When the Doctor Said We Needed a Permanent Disability Parking Placard for My Daughter


My daughter Ari was about 2 years old when I had a conversation with Dr. K., our beloved pediatrician. He was a doctor that held true to his beliefs of practicing medicine and serving the patients he saw daily. He was a miracle worker in our eyes and will always hold a special place in our hearts. He saw our children for 20 years before he closed his private practice and pursued other professional dreams. We still miss him dearly.

Our conversation went something like this. “Dr. K., I think we need a temporary disability
placard. Ari is getting bigger and it’s getting a little dangerous dodging cars while I carry her through the parking lots for all the appointments we have. The weekly blood draws, the doctor visits, and trying to make it to all the school activities for Lindsay and Nic is getting
more challenging. Last week I thought we were going to be roadkill when we had a near miss with a truck. What do you think?”

He replied, “Kelli, I think you need a permanent placard, not a temporary one. I will complete a DMV form for you right now.”

“Uh, no, that’s not what I want,” was my immediate reply. “I want a temporary one!” And so the conversation ensued, me with my optimistic attitude that Ari’s disabilities would be temporary in nature, and he with his realistic, empathic confrontation that we were going to need all the
supports in place for the long haul. I was stubborn and held my own in this discussion. But in the end, the reality was that Ari’s disabilities are permanent and not going away. Permanent placard versus Kelli, and The Placard wins.

Three weeks later, the Blue Placard arrived in the mail. It looked so sterile, official, and final. It had Ari’s name on the document. The DMV issues this paperwork accompanied with all the rules and regulations for its use. The form must be kept in our auto while we transport Ari. I learned to laugh and poke fun at my stubbornness in order to cope. “Here is your Passport to Disability; you are now boarding the flight to Cerebral Palsy. Please have your I.D. ready!”

Kelli and Ari in a race.
Kelli and Ari in a race.

Despite my humor, I still had mixed emotions. Maybe we didn’t really need this? Maybe all this would eventually go away? But I also knew that I had better cave to the practical necessities in order to make life easier. So we christened the “passport” at the next medical appointment with Dr. K. My teenagers Lindsay and Nic thought it was great; they got premier parking wherever we went with Ari. They were relieved that we could arrive at our destinations on time and leave sooner. Parking the car at public places once again became a simple thing in life. Score one for the placard.

Today, “The Placard” serves us well. It is like a loyal and dedicated friend. It never complains or talks back. It is used multiple times daily. It is committed to seeing us through all those busy parking lots at schools, hospitals, public buildings, airports, state parks, etc. I must not forget the parking lots at our racing events either. We would certainly not have enough space to assemble Ari’s adaptive racing chair without an accessible spot. Worse yet, we might not even make it to a race start line on time without accessible parking.

The Placard has seen both the best and worst of places. It has heard us complain and vent, and say a terse word or two at cars parked illegally in disabled spots. But the Placard is a good listener and never judges or repeats what is said behind closed car doors. Everything is kept confidential with the Placard.

I have come a long way these past 14 years in learning to accept what I once considered an unnecessary reminder of Ari’s disabilities. Cheers to my ongoing relationship with the Placard!

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