I've circled back to blogging about tagging several times now. My first Tagged post was about Joy's Project Lifesaver radio tag, for tracking purposes in case she wanders. (Now that she's in kindergarten, we're extra-glad to have that safeguard.) Just lately, I succumbed to the lure of tagging via blog-meme.
Our latest new form of tag in the JoyFamily is a disability hang-tag for access to priority parking spaces.
Parking lot safety for Joy has long been a concern of ours, but the possibility of a hang-tag didn't really click for me until I had a conversation with Joy's special educator about dropping Joy off at the start of the school day. I've got my work-schedule arranged so as to be able to do both drop-off and pickup for the girls at school, so we aren't taking advantage of the "short bus" that drops kids right by the back door. If you don't bus, parental drop-off is on the far side of a busy street, with a walk either up or down-hill to the crossing guard. As an alternative, Joy's special educator mentioned that some parents do a quick drop-off in the handicap spots. Of course, for that you need official dispensation.
Earlier in our journey I'd have had more of an internal debate. ("But she's not handicapped -- she's just delayed a little -- we don't really need this -- why mark her as more different than she already is" -- etc.) At this point, though, I've learned to agonize less over taking advantage of available resources and designations that can make our lives easier. The application for the tags was a simple form, just a download away. It needed a physician's approval, which Joy's doctor gave easily on request. Two hang tags soon arrived in the mail, one for each car's glove compartment.
So far, I have used them sparingly: only at school, and only at drop-off. In general I'd prefer to have Joy learn to walk with me and her sister and the other kids. Sometimes we make it the whole 15-minute walk home! However, if there's rain and puddles, or new snow, the walk becomes too much of a stimmy distracted battle. It's exhausting, not entirely safe, and sets up a miserable mood for turning Joy over to school staff. So on those days, out comes the tag and we drive practically up to the door.
I haven't yet used the tag in a public parking lot yet, but I sure feel better knowing we have the option. Parking lots can be scary-rough -- there was a set of helpful parking-lot tips the other day at Stuart Duncan's blog with suggestions for the situation. (I added the hang-tag suggestion in the comments!)
It has crossed my mind that, with Joy's invisible disability, we might come in for some pushback from the self-appointed parking lot police -- the folks who see fit to call challenge if they see someone they don't think looks disabled get out of a car in a handicap-accessible spot. I was reminded of this yesterday when Rachel posted at Journeys with Autism about the barrage of doubt and disbelief that people with invisible disabilities often face. She mentioned one woman who developed a snappy comeback for the doubters: when someone issued a "you don't look disabled" parking lot challenge, she'd fire back, "And you don't look like a doctor!" (Rachel's post and the comments were much more detailed and nuanced than this little example; well worth the read.)
I gave a quick delighted high-five in the comments about that comeback -- it's so the perfect response that you wish you'd thought of at the time! I've been re-thinking my enthusiasm somewhat, though. It strikes me that if any parking lot pushback were to come our way, I'd rather be prepared with a gentle, educational answer than a snappy zinger. That way if the challenger turns out to be a well-meaning soul and open to new ideas, I might be able to send them away thoughtful rather than cranky/defensive. And if they really deserved the edgy comeback after all -- well, then I'll have been nicer to them than they deserved. Which wouldn't be so bad.
I should make clear that my re-thinking is in no way meant as a prescription for how I think everyone ought to react to a parking lot challenge. Just my own thoughts and planned approach. A person with an invisible disability who has had it up to HERE with spending precious energy trying to educate people who won't listen anyway -- may well choose a different approach entirely.
The snow has been falling all day today. Glad we've got that hang-tag for tomorrow.