IIW15: A Battle Between Visible and Invisible Illness

Why the Fight?

You may have seen it all over the news this year: Nasty letters left on the cars of those suffering with invisible disabilities. These are just a few of the examples:

How much you want to bet that there were plenty of other instances, just like those above, that were not reported in the news?

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Let me start by saying, I’m not undermining your feelings towards those who thinks it’s okay to use these spots for convenience – because it’s not. Trust me when I say that I do understand the frustration you must feel when others abuse handicapped parking spaces, essentially taking away these reserved spots that provide you with the accessibility needed. It’s indescribable, really.

However, did you even bother to take the time before writing such a nasty note to actually look for a legitimate parking permit? All of these cases had them – and it’s not like they just hand them out to just anybody.


Information retrieved from care.com

How to Apply for A Handicapped Parking Sticker:

“When you have a disability, there are little things you can do to make your life easier. For example, do you have trouble walking or do you use a cane, wheelchair, walker or other device to get around? Then you’re probably eligible for a handicapped parking sticker.

This simple permit is a must if you have difficulty getting around or if you’re the primary caregiver for someone who has a physical disability. Think of all those shopping trips and doctor’s visits you go on. Being able to park near a front door can save lots of time and energy.

But how do you get one? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

  1. Check if You’re Eligible
    Most people actually aren’t aware that they’re eligible for a handicapped parking permit. They may not realize their disability qualifies them for one or they may not want to admit to having a disability in the first place. The eligibility regulations vary by state and city, but you may be entitled to one if you use portable oxygen or have problems walking.(Click on your state at the bottom of this article to find out more information for your area.)
  2. Know Your Options
    There are different permits available — some for short-term disabilities and some for longer periods of time — depending on your state. Some states offer license plates with permanent handicapped symbols on them, while others provide a placard that can be hung from the rear-view mirror. The tag you should apply for depends on your situation and disability. Temporary/short-term permits usually last for about six months, while permanent parking stickers may be valid for up to two years.If you’re a veteran with a service-connected disability, you may also be eligible for disabled veteran permit. The fees are often waived for these types of permits.
  3. Get an Application
    Check out the website for your local DMV (or the city, town or village clerk that issues permits in your area) and read up on the rules regarding available tags, associated fees and what’s required in the application process. Then print out an application.
  4. Talk to a Doctor
    As soon as you think you or a loved one might benefit from a handicapped sticker, make a doctor’s appointment to discuss parking tag eligibility. (Depending on your disability, you may need to meet with a medical doctor, osteopath, podiatrist, chiropractor, optometrist, registered nurse, etc.) Speak candidly with your doctor and discuss how this permit might help you and your family.If you’re eligible, the physician will fill out the application you printed out or provide a note saying why you need the permit. (Some doctors have these applications available in their offices, so you may not need to print it out.)
  5. Apply for the Permit
    Usually, the disabled person must apply for the handicapped sticker — either online or through the mail. You’re applying for a permit for a person, not a car itself. You can usually ask for permits for several cars all at once.It generally takes about a month to process an application and receive relevant tags or plates. Plan accordingly, especially if you know ahead of time that you might need a temporary tag for a scheduled surgery.
  6. Use the Permit Properly
    There’s a big problem with handicapped parking fraud — people who don’t have disabilities use the permits to score better parking spots. So make sure you read your state’s rules carefully. What areas can you park in? Does the permit-holder have to be in the car? What about if you’re dropping someone off or picking them up? Is the permit good for traveling in other states?
  7. Renew Your Permit
    Renewing also depends on your state. Permits, tags, stickers and license plates all have varying expiration dates — and the renewal process differs depending on whether you have a permanent or temporary sticker. Some tags automatically renew, while others require you to re-certify you’re eligible for a handicapped permit.
  8. Get a Handicapped Parking Sign Some areas let you designate a handicapped parking spot in front of your home. Check with your city or town’s Disability Commission for more information.
  9. Learn the Rules in Your State

To say I’m disgusted with this epidemic is an understatement.

I honestly thought that you would understand what it’s like to feel pain and the hardship that it causes. To know how it feels to be judged by others. Yet here you are – doing exactly that.

This behavior is not okay and it needs to change. Having a visible disability doesn’t make you more privileged or give you the permission to judge others. If they did the same to you, would it be discrimination? How would you feel it you had to explain yourself or your disability everywhere you went? We already have to do that enough. With the doctors who don’t believe we are sick. With the family or friends who think we are just being lazy or dramatic. Or our place of employment when they wonder why we are absent so much. And now – to strangers.

Individuals with invisible illnesses are tired of having to validate themselves – proving how sick they really are. We are constantly made to feel guilty because of the limitations set by our conditions. Always pushed to do things we shouldn’t do just because we want to look or act normal. Could you deal with this every day? Would you live like this?

Please understand, people with invisible disabilities also benefit from the use of these spaces. Let me give you an example: Some days it feels almost impossible just to go to the store. You really don’t want to go – but you know you have to pick up your prescriptions. First you have to get out of bed and get dressed. Then you not only have to drive yourself there, but now you have to get out of the car, walk all the way across the parking lot, and head to the back of the store to get to the pharmacy. Perhaps your muscle aches, you have extreme fatigue, and you have passed out more than once that day. It takes your entire strength just to keep moving. *Please don’t pass out* *Don’t throw up* *I feel like I am dying* But you do it anyways because without these prescriptions, you know that you’ll only feel even more terrible than you do now- or worse- you could end up in the hospital or even dead. So being that much closer to the door, rather than having to trek across a large parking, will ultimately save you some spoons (see Spoon Theory). It really is a lifesaver.

So the next time you decide to leave a note on someones car, I urge you to just think about the things that YOU can’t see.

Just because someone “doesn’t LOOK sick” doesn’t mean that they AREN’T sick. Looks really can be deceiving.

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There are millions (maybe more) of individuals in the world living with an invisible illness. If we could band together – both visible and invisible – imagine what we could do to change the lives of those living with ANY type of disability. Think about it.

I know it’s a cliche´ to say, but I’ll say it anyway.

Truly, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. 

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