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How I Learned to Love My Handicap Placard - A Guest Blog

Posted August 3, 2012

Another wonderful blog post from our friend, Caroline Kyriakou:

This past November at the age of 32 I bought my first car. I absolutely love having a car and am so thankful that I am able to drive.

That being said, since being diagnosed with MS walking and balance has been an issue, especially in the extreme weather, whether it’s very cold or hot. I’ve had some trouble walking to and from my car. Because of this I inquired at the office I work in if I would be able to park in their very small garage. I have been working there for 9 years but am still considered a newbie as most of my coworkers have been there for more than 20 years! So, there were people ahead of me to get the space that had newly become available. My boss suggested to me to apply for a handicap placard. It had not occurred to me before to apply for one, but followed his suggestion. I easily found the form online and had my neurologist fill out the appropriate information. Shortly afterwards I received my placard in the mail. I never had paid much attention to placards, so it was a surprise to find my license photo on the front. Lucky for me, that photo turned out really good, but I use the sleeve that was sent with the placard to cover the photo when I have it hung up in my car.

At first I felt uncomfortable using the placard. I felt like since I “look so good” other people walking by may make comments to me about why I would have it.There is a handicap space across the street from my office where I park everyday. After expressing some concern to a friend and coworker of mine about using the placard, she made me realize that I had no business feeling uncomfortable. Abe, my husband, also helped me understand that I needed to use it, for my own safety. After repetitive motion, my legs and arms get tingly and numb and walking even a short distance can make me feel fatigued, not to mention a handful of other symptoms. I started to feel more confident and started using the placard outside of parking at work.

One day not too long ago I was walking from my car back to my office after my lunch break and fell down. I wasn’t badly hurt but twisted my ankle and called my office (thank goodness for cell phones!) to have a couple of the girls come out to help me get back inside. It was sort of wake up call for me that I not only need to move a little slower (though that may not prevent the fall as all of us MSers know) and that in fact, I do have MS and need a little help.

I now have no problem using my placard whenever I need to. I am so thankful that my boss suggested this to me. No one has ever made comments to me, but if they do I am ready for them. I have started to notice other people who have placards who “look good” and realize that disability (I don’t really like that word) comes in all shapes and sizes. This one happens to be 5 feet and Greek!

Caroline Kyriakou was diagnosed with MS in 2006. She enjoys reading, blogging, and is working on her first book. Caroline volunteers as a mentor through MS ActiveSource. Find her Facebook MS Support group Friends Against the MonSter here and you also can ‘like’ Caroline’s page on Facebook by clicking here! You can find additional blogs by Caroline on MS Relief. Caroline lives in Boston with her husband, Abe.


  • Love this Caroline and good for you! As you know, my little bro recommended I get one immediately so he could borrow it (he was 21 and I smacked him) but I had no interest. And then, I found out the town that I grew up in and do A LOT of volunteering in offers 1/2 price parking for people with a placard. My meds are pricey and I felt a little guilty but was in town for volunteer stuff and moeny was tight. I only use it in the town when there are plenty of spaces available. But in the last years I have noticed that there are some days when I really do need it. On those days I do still feel guilty but I try to get over that by reminding myself that the exhaustion is real and dealing with it is part of the balancing act we need to do. I don't want to get too used to it though so I try to only use it when I am having a really bad day or need discounted parking when there is a lot of discounted parking spaces available!

    Yvonne said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • Wow! Glad I'm not the only one who sometimes feels guilty about using the placard. There is no getting around it some days though. Loved reading this one Caroline!

    Vanessa said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • You really hit the nail on the head when it comes to the guilty part. I often feel it, but then realize I wouldn't get half the errands done during my day if I didn't have the placard. Without the extra energy loss getting to and from my car, I am so much more productive. Thanks for sharing such a great topic!

    Stephanie said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • Thanks for sharing such a great topic! I also feel guilty using my placard, but in actuality it allows me to get so much more done during my day. I can squeeze in a few more errands because I don't have to account for the lost energy getting to and from my car. Sometimes, even when I don't need my cane, I'll bring it with me on errands so when I park in the handicapped spot, people have a visual cue as to my disability. Funny how we learn to justify certain things...

