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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

A Handicapped Tag Can Help You Beat the Heat

By June 22, 2007

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Even if you can walk just fine once you get inside, if heat intolerance is part of your multiple sclerosis "package," consider getting "the tag." Some of you might have a list of reasons why you don't need a handicapped tag (for instance, even the name is awful, but "disabled parking placard" is not much better) or be resistant to getting one for fear of what others might think.

I must be an unusual case. I still remember the look on the neurologist's face after he showed me my MRI aglow with lesions and furrowed his brow, clasped his hands, lowered his voice, delivered the news that I had MS and said, "Julie, I am so sorry. What questions to you have for me?" I replied, "Only one - how do I get a handicapped tag?" I think he thought I was having a dissociative episode, but really, I had pretty much guessed where this was going in terms of an MS diagnosis. I had also felt like I was not going to make it across the parking lot to his office on the way to the appointment, as it was mid-July and over 100 degrees with very high humidity.

For any of you who are sensitive to the heat, a handicapped tag can be a lifesaver during the hot months. I urge you to get one "just in case" you need it, rather than limiting your activities or not feeling good enough to enjoy yourself once you get to your destination.

For those of you lucky dogs who are not sensitive to the heat and are taking time out of your summer fun to read this blog, let me urge you to get a tag to have in case of a relapse. You'll be really happy you did.

Read more to find out how to get your tag: Get a Handicapped Parking Placard

Comments
June 25, 2007 at 1:57 pm
(1) Katie says:

Having “the tag” is one of the most helpful aids I have. It allows me to conserve energy to get the things done that require the extra mile. Thanks for the article!

June 27, 2007 at 11:25 am
(2) Denise says:

I agree completely!! I did get a tag,and even though I don’t always “have” to use it, I have it when I really need it. Since the hot summer has gotten here I use it for a “preventive measure”!

July 6, 2007 at 8:38 am
(3) Jeri says:

I was so glad to read about having a handicapped tag. Most of the time, I can walk without trouble, but hot days when the car’s been sitting on a blacktop parking lot are really too much. I feel a little weird when I climb out of the car and don’t look handicapped, though. Thanks for the chance to share my thought.

July 18, 2007 at 7:34 pm
(4) Kate says:

I really, really appreciated this! I felt awkward and a bit guilty when I asked my neuro to fill out the paperwork for the ‘tag’. However,with leg weakness, numbness, the occasional spasticity, along with this terrible heat and humidity–it has been a God-send! Maybe it was going a bit overboard, but I also got the NMSS license plate also!

April 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm
(5) Velma says:

I got the tag when I realized that I was spending so much energy getting into the store that I didn’t have any left for shopping. I use it as often as I can because of my muscle weakness.

April 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm
(6) Helen says:

Although I resisted this for quite some time, getting the tag was probably the smartest thing I’ve done. Walking is challenging enough without having to hike in the heat (or rain) through huge parking lots.

April 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm
(7) Belinda says:

More of a question that a comment…I don’t drive, but often, I find myself in places with large parking lots. Many times, those who drive me & I often have to look for the car. Can I get a placard for when someone is driving me do that we can park for me in the handicapped spot. I’m on Ampyra now and am walking much better, but I’m still sensitive to high heat and humidity–not to mention rainy or snowy days. In case it matters, I live in Pennsylvania. Thanks!

April 15, 2011 at 9:53 am
(8) Susan says:

Belinda, To answer your question, absolutely yes, your drivers can use your tag in their cars when driving you. We used to do that for my mother-in-law and my sister did that for my mom. BTW, I consider Ampyra almost a miracle drug, it works that well for me. I can once again shop in stores at a mall when I’m having a “good” day.

April 24, 2011 at 10:53 pm
(9) Belinda A says:

Thank you, Susan. Already here in PA, it’s been quite an odd go with these temperatures. . .April and we’ve had (and will be having this week) several days in and near 80+ already! Despite how much Ampyra is doing for me, all this heat is wearing me out and giving me fatigue issues. I’m worried about what this summer will bring. :-( Might need that placard this summer. . .despite my feelings on being labeled as “handicapped”.

