In the US, disability parking placards, and the actual disabled parking spaces literally have a picture of a stick person in a wheelchair. Because of things like that, I have always thought that “disabled” meant someone was in a wheelchair and totally unable to walk. Then I became part of the “other-abled, or “differently-abled.” I learned that there is not a line in the sand separating people in wheelchairs and people that are perfectly able-bodied.
There is an entire spectrum of abilities, and some of them do not involve wheelchairs, and some do. Some even require wheelchairs or other mobility aids part of the time and not other times! So you might see someone one day walking fine, with no aids, and then a day or two later, in a wheelchair or with other walking aids.
This last year has been pretty eye-opening to me in terms of able-ness. My ability to get around on my feet efficiently was declining rapidly. I started college full-time last summer, taking only a couple of classes online. By the time the Fall semester came, I had acquired a team of medical providers, and we were all trying to figure out what was actually happening to my body.
I was tired more. I was unable to stay standing for very long. I was just feeling kind of terrible all of the time.
Early in the Fall semester, I was walking back to my care, which was parked pretty far away, two buildings and an entire parking lot away. I was hurting pretty badly all day, to begin with. I got about halfway to my car and could not walk anymore. I was stuck… my hips had dislocated and would not go back in! I was just standing there in excruciating pain with NO ONE to help. I thought about calling my husband but then thought I better not, that might freak him out.
I sat down at a bench and just rubbed my hips, wondering what in the hell I was gonna do. Something was really wrong. I had never really experienced this type of inability to walk to this extent.
I eventually hobbled back to my car and immediately made another doctor’s appointment. The results of that are for another post.
My doctor recommended at that appointment I go to the Disability Resource Center at my college. I was shocked and a little embarrassed that she would recommend that. I was not a disabled person, after all, those people have real problems! I did make an appointment, however, as she was pretty insistent that I at least talk to them.
My disability meeting was with two very sweet ladies in the resource center at my college campus. One was using a cane and the other looked fine to me. We got to talking and they began to tell their own stories of disabilities. I was shocked that these women were considered disabled! They both used a state-issued disability placard. I was surprised, they did not have a wheelchair, after all.
One of the women gave me some resources for Workforce Services and explained in detail what a disability could entail. I had my medical records that they requested, and a letter from my physician. I had not read the letter, so I was curious about what it said. Basically, my beloved doctor had told them I was disabled enough that I needed special assistance to help me go to school. My hands are considered differently-abled. I can not type much, I can not hold a pencil for very long. They are extremely hypermobile and sublux constantly. I thought that it was ok and I had dealt with it for so long I had no desire or reason to get any type of assistance.
They gave me a hand recorder and some special software to dictate ALL OF MY NOTES and to record all of the lectures. That software was like 300.0! I also got a disabled parking placard specifically for the campus. I explained the situation where I could not walk earlier that fall. Both of these amazing women agreed based on that and my medical reports that I was in need of this parking placard and ANY other resources the school had to offer. I took advantage of that, but it did take a while for my ego to come to grips with being considered differently-abled.
Identifying and Accepting my ‘Inabilites‘
My acceptance, unfortunately, had to come with my body actually getting worse, and my pain levels increase substantially over a period of only 3 months. I found myself really glad that I had the parking placard one day when I was in an extreme amount of pain. By that time I had had to have custom made hip braces made to keep my hips from dislocating 100 times a day, I didn’t think they were literally dislocating until two of my doctors agreed that they were, and much worse than they had thought.
Over this few months period of my body not working great, and the increase in pain, I started to accept that I was in fact disabled. I learned that that term includes SO many different ability levels, but there is a standard of ability, and if anyone doesn’t quite meet that, (sometimes it is measured and sometimes it is assumed) they can be considered disabled.
I am disabled. But I like the term differently-abled…. That is most likely still my precious ego not wanting to be smashed into pieces, but I am still very new at this whole thing.
How I Figured Out I was Disabled
The instances that helped me realize I was disabled varied, but I will list the ones I personally experienced and found helpful, along with some other situations that may allow you to measure your able-ness.
The first one was walking without too much pain or walking any distance without aid.
I HAVE to have my hip braces most of the time. I typically wear them when my hips are in a lot of pain since they are the most problematic part of my body, it is frequent. When I do not wear them, I may not experience pain, but the hips to tend to subluxate and dislocate with ease, it is not always painful, however.
If you need something to aid you in walking any distance, you may want to look into getting a disability parking placard. More on that later.
Maybe you use a cane, a crutch, or you stop frequently to rest.
The second way I knew something was going on was basically the ‘sitch I explained above about having to stop and rest after a short distance. This was happening a lot, and I was ignoring that, and I just thought I had hurt myself minorly and it would go away. Instead, it got worse and more frequent.