    Stephanie said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • Thanks Yvonne and Vanessa!!

    Caroline said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • Good for you Caroline. When my friend Leslie got one I was so jealous. I asked my doc and he said "you are not anywhere near that!" Hm, does he go with me on a daily basis? Does he know how hard I work at looking normal? So after much thought and now after reading your blog and now moving AGAIN and changing docs I will try to be more honest and accepting of this disease and ask for one - just to make a bit easier when my husband chooses the farthest parking space he can find just to "test" me and when I drive alone - what a joy that will be to be able to park closer to a venue. I might get extra time in a store or even be able to walk to mall. After 11 years with the Monster I am finally realizing it is ok to accept my limitations and ask for help and that is only with the help of others such as yourself. Thanks you Caroline for the inspiration and your guts!

    Judy said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • Caroline, I got my parking card even before I was diagnosed with MS 2 yrs ago, I was having balance issues that turned out to be MS, but my doctor told me I needed to get one. Most days I am very thankful to have it in my truck. On days when I am feeling really good and feel like walking, I will leave the handicapped spots for someone worse off than me but if I need it, I'll take the spot. Cool thing, in my town, there is no charge for parking anywhere if you have the parking card. What upset me about it was when I had to get my second one- first one was for a temp (2yrs)permit- this one says permanent disability. That stung when I first saw it. I grew up with a father who was disabled due to polio so this stuff wasn't really new to me, I always looked out for my dad, now though it's for me. I look at it this way...those spots are reserved for people who have difficulty, this eases my difficulty. No different than me taking my medications, I use them when I need them, they ease my symptoms.

    Amanda said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • My neuro refused to sign the paperwork because I have perfect gait. I explained I only wanted this for occasional use, for example, when I'm alone and the temperature is 105, and I can't find a close parking space. When I have to park a far distance, by the time I reach the building, I have to rest a bit. His response is exhaustion is not a handicap/disability.
    I was surprised at his response! It took a lot for me even to ask. I worried that people might "key" my car, as I look "fine."

    Theresa said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • This is remarkably timely - thank you. My girlfriend just brought mine back to me, we had used it in her car to haul me around and I forgot to bring it back with me. I can not drive, but other people take me places. I have a "hang tag" so whoever drives can hang it on the rearview post and that covers it. My neurologist first suggested it and the MVA here issued it. I just got a reminder from the state that the current one will expire in September, and I need to get a new one. I drove for 40+ years before I could no longer pass a vision test, my peripheral vision is gone. I was diagnosed around 2006 myself, am 60 now and I rely on other people to get me places. Thanks to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and support from York County here in Pa., I can ride RabbitTransit. They even have a wheelchair lift on some busses. Not being able to drive is the biggest single challenge I have faced going anywhere. Friends and family will drive, but the hang-tag is a life saver. If your doc and your state will get you one, you should do it. It makes life easier on those who need it.

    Dave (or James...) said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • I woke up this morning about to get ready for work and needed a pick me up. Thanks Caroline!

    Agoodwoman4real said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • I have ms and also hate using my placard. I actually have a very similar story to yours. I only use it when i am feeling bad, or if i have a real long day ahead, otherwise i like a good challenge. here is the page i wrote about my journey>

    mariajomith said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • Ten years ago I felt guilty using my placard. I had an experience with a woman who came up to me and questioned why I was using it as I looked fine.
    Now I use it all the time because I am home bound and have limited walking capability.

    Susan said (9 years, 9 months ago)
  • I have had my placecard for 15 years now. And, have never felt quilty for using it. Reason being - if I did not use it I would not be able to do any 'normal' things like go to the bank, store, etc. I have had rude people come up to me and say "You are obviously using your parents placecard -- I'm calling the police". And they did! I patiently sat there and waited for the police to arrive. Then having proved to the police that I had one legally, the only thing the person said was "Well, you do not look disabled you are to young". This person was an elderly lady. I told her "I'll gladly give you my placecard IF you take my MS". Then she said "Oh I'm sorry I did not know."

    Michele Ann said (9 years, 8 months ago)

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