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When I'm Questioned About My Disability Parking Placard

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A few weeks ago, my husband Adam and I were at Walmart. He checked out and went to the car to load up as I went to get something we forgot.

As he was loading up the car, a man stopped at the car and said, “You don’t look disabled!” All he said was “my wife is.” He didn’t point out that I was still in the store. I was a little upset with my husband for not saying I was still in the store, because this man probably went away thinking my husband was using my placard. But is it his responsibility to point out who is using the accessible parking placard?

This Tuesday, I went into Hy-Vee here in West Des Moines to get my prescription. They didn’t have it ready yet and said 15-20 minutes. My second son A.J., who is 28, was in the car, so I called him to come in so we could grab water for my truck driver husband and a few other things I cannot lift.

We checked out and he went to the car with the cart and loaded it as I went back to the pharmacy. He dropped one of the gallons of water and a lady pulled up next to him and yelled at him for not being disabled. This time I was walking out, and he pointed at me and said, “My mom is!”

As we drove away, that lady was getting out of her car in the disability spot across from us. Not only was she giving us a dirty look, but she didn’t look disabled, if we are going on looks! But let’s face it, your outside does not show what is happening on the inside.

She looked even younger than my 49 years of age. She didn’t have a cane or walker or anything. I would have never thought about asking her what made her able to park there. She had a card and that is all I need to know.

They don’t just hand them out; it takes a doctor’s advice and letter to get one. Not just a handwritten letter. There is a mandatory DOT form that both you and your doctor fill out. In addition, many of us don’t ask for it, because our pride stands in the way and our peers can be bullies. If a doctor does not suggest it first, (like in my situation, where my husband is on the road and I can be alone and need essentials while he is gone) it can take a person falling and getting an additional injury or worse to admit they need the help. It becomes a battle of pride and need, and when someone questions that need it is a form of bullying and creates self-doubt that we are taking away something from someone else.

I get it that many people use a deceased family member’s placard and abuse the system, but if you don’t know the situation, stay in your own lane. If you really feel there is fraud going on, call the non-emergency police number and give them the plates and description of what you think you saw.

This is a form of harassment and you do not know the entire story. Maybe Grandma (me) is sitting in the pick-up lane because she got in the store, but now can’t walk out to the car. I bet many of us in the chronic illness community can attest to this. We overdo things, fatigue and pain set in and we have to call for help, have someone drive up to get us.

If I didn’t have a cane or walker, I am sure I wouldn’t “look disabled” either. It doesn’t change that I have multiple sclerosis and I can feel great one minute and be flat on the ground the next.

My husband has many reasons why he could get a disability placard, but there is no need for us to have two. Maybe once we have a second car he will get one, but we don’t see the point right now. My 28 and 24-year-old sons both could also get a card. One with CKD and one with a major back injury.

Even when a police officer asks about your disability, you don’t have to answer why or how you are disabled. You have to show them the card is in your name and they can look it up. I also found some states require you to have an ID card that verifies the placard you are using is yours. I believe you get this when getting the placard to keep in your wallet. The state I am in does not have this, but many states have a place for the owner to sign the placard, thus confirming it is the rightful user.

I know from experience how hard it is to accept that we need this or any assistance. I have been bullied by others for using the accessible restroom with my walker and cane because there were elderly people at the location. I used to try to use the normal stalls, just to find myself falling or not able to stand up and having to ask someone to come in and help me up.

I will no longer put myself in danger to appease someone else. I pray that each of you utilizes and accepts the assistance you need, whether it be a disability parking placard or a mobility device. If you don’t, the only person who is affected is the one you should care the most about — you!

Getty image by Sergi Nunez.

Originally published: February 18, 2021
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