April 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm
(10) Susan says:

My very nice neurologist asks me every visit if I have a Handicap Tag. I think he thinks that’s about all he can do for me. At least last visit he didn’t ask me. The funny thing is when I looked at the requirements for my state, I don’t qualify but I’m keeping it since walking is an effort even though I can walk 200 feet without resting. By the way, you can’t find a handicap spot at Walmart! lol

April 14, 2011 at 12:11 am
(11) ellen says:

My daughter has MS. When she asked her doctor for a prescription to get a handcapped sign for the car he told her that she is doing fine and it is not necessary. He said that they are ve
ry strict about it and that he doesn’t want to give it to her because he might get in trouble. Can’t figure that out.Hm..b

April 14, 2011 at 10:07 am
(12) Lorraine says:

@Ellen…get a new doctor, that’s just ridiculous. They are not that strict, he won’t get in trouble and the Handicap Tag is a lifesaver, especially in the summer. You can download the form yourself on the internet and get it signed by any one of your daughter’s doctors.

April 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm
(13) ellen says:

We will be going next month for an MRI. I will bring it to him and ask again now that the summer is near. Thanks for your reply.

April 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm
(14) Linda says:

Fatigue and pain are my biggest MS problems. I got handicap plates so I don’t have to remember to put the tag up (memory seems to be a problem also – lol). I also have an artificial knee and one that will be, so the tag also helps for the bad knee days. My knee doctor didn’t want to give me approval for a tag, but my neurologist didn’t hesitate – one more reason I think the world of my neurologist.

April 15, 2011 at 10:03 am
(15) Susan says:

It took me awhile after getting my Handicapped tag to actually use it. Then I wondered, “What took me so long?” I echo comments by others about how helpful it is to have. I use it only when I need it, but with Summer looming here in central TX, that ends up being quite often. The tag allows me to keep my energy for a trip inside a store instead of using it all up just getting across the parking lot.

April 17, 2011 at 10:17 am
(16) Julie Marshall says:

I have relapsing remitting MS dx: in 2009. Thank you for such an interesting article it has encourage me to go out and get the handicap parking tag. However I propose a more interesting term. How about “ROCK STAR PARKING” :) thank you sincerely Julie

August 2, 2011 at 2:14 pm
(17) Jamie says:

I really hesitated applying for tags. I recently moved to Maryland, and the summers here are intolerable at times. Couple the heat intolerance with my fatigue, and there are days when I can’t do much, and if I have to park far enough away that I’m dragging myself through the heat, I’m toast for getting anything else done. So I found the application online and took it with me to my neuro appointment last Wednesday. I was meek when I asked about it, but my neuro didn’t blink twice and said it was absolutely appropriate. Mailed it in, and my placards came in the mail today. I’m nervous about using them…worried about the looks I’ll get, things like that….but I know that I’ll only use them if I have to. And if people have a problem with it and tell me I don’t look handicapped I think my response is going to be, “Wow, I’m glad I look so much better than I feel. Thank you!”

September 29, 2011 at 12:06 am
(18) Dave in Idaho says:

Hey folks… GET YOUR “VIP” CARD !!!

That is what I call it and my fellow passengers enjoy the humorous light put upon my circumstances.
Carry your cane… No one will question it.
What other people think is immaterial… If someone questions you… This is your opportunity to ‘lovingly’ educate one of the public who just may not understand about MS.
Your Blue Card (Blue, my state anyway) is your “justification”.

Do not make the mistake of judging whether you should or should not use the parking spot based on “how you feel” when you arrive and go in to the store. What happens when you “run out of gas” while in the mall or store? You then have to somehow finish your shopping and then make it out to your car somewhere in the parking lot. What happens if you have a MS moment like I do and can’t remember where I parked my car and can barely push my cart to boot?

Folks, the wonderful folks in our communities have gone to the expense and consideration to put these blue VIP parking spots all over our communities and in front of their stores… They are there for YOU. MS qualifies you and a disabling chronic illness. Mobility impairment is not the only criteria. Excessive fatigue is a justifiable impairment. Having a broken internal thermostat is another.

Get your BLUE VIP placard… and, … USE IT !!!

Dave :-{)

April 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm
(19) Tracy says:

Absolutely get a tag – however often there are closer spots and I will use them but it has been a life saver for me – Dirty looks and all – I used to get upset at the looks “You are young why are you using someones tag” Seriously I walk with a cane and the tag is wonderful. I have two one for my car and one for my boyfriend although he usually drops me off if possible.

April 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm
(20) Bhorsoft says:

Got the placard for my wife’s car and the tags for my car and my motorcycle (now motortrike). Dr. didn’t want to give me the tags, only the placard. Said it made me a “target.” Told him the placard would be stolen off the motorcycle handlebars. People used to look at me funny when I parked the motorcycle in a HC spot — until I pull the cane out of the saddlebags (now trunk of the trike). They would ask, “How can you ride that?” My answer is that the motorcycle is almost all hand controls and it it my legs that didn’t work well. I also tell folks, that given a choice, I would park in the spot farthest away from where I’m going because I would love (and need) the walk. I also love the looks when my wife pushes me to the car in a wheelchair and I get in on the driver’s side.

