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.