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When Handicapped Parking Becomes the Norm - MS A Lifetime of Firsts

Updated on December 18, 2009

As a continuation of my series on my monumental first time events, in living with MS, I now intend to cover handicapped parking. I have thus far discussed using a cane for the first time as well as how I handle milestones in general. This will be my 3rd part of the series.

Strangely enough, I was more willing to use a cane than I was to take advantage of handicapped parking. For one, I felt I didn’t look like I needed to be taking up a handicapped spot. I also thought about the fact that I already wasn’t walking much. The few extra steps I used to get to and from various stores and restaurants would work to my advantage. I didn’t want to get spoiled, I told myself.

In retrospect, I suppose the most valid reason was the last one mentioned above. Now that I am not able to walk as much as I did when I first started using my handicapped parking permit, I think it was a good decision to squeeze every last footstep out of my legs while I could still appreciate the freedom of movement.

The least valid reason I had for not getting the placard sooner, was thinking I didn’t look handicapped enough to legitimately “take” one of the parking spots. Back then, I wasn’t walking with a cane, for at least 90 percent of my outside ventures. Even though I walked slowly, I didn’t feel that in itself justified using a parking permit.

I imagined others being offended by my outward appearance, concluding that I was a cheater, perhaps using the placard of a real handicapped person that happened to be left in the car. That particular line of reasoning was quite amazing, given that I rarely thought that way when I saw someone who appeared healthy using a parking space designated for the handicapped. Why did I suddenly worry that others would think I was parking illegally and had a major character flaw which made me view handicapped parking as a scam that I could run on the department of transportation?

Others have expressed concerns about not wanting to appear lazy to onlookers. I suppose our concerns just goes to show that we all put more credence into how a person looks than how they may be feeling on the inside.

Why I Changed My Mind

In a word, FATIGUE.

It is amazing what mental adjustments you will force your mind to make if you get tired enough. As walking became more and more exhausting, it seemed like I had to mentally will myself to my car. I was discovering however, that will power was not enough.

I remember I began my adjustment process by slowing down as I drove past designated handicapped parking spaces. Eye-balling the spot, the sign, and the cars with handicapped parking plates, I told myself I should be parking there too. Spotting the permits hanging from the front windshield I thought how convenient it would be if I could one day park as close to the entrance as other handicapped persons were doing. Soon after those mental observations, and encouragement from family and friends I decided it was time to make the switch from an average car parker, to a handicapped car parker.


Once the Mental Decision Had Been Made

The next step I took was to talk to my doctor. I used my primary physician since I saw him more often. I told him I needed him to certify that I have a need for the permit, which he was happy to do. The procedure doesn’t take long and within a month I received a disabled card and a handicapped parking placard. My application went to my State’s motor vehicle agency in charge of such things. An agency can quickly be found by googling the name of the state and the words, “parking permit” or “handicapped placard” behind it. There was no fee in the State of New Jersey for the permit, although there was a fee for the handicapped parking license plates. The permit needs to be renewed every 2-3 years if memory serves. I just received my new card a month or so ago.

You can also click on the link about handicapped parking, to find your state's requirements for obtaining a parking permit.

Ease With Use

I have to say, it didn’t take long for me to adjust to the convenience and energy savings of parking permits. Exhaustion on a daily basis makes you learn to appreciate anything that saves you extra steps. I am not hesitant in the least to whip out my placard whenever I am in a car, whether it be my car or not. It is viewed as a cool perk with my friends and family, since they are not accustomed to the quick access that parking near the entrance provides.

I find the biggest annoyance these days is when there aren’t enough empty spaces when I arrive at a particular location. Talk about a sharp change of direction. I chuckle at myself thinking about what bothers me now, compared to the angst I felt before getting the permit.

So if you find yourself thinking about getting a handicapped parking permit, that no doubt means you need it NOW, but you are uncomfortable about it. After all, who thinks about getting a handicapped parking permit, as one of the plush items they must possess. We think about it because our mind is telling us we need it.

It is hard to deny a placard will set you apart from the average driver. But then again, the average driver doesn't have MS, so don't let that stop you from taking advantage of an aid that can really help your mobility and stamina.

Don't let your outward appearance prevent you from getting what you need either. Sure you may "look so good" but no one knows how it feels to walk around with MS fatigue saddled on your back but the person with MS. We never look like we feel, so that ship has sailed anyway. Might as well forget about appearances and take care of the person on the inside, the one that needs the placard.

Now if you are like me, then you have adjusted to using a cane, and parking in the designated handicapped parking areas. What's left? How about using a wheelchair?

I finally experienced this, my toughest mental obstacle and I will conclude this series about monumental firsts, with that experience, next.


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    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Hi Cyndi, Welcome to Hubpages. Don't worry you will learn your way around soon enough. The forum board posts are where I received my best education.

      I will look you up next. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

    • Cydni Montgomery profile image

      Cydni Montgomery 

      9 years ago

      Hi Jen,

      I can so relate to the feelings you express here. I also have MS, and there are times when a cane would be beneficial. So far I have refused, because to me it represents giving up.

      I work in the health food industry as an outside marketing rep, (as well as being a certified nutritionist) and people say to me all the time, "But you look so good!"

      Although I'm thankful I don't look sick, it can be frustrating, because the bottom line is-- I am sick.

