Getting a Disability Placard is Easy 

disability placard


Alzheimer's Association


I’m not writing this as an expert or with any particular background knowledge. I just thought I would share an experience with what is becoming a common problem for some of us old fogies who would like to maintain some independence in our waning years. 

It has been getting harder, especially this last winter, for my husband and I to get around like we have before, so we decided to obtain a disability placard for our trusty little automobile. 

The disability tag would preserve some of our ability and energy to walk around the grocery store, instead of being too tired to shop after walking the full length of the parking lot as we have done in the past. 

Easy Application Process

Let me first say it is incredibly easy, and free, to get a disability placard for your car. It only requires completing a short form and getting your doctor to verify you need it. Most doctors’ offices will do it for you. They’ll fax it to the DMV, and your disability placard will be mailed directly to you. 

The first thing we did wrong was to go online to find the appropriate application form. Not being truly hip to the realities of online searches, I just didn’t think about the fact that many of the long list of hits from my request were identified with a tiny little “Ad” mark, especially those high on the list that had paid to appear near the top of the search results. 

I opened the first hit, and, voila, there was a form. 

I just first had to identify the state for which I wanted the disability tag. Having done that, a Montana form showed up, and I printed it. We filled in the blanks and took it to our primary physician for verification. Then I picked up the completed form and stuck it in an envelope only to discover that, instead of mailing it to the MVD in Helena, I was instructed to send it to an address in Deer Lodge. 

I thought that a little strange, so I made a call to the MVD in Helena. An incredibly helpful young man walked me through the whole process, and then we discussed the form I had. 

It turns out that, with a law passed in 2015, such forms were changed and require slightly different answers. Sometimes legitimate-looking forms are totally outdated. Way down in the left-hand corner are some important numbers. If the number is less than 15, the application would be turned down. 

The number on the form I got from my internet search was 03, meaning it was the 2003 form, which was, of course, way out of date. And, I don’t know who would have had access to a lot of our personal information if I had just shipped it off to Deer Lodge. 

Again, the nice MVD man said it probably would have been returned because “many years ago” those forms were mailed to Deer Lodge.

I contacted my doctor’s office to explain my mistake. They completed the new form, making sure the little left-hand corner number was current. They reminded me an applicant must meet one or more criteria:

  • cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest,
  • is severely limited in their ability to walk because of an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition,
  • is so severely disabled that the person cannot walk without the use of or assistance from a brace, cane, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair, or other assistive device,
  • is restricted by lung disease,
  • has impairment because of cardiovascular disease or a cardiac condition,
  • has other diseases that limit or impair their mobility.

My spouse and I had met several of the criteria.

Worth the Trip

It was early in April, one of our first spring days with bright sunshine, very few clouds, and the weather service was saying it would stay that way all day. Because we still can, we decided to take the form to Helena ourselves, instead of having the doctor’s assistants fax it. 

We climbed into our little car and enjoyed the scenic drive from Missoula over Macdonald Pass to Helena. With the assistance of our GPS system, we located the Motor Vehicle Division and parked way back in one of the few open spaces in the lot behind the building. 

By the time we found the right door to the building, we limped down a long hallway and around a couple of corners until we found the MVD office. It was obvious we met one or more of their criteria. 

From behind his glassed-in desk, a kind, helpful servant of the people looked at our form, asked us to sign a paper, and handed us two disability placards, one for our car and the other for our old seldom-driven pickup. It took about 15 minutes! 

We limped our way back to our car and fell into our seats. 

Back on the street, we quickly turned into the parking lot of a convenient coffee house. With a smug grin or two, we drove directly into the blue-and-white reserved parking spot, not 10 feet from the front door. We hung our new placard on the mirror and walked in without needing a cane. 

Armed with a cup of hot black coffee and a cookie, we headed home, back over the pass. Thanks to daylight savings time, we arrived back in Missoula before dark.

(OK. I can hear you already! I know we didn’t have to go to Helena. But COVID cabin fever is a good enough excuse to go for a nice long comfortable drive over the mountains.)

Don’t make it hard! If you need a disability parking pass, talk to your doctor. Chances are their office is equipped to fill out the proper form. They can send your form to the right people, and the placard will arrive in the mail within a couple of weeks. And you don’t even have to pay a fee. MSN

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