I will say I was resistant to getting the HC tags, but they are a lifesaver now. I wish I could do without them, but I can’t anymore.

April 17, 2013 at 5:23 pm
(21) Ken says:

I have had a handicapped placard for almost 15 years now and I like the fact that in summer I can get from my air conditioned van into the air conditioned mall before I I melt.

April 18, 2013 at 8:57 am
(22) Karen says:

My placard had been my savior on many occasions. I can go into a store feeling great and all of a sudden be plagued with tingling weak legs and extreme fatigue barely able to make it to my car. My husband has done the grocery shopping since I was diax in 2000. I will only go to pick up a few things. On one of those occasions I had a woman follow me around the store yelling at me that I didn’t look handicapped and she was 65 who needed the space and I didn’t. No I was not using a cane, although I carry it in the car, but what she didn’t notice was how I used the cart for support and to conserve energy. My tag has allowed me to go places I wouldn’t be able to go. The hell with the looks and comments about using the handicap parking. Use any means available to you to conserve your energy and preserve your quality of life.

August 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm
(23) Tammy says:

In the State of Texas, MS is a “permanent disability” versus a “temporary disability,” and it has its own code number. Therefore, when you get the parking tag, it is for life. You must renew every four years, but you NEVER have to ask the doctor for a prescription again. Even though it terrified me to see those words on the prescription, it has allowed me to spend more time inside a store rather than the parking lot. Never ever worry about what others will say or looks you may get. They have not tried to “walk” in our shoes.

August 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm
(24) Allan says:

Where I live in Canada (Ottawa, Ontario) the tag lets you park at a meter for free for about 4 hours. So long as you are not there if it is a no stopping lane during rush hour. You can also park in a no parking zone so long as it is in a quiet area and not obstructing traffic. Surprising how many of those there are!

I don’t know what the rules are in the USA, but check with your municipality. Where I live the parking restrictions and permissions for disabled tags are municipally based.

We even have a purple tag. You take this with you to park at an airport or train station or whatever. Leave the purple tag in your car and take the blue tag with you so you can use it in a friend’s car or a rental car.

I use my cane (very fancy–used to be my wife’s–with pictures of map compasses on it). I have added three stripes of reflective white tape. It acts as a social signal, so I don’t get hassled when I park in the disabled spots. Also, when friends drive me for lunches or coffee I use the tag to park closer to where we want to be.

My brother got upset with my using the tag once and grabbed it and put in the glove compartment and said, “You don’t need this!” To be fair, this was before I was dxed and I also have not disclosed to him yet. (dx is only 8 months ago). It was upsetting at the time but I understand why he reacted that way.

Americans should know that when you come to visit Canada just bring your blue tag with you and use it in your friend’s car or a rental car. I think I get the same thing when I go to the USA. I took my tag with me when I went to Hawaii.

August 21, 2013 at 7:19 pm
(25) Kat says:

I asked my neuro to fill out the handicap placard paperwork last year but he said no, that my handicap needs to be much worse to get one. Told him that a temporary one to get through our hot summers would be fine but he wouldn’t do it. Is that common if heat sensitivity and cognitive issues are the main problem? Time for a new doc maybe?

August 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm
(26) Mark says:

Having a tag doesn’t mean it always has to be used. Just use it when you have to. I like Julie’s story. When it is really hot and humid I have a difficult time walking, too. So I use the tag. If I feel good, the tag stays in the glove box so others can use the parking spot.

August 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm
(27) Misty says:

Yes. Having a handicapped permit has been a great thing. I use it at church and at town. I walk with a cane and have limited mobility.

August 22, 2013 at 6:09 am
(28) Jo in NJ says:

Thank you for this post Julie. It took me a year and the first relapse that put me in the hospital to finally break down and get one. Like you said, just the name is hard to get your head around. Then I ran to Macy’s for a few things I needed, despite a bad day with my legs. And down I went in the parking lot. After this, my husband pushed me to get one.

I don’t use it often – only when I really need it – but when I do I hate the looks you get from people. I look healthy, ya know.

August 22, 2013 at 9:58 pm
(29) Phil says:

In Australia, in order to get the “Australian Disability Parking Permit”

You:-

+ must be unable to walk and always require the use of a wheelchair
+ their ability to walk is severely restricted by a permanent medical condition or disability

I guess it all depend what the government’s definition is of “severely”.

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