ON HAND: Handicapped license plates

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

The State of Virginia apparently believes that deaf people walk using their ears.

It’s the only reason I can think of why Virginia grants disabled license plates to deaf residents so they can park in handicapped parking spots.

I didn’t believe that this could even be possibly true when I was first notified. I went to Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website to check it out–and sure enough, it’s for real.

“DMV offers parking placards and plates for customers with temporary or permanent disabilities that limit or impair their mobility. They are also available to customers with a condition that creates a safety concern while walking (examples are Alzheimer’s disease, blindness or developmental amentia),” the website said. “These placards and plates entitle the holder to park in special parking spaces reserved for individuals with disabilities. Institutions and organizations that operate special vehicles equipped to carry persons with disabilities may also obtain parking placards and plates entitling them to special parking privileges.”

On the application form, under “Permanent Disabilities,” the applicant is to choose one of the following that best describes him:

“Has been diagnosed with a mental or developmental amentia or delay that impairs judgment including, but not limited to, an autism spectrum disorder; has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia; is legally blind or deaf; Other condition that creates a safety concern while walking because of impaired judgment or other physical, developmental, or mental limitation.”

Uh… do deaf people really want to align themselves with disabilities where mental functions are challenged? Wouldn’t that pretty much support the notion that deaf people are helpless, lacking, and ‘impaired’? Doesn’t that contradict with the whole notion of resisting the “hearing impaired” label?

I, for one, think the idea of deaf people with no other disabilities using handicapped parking spots is ridiculous. I can understand deaf people with additional disabilities having disabled plates–that’s completely justified. But to be deaf and want disabled plates just to get handicapped spots? I don’t care if the plates come in handy for holiday shopping in December. It’s just silly, and a flagrant abuse of the system, even as legal as it may be in Virginia.

Besides, what’s wrong with walking?

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