      If you are interested, someone sent an article to my blog that highlights what could be an incredible breakthrough. It involves surgery; since I prefer alternative methods, I'm actively investigating possibilities. But I am very hopeful.

      I'm new to HubPages, so I'm not sure if it's okay to leave my blog address, but here goes:

      Hopefully, it is okay.

      Thanks for sharing your emotions, and good luck to you!

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Good Morning Duchess, What a kind comment greeted me this morning. Thank you very much for reading my hubs and always leaving such encouraging comments.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      9 years ago

      Jen, your attitude is so amazing. Every time I read your hubs I wish I could have such a positive outlook. It shines through so loud and clear - always.

      I'm glad I found - and read - this wonderful hub. It makes me appreciate the fact that we have handicap parking available for those who need it.

      Keep smiling and keep sharing. You are doing such a wonderful job!

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Thanks for the link Russ I will check it out.

    • Rascal Russ Miles profile image

      Rascal Russ Miles 

      9 years ago from Show Low, AZ USA

      Excellent write up Sweet Jen.

      MS caused me to write my 1st novel. Here's the brief Hub link:

      The song linked to in my Hub 'Early Morning Lovers' used in my FSBO novel was actually written while I sold medical equipment some years ago in New Jersey.

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Thanks for reading the hub Paradise7. I think you are right, we worry about what folks think and half the time they don't even notice. Of course when you do anything for the very first time, you imagine all eyes are on you, even when they aren't. ;-)

    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      This was a very good hub, Jen. And don't worry. I have a friend with a heart problem who appears to be healthy, and even though we get a few dirty looks on rare occasions, we always use the handicapped card when I drive her around. She is at REAL RISK from over-exertion, and I know what she suffers from that, and if people don't like it, oh well!

      Do what you gotta do, and don't worry. Most of the time people are too busy with their own concerns to even notice!

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Your welcome ethel! Thank you for dropping by to leave your comment. :-)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks for the reminder Jen about not prejudging. We are all guilty of assesing people on appearances alone.

      We should accept that if you have a permit you need one.

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Ah Connie my friend, you're not getting older, you're getting better (literally and figuratively) Don't let pills freak you out, because the alternative is MUCH scarier!

      Leave it to you to notice little things like my being a featured hubber. I was surprised to see it to. Didn't know it has been there since last night though. I was glad to see my score as well. But MOST honored by your compliment that my writing is improving because I feel if you tell me, then it has to be true! lol

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful words sincere encouragement.

      I wait with excitement for your return to hubbing. I miss your writings.

    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Hi Sue! I am delighted that I have made you proud, thanks for your seal of approval, it is priceless! Yes, inner peace takes a lot of work and honesty, but it surely is worth it. I was surprised to read you share my articles, I can only hope they help those with whom you share them. Thanks again for your well wishes and your encouragement and your friendship!


    • Jen's Solitude profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen's Solitude 

      9 years ago from Delaware

      Good morning Glorena! I am so happy to read you enjoy my articles. Thank you for telling me that. I also was glad I used my legs as long as they wanted to be used for walking any distance. Now I am happy they can be used for even short distances and am hopeful I will be able to strengthen them gradually, now that I am enjoying more energy. But, I will still take advantage of my placard, as you said, it is not a defeat. ;-)

    • Connie Smith profile image

      Connie Smith 

      9 years ago from Tampa Bay, Florida

      Funny, isn't it that many people who do not need a handicapped placard would take one in a minute....but if one really needs one, the card represents a loss. I feel the same way about the number of pills that I am currently being prescribed (that I actually need) me, those pills represent a giant leap into old age (kind of like becoming a grandmother does lol), as well as a loss of good health. It also reminds me of when my Granddaddy had to give up driving due to glaucoma. It was a very difficult decision to make.

      I was visiting my Uncle Rex at his nursing home recently(he is in a rehab facility), I looked around and had to think of what we all -- who live long enough -- have to face in life. Again, this article, though aimed at people dealing with MS, resonates with most of the readers. Since I have been reading your articles, I have noticed that your writing only gets better all the time. That must be why you were one of the three FEATURED hubbers when I signed in tonight! I have to get back to hubbing so that can happen to me someday. I was so excited to see you there (again!)!

    • emohealer profile image

      Sioux Ramos 

      9 years ago from South Carolina


      I love how you share the inner battle that takes place, not just the surface ideas. The inner judgements and analysis, the perspectives you are aware that are not yours alone. I am so proud of you as you have moved past the outer appearances and into the inner peace. We all deserve to give ourselves this inner peace. Whether or not you or anyone else uses the placard every time, it is best to apply and have the option of making the decision of how you feel and your inner perception at the moment each time you pull into a parking area.

      I so appreciate you sharing the journey you are taking from an internal view as there are so many I know are gaining from your sharing on such a personal level. I do share from time to time your writings as I see the probabilities of someone else gaining from your experiences. Continue to take care of Dar and shine your light so brightly upon the world....PS: Happy Holidays! Sue

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Jen, My daughter who has MS has the card for parking, although her husband rarely uses it when he is with her...leaving it open for someone who is alone etc. I enjoyed your thoughts on this and know of another friend who has lost a leg and has refused to get one. Sometimes this is good as it keeps your muscles working etc. but there are times when as you know, it is not admitting defeat but merely being smart and good to yourself...You deserve your posts.. hugs and Merry Christmas..


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