I have seizures. I have epilepsy.I have been able to walk without trouble for most of my life. Now it's just exhausting. The medication I have taken over so many years has caused a condition in my brain called "cerebellar atrophy" The part of the brain that controls speech and motor skills - and balance - has made walking a major chore. The cerebellum on the left side of my brain is 75 percent gone. I would like to have a placard to put into the vehicle that is taking me somewhere...I would not have to walk far...does anyone else have that same situation?

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