Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gettin’ that Blue Placard

In the fall of 2009, it arrived in the mail. That unisex white dude in a wheelchair, laminated on blue, with a perfectly cut hook for your rearview mirror. When filling out the application for the handicapped placard I felt so guilty. Was I lying? New Mexico says to get such a placard, I had certify that I couldn’t walk 100 feet without stopping to rest. Well, I live on a postage stamp—not even 1/10 of an acre—and the distance from my driveway to my bedroom is farther. Technically I could make it 33 meters without stopping at the couch—using my walker I don’t need to pause. Or I had to certify that I couldn’t walk “without the use of a brace, cane or crutch or without assistance from another person, a prosthetic device, a wheelchair or other assistive device.” They didn’t specify “safely”—technically I could drunken sailor myself around without aids for short distances. And finally, that I was “so severely limited in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurologic or orthopedic condition that the person cannot ascend or descend more than 10 stair steps.” Given a railing and time, I could make it up a flight. Heck, I certainly could make it down (again, nothing in the language about “safely”).

So when I went to wield my new parking powers for the very first time, I did so sheepishly. Until I discovered all 48 of the handicapped spots at the mega-super-cina-plex were taken. And the entire time I was there, I saw not one person using a cane or wheelchair. Curious. The closest handicap parking spots were 500 feet from the entrance (not to mention, to get from the box office to your seat had to be another 500 feet). Which means a) the system is being grossly abused, b) there are a ton of people with cardiac and lung conditions (the only other medical conditions stated on the application), or c) the eligibility criteria is flawed. In truth, all three are probably correct. Many of my fellow MSers would not qualify under the above restrictions, but without handicap parking access, that extra 500 feet today might mean a day in bed tomorrow just to recover. So put aside that guilt, save your body, live your life, and get that placard. I did.
Originally published October 27th, 2010. Edited for clarity.

11 comments:

firefly said...

The restrictions are stupid and assume a stable level of possible activity. Some days I can run at the gym, other days I end up crawling to the bathroom b/c my legs aren't working at all and I can't hold on to the dang crutches. Even at the grocery store on marginal days, there was one day when I went in a little weak, then my right side for some reason got more tired than the left, so I could only really push the cart in circles. (Yay for having friends to get me. :D )

Either way, considering the number of people who have handicap placards because they are morbidly obese and have some sort of mental health issue causing a sever phobia of walking, I don't think anyone who has actual physical mobility problems, even if they don't quite get jammed into the right definition of "disability," should feel bad about getting the placard and using it when they actually need it. Just be mindful that if you're having a "good" day mobility-wise, someone else might not be, so don't abuse it.

Anonymous said...

I just got a "handicap" license plate the other day and use it when I need it even though I do not use any sort of assistive device.

Most people would wonder why I have it but it isn't their business. It is between me, my Dr and my state.

If someone qualifies because of obesity or a mental health condition it seems fair enough for those of us with MS not to judge them.

Dave Bexfield said...

Smart advice, firefly. I agree, when we are having a "good" day mobility-wise, leave the spot for someone who might not be having such a swell day....

Dave Bexfield said...

Anon, no matter what, if we don't "look" disabled, we'll be judged. And there's not much we can do about that, barring wearing a T-shirt that says "I'm gimpy." And even then....

Anonymous said...

Dave,

My point was that it doesn't seem right for Msers make judgements on other folks since we know how it feels to be judged. (re first comment). I probably shouldn't have said anything because it wasn't germane to your original post.

Dave Bexfield said...

Anon, I got your point, and your comments were germane. When I said "if we don't look disabled" I meant it as a collective we--anyone with a placard. Lots of folks with or without MS need assistance, and many times that disability is invisible. I guess my beef is with the state and it's arbitrary rules for getting a placard. And with those who abuse the privilege.

Anonymous said...

Today I was on a long-ish heritage walk.. and even with the mildish sun and my having used sunscreen, my exposed skin was itching, and i was so tired and off balance somehow, I left the walking group early and proceeded to walk back to my car (I can drive a stick shift even with my problematic appendages). I was walking through the park somehow tilted to one side, I just could not walk straight. Two policemen stopped me because they assumed,'I was one of those people who came with their friends to drink in the park on a Sunday morning'. I was so tired I could not even laugh! I lifted my jeans and showed them my brace and said there was something wrong with my foot and I wasn't drunk at all.
I live in India and there is no blue placard business here
Irene

Sarah said...

I was just having this debate with a friend. I don't need, nor would I use, a placard every day, but I feel totally dishonest asking for it even though there are a couple days every few weeks that creep up on me... And a placard would make sense. More to ponder I guess.

Pam said...

The parking garage where I park every day all the handicap parking spots are full, every day. A coworker of mine said one day I just can't believe there are that many handicap people. Some of them you see getting out of the cars makes you wonder what their handicap is. My reply was well I don't look handicap and someday I may need a spot some people have some kind of illness where they may not look handicap. She shut up. Not sure if it was because they all know I have MS or because she just didn't have a further comment.

Janis Williams said...

Two things:

On hot days in TN, when the humidity makes you wish you had gills, I park in the anointed : ) spaces. Even if it's early and only 85 degrees, the trip back to the car is way more difficult than going in.

Also, as to the sometimes comments about not really being handicapped: I tell the person (politely, of course-I am in the South), "Ma'am /Sir, if you'll take the disease, you can have my placard."

Dave Bexfield said...

Janis, good comeback! I don't think anyone would take you up on the offer, however....