Does Lupus Qualify for Disabled Parking? | MyLupusTeam

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Does Lupus Qualify for Disabled Parking?

Medically reviewed by Maria Lolou, M.D., M.S.
Posted on July 19, 2023

Lupus isn’t an automatically qualifying condition for accessible parking (often called disabled parking). However, this autoimmune condition may cause issues that provide eligibility for accessible parking spots. Some MyLupusTeam members wonder whether their symptoms are severe enough to warrant a special parking pass.

“I am 20 years old, and my mom broached the topic of accessible parking today with me. I feel like I shouldn’t do it,” one member said. “Sure, my joints hurt, but they don’t usually swell to the point of being unable to walk. I am super sensitive to the sun, though. Any small amount of time outside really takes the energy out of me, and I end up napping for hours.”

Only you know how lupus affects your daily activities, even if it doesn’t appear to others that you have a disability. If you think having an accessible parking pass would improve your quality of life, here’s how to see if you qualify.

Reasons To Consider Accessible Parking

Accessible parking laws vary by state, but, depending on how lupus affects your body, you might be interested in applying. You may want a disabled parking permit if you experience symptoms such as the following:

  • Painful joints or leg cramps that make walking difficult
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Photosensitivity that requires you to limit your time outdoors

“I recently got a disabled parking permit because I was in horrible, crippling pain in my knees,” shared a MyLupusTeam member. “My doctor said I will need it when I’m like that and that lupus is a permanent condition. She told me to use it when I need it. There’s no need to suffer needlessly on the days you are really hurting. I’m glad she talked me into it.”

Another explained, “There are some days I can’t tolerate even 30 seconds of sunlight. Or my joints are so painful, the extra steps are just too much, and I am very glad that I have the accessible parking tag then.”

In addition, some weather conditions can trigger lupus symptoms, including Raynaud’s phenomenon in the cold or itchy skin from humidity, making it uncomfortable to spend a lot of time outdoors. “There are days I park way out in the parking lot and love to walk. When it’s cold and wet or plain cold, my Raynaud’s is very troubling (even in the store),” explained a MyLupusTeam member.

You shouldn’t avoid applying for accessible parking because you’re concerned about what other people will think. If parking closer to your destination helps ward off an afternoon in bed or a painful flare-up, you should absolutely move forward with your application. Most people have found their health care providers to be supportive of this request. It doesn’t hurt to pursue the option, even if you don’t use the accessible placard for every outing.

How To Apply

MyLupusTeam members have described the application process as straightforward and well worth it. “I have an accessible parking tag, which is good throughout the country. Ask your doctor, or pick up the form from your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or online. All you need is for the doctor to sign off on it. It is a game changer and empowering for saving energy!”

Most states allow you to apply for a temporary or permanent parking permit if you have certain chronic (ongoing) illnesses or physical impairments. In some areas, like New York City, an accessible parking permit may qualify you for additional benefits, like waivers for metered parking. Be sure to read all your paperwork carefully, and look up the laws if you’re traveling to a different state. You can avoid unnecessary fines or other problems by becoming well-versed in properly using and displaying your parking permit.

Sometimes, asking your doctor is the easiest way to get started. “I would call your doctor’s office to see if they have the forms. My doctor already had the paperwork to fill out at her office,” one member said. “I just brought up the subject, and she immediately agreed that I needed accessible parking license plates. You can also print it from the DMV website and have the doctor fill out their portion.”

Because lupus is a chronic condition, in most cases, the permanent permit makes the most sense. You just need to take the steps to apply so that you’ll have the permit when you need it.

Moving Past the Stigma

Because many people develop lupus before age 45 and many don’t have visible symptoms, you may worry about what others will think when they see you using accessible parking.

“I feel uncomfortable using it sometimes because people don’t see lupus, but they judge. (Be prepared to ignore them.) But some days, the need is that great, and I’m happy I have the permit,” one MyLupusTeam member said.

Other members have emphasized the benefits of having the permit even if it’s not always used: “Just because you have an accessible parking tag or placard does not mean you must use it. At least you will have it when you need it. I know how hard it is to accept that you need one. But you should get it. Trust me, you will be glad you did.”

Another said, “I only use it when I have a really bad day. On other days, I park in a normal spot. It’s hard not to feel bad, but if it lowers your stress and pain level, then it’s necessary.”

Lupus can sometimes seem like an invisible illness because the symptoms aren’t always outwardly apparent. Even if you don’t consider yourself a person with a disability, having access to an accessible parking placard can make your life with lupus a little bit easier. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone other than the medical professionals responsible for signing off on this helpful disability benefit.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyLupusTeam is the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones. On MyLupusTeam, more than 223,000 people with lupus come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories.

Have you applied for an accessible parking permit for lupus or another medical condition? Do you find it helpful to have access to closer parking spaces, particularly during a lupus flare-up? Post your thoughts in the comments below, or start a conversation by sharing on MyLupusTeam.

Posted on July 19, 2023
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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Maria Lolou, M.D., M.S. graduated from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, where she completed her medical school training. Learn more about her here
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here

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