Last summer I took my kids to the big carnival fair thing we have in Wyoming every year, Cheyenne Frontier Days. It is pretty big, lots of games and rides and greasy foods. I walked around with them for about an hour and was in so much pain I had to sit down and could barely get back up. I couldn’t even stand for a short period of time.
If you find yourself unable to walk short distances, you may need a parking placard. If you cannot stand for any period of time, you may also need one.
I just recently realized this is something I have been doing for years. I do all of the grocery shopping in my family. It usually takes a really long time to get everything we need, we have a lot of kids, three still in the home and 3 other grown children (I guess they are adults?) that come to visit frequently and eat over a lot. We have to have food and a lot of it. To shop for a couple weeks worth of food took a couple of hours sometimes.
I could not do these long trips after a while, and a few years ago I started just doing little trips every day or every other day. I realized one day that my ribs and forearms were very sore and I tried to remember what I had done (a frequent practice in my life, how about you?) I remembered I had been holding my weight up off my legs on my forearms and ribcage on the shopping cart! I would lean so much it would bruise both arms and ribcage.
If you pay attention, you may notice you brace yourself on things around you. You may be differently-abled and possibly eligible for a parking placard.
How I Got My State-Issued Disability Parking Placard
I had been regularly visiting at least two doctors now for over a year. I’m talking at least one visit every two weeks, but usually a couple a week. Shortly after the Fall parking lot incident, I did ask my regular doctor if I could qualify for a placard, as I had already gotten one for the school campus. I was SO nervous, I felt like I was asking for drugs or something! She didn’t even hesitate, and handed me a sheet of paper she already had filled out! I guess she had forgotten to bring it up, and I was too afraid to, but she wanted to bring it up for me to consider, or at least ask. I was SO relieved and felt like I had overcome a huge obstacle in my medical life.
This application is for Wyoming obviously, and every state has control over their own disabled parking qualifications.
Here are the questions that my doctor had to answer:
“Please check all that apply, at least one must be checked in order for the Department to issue a placard. (see W.S. 31-2-213(d)(ii)) “Eligible person” means a person with disabilities which limit or impair the ability to walk as determined by a licensed physician, including:
•An inability to walk two hundred (200) feet without stopping to rest;
•An inability to walk without the use of, or assistance from, a brace, cane, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair or other assistive device;
•A restriction by lung disease to such an extent that the person’s forced expiratory volume for one (1) second when measured by spirometry is less than one (1) liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than sixty (60) mm/hg on room air at rest;
•Requires use of portable oxygen;
•Has a cardiac condition to the extent that the person’s functional limitations are classified in severity as class III or class IV according to standards established by the American Heart Association;
•A severe limitation on the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological or orthopedic condition;
•or A severe visual impairment that limits the person’s mobility. A severe audio impairment that limits the person’s mobility. “
As you can see, there are many ways to qualify. My doctor marked the first two. I then had to send in the application into our Department of Motor Vehicles. My placard came about five or six days later.
After the criteria, there is a place for your doctor to suggest a time period for your placard to be active.
“•Applicant is eligible for: Permanent Disabled Parking Identification Placard (condition is expected to last a minimum of twelve (12) months)
•Temporary Disabled Parking Identification Placard (condition is expected to last not more than six (6) months) # of months needed __________________ “
Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome is a permanent, progressive disease, so I have a permanent placard. Your provider may vary in their assessment of you, as most do regarding this illness, you may get a temporary one depending on your provider. I have asked a ton of people on EDS groups about this, and about half of them have a temporary one, which blows my mind. This is not a temporary condition, anyone with any knowledge of it knows that. If your provider fills out a temporary one, please ask them why and remind them that EDS isn’t going to get better to the point where you will no longer need assistance if that be the case.
Disabled Parking Permanent License Plates
You can, if you qualify for a permanent placard, get a permanent license plate that has the disabled indicator on it, and not have to risk losing your placard. They do cost but can be more convenient if you have issues with memory or clarity and losing things, because of brain fog.
If you think you might qualify, or if you want to know, just do an internet search for “disability parking placard” and add your state name. Your DMV website should appear in the search, and one of the options may be a .pdf or other downloadable file to print out. On that, you will find what your state requires to get a placard or a license plate.
Print it out and take it to your next doctor’s appointment. I recommend writing a plan for your appointment, with sections to write down questions you may forget, and things like the parking placard. (I am creating a sheet just like this so I will make it available as soon as possible.)
Good luck to you, I hope this post was helpful. If you have any experiences you would like to add, please do comment below, or you can write to me personally at email@example.com I would love to hear from all of you!