Toward the end of last year, Sarah and I decided to look into getting a handicap placard for our van so that our daughter Anna would not have to walk far when we go to a public place such as a grocery store. Anna was born with spina bifida and is able to walk without an aide (leg brace, walker, wheelchair, etc.). Anna's legs do, however, tire easily. Her spina bifida and corresponding weak leg muscles (hamstrings, quads, etc.) also make her a bit unsteady on her feet.
She sometimes loses her balance and falls.
I’m not sure why we hadn’t thought of looking into the parking placard when Anna and her sisters started walking. But…after recently having a few “why didn’t I think of looking into this before” moments, I started to pursue obtaining a handicap placard for our family vehicle.
Now it should be pointed out that for various reasons, throughout my life I have been an unassuming person who goes with the flow. I (nor my parents or siblings) have not been the vocal type. I am more the type of person to take what is presented, rather than pursue that which may be beyond my immediate reach. I suppose that is why I had not pursued getting a placard for Anna. I think the attitude was that we can make do without one.
On the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) website I found the form which we needed to complete. APPLICATION FOR DISABLED PARKING PLACARD/PLATE. The form has two parts – one part in which the disabled person’s information was to be filled in (by me) and the second part to be completed by the health care provider (Anna’s pediatrician).
We completed Anna’s information and forwarded the form to the doctor to complete the second section, which read in part:
DURATION (circle one): Temporary Permanent
If temporary, please estimate number of months of disability ______________________
PLEASE CHECK ALL THAT APPLY:
_____ Unable to walk 200 feet without assistance. List necessary ambulatory aids: _____________________________
_____ Legally Blind* (Cert. Of Blindness may substitute for professional certification) (*automatic loss of license)
_____ Chronic Lung Disease (check at least one of the following criteria):
FEV1 test results _______O2 saturation with minimal exertion_____ (*automatic loss of license if O2 saturation < 88%)
Use of Portable Oxygen? Yes _________ No_____
Note: Asthma is not in and of itself a qualifying condition. Please describe degree and frequency of impairment
(pulmonary test results required.)
_____ Cardiovascular Disease
AHA Functional Classification (circle one): I II III IV* (*automatic loss of license)
_____ Arthritis (please state type, severity, and location)_______________________________________________
_____ Loss of limb or permanent loss of use of a limb
A few weeks later we received notification (addressed to Anna actually) from the RMV that the application had been approved. The applicant needed to go to one of the listed offices with a valid form of identification to have their picture taken for the placard. Naturally I called the RMV to ensure I was reading the requirement correctly - identification for a four year old? The representative on the other end of the phone understood that Anna would not have an i.d. – that is fine, he said.
The night before we were to go to the nearest RMV, I had this conversation with Anna at bedtime:
Me: We are going to get your picture taken tomorrow.
Yes, we are going to get a special card for the car.
Yes, so we can park closer to the stores and you don't have to walk so far.
So I don't have to walk so far?
Yes, because you get tired sometimes from walking.
Because I get tired?
Yes, so now we will not have to walk as far and you will not get tired.
Because I have spina bifida?
Yes, because you have spina bifida Anna.
Good night Anna. Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite. I love you.
Anna turned away and curled up against her pillow.
The next day, we (Grammy, Allie and Emily also came along) we walked into the RMV shortly after it opened. After getting a number (think grocery store deli counter), we all took a seat and waited for our number to be called.
I could write an entire blog post on the whole picture-taking process, but suffice to say it was a bit of a show. The camera and background is set-up to take drivers license pictures not to photograph the face of a 3 foot-tall four year-old girl. So...use your imagination and picture me on the ground holding Anna up while trying to keep myself out of the picture. It was difficult, but comical! After about 3 or 4 attempts, we were done. We were told the handicap placard should arrive via the mail in 4 -6 weeks. It arrived about 3 weeks later.
We’ve probably utilized the placard less than a dozen times since receiving it. I'm not sure if Anna or her sisters understand the entire handicap parking/placard thing but I do know that I have no guilt about using it. And although we haven't used it much so far, we do anticipate it will be quite helpful in the coming months (and years) to come.