Pushing to Put a Symbol for Invisible Disabilities on Driver’s Licenses

Pushing to Put a Symbol for Invisible Disabilities on Driver’s Licenses

This is not the week to tell me how good I look … even if I look and feel good.

The week of Oct. 13 is Invisible Disabilities Week. As we all know, multiple sclerosis (MS) can be as invisible as Casper the Ghost. Invisible Disabilities Week isn’t limited to people with MS, of course. But we have to be close to the top of the list of people who are told they look good when they actually feel terrible. The mission statement of the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) speaks to our experience:

“IDA is about believing. We believe you! The frequently invisible nature of illness and pain may lead to disbelief about that illness or pain by those surrounding the person who lives daily with invisible disabilities. This disbelief can lead to misunderstandings, rejection by friends, family and heath care providers. It may also lead to accusations of laziness or faking an illness. We are passionate about providing awareness that invisible illness, pain and disabilities are very real!”

Indeed, they are. I’m feeling great today, but tomorrow I might be too tired to drag myself out of bed. The other day I read about a woman who tripped, hit her head, and — you guessed it — was accused of being intoxicated. Fellow MS News Today columnist Teresa Wright-Johnson wrote about the problem of invisibility a year ago. I’m sure everyone reading this column can think of times in their lives when they were accused of whining, being lazy, or, of course, being drunk.

The possibility of invisible disability symbols

The IDA is campaigning for laws requiring that a symbol for invisible disease (the organization’s logo, a stylized “i”) be printed on government-issued IDs, such as a driver’s license. It would be similar to the way a symbol on driver’s licenses is used in many states to identify organ donors, but would identify the owner of the ID as someone with an invisible disease or illness.

invisible disabilities symbol
The proposed invisible disability symbol. (Courtesy of the Invisible Disabilities Association)

Alaska is the first state to pass a law like this. Earlier this year, Colorado legislators considered a similar bill but it appears to have stalled in a House committee.

I like the idea and will be contacting my congressional representative to see if I can get the ball rolling in Maryland. What do you think of the idea?

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
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Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
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10 comments

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Dave,

      I guess I didn’t make it clear in my column that the use of this symbol on an ID would be entirely voluntary. The person with the illness would have to request it.

      Ed

      • Hello Ed and Dave. Yes, please let me clarify that the National Disability ID is a designated symbol on government IDs that provides for voluntary disclosure of disabilities. Point being, it is there if you would like to have the assistance, for instance, in a law enforcement interaction. More info can be found here: http://nationaldisability.id/

  1. MARGO A SCHAPPELL says:

    I feel this is a bad idea as when I went to renew my driver’s license couple of years ago and had trouble signing my signature because of Tremors they made me go to my doctor and get a letter stating that I was okay to drive. What a pain that was

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Margo,

      I also had to obtain a doctor’s note several years ago when renewing my license. I don’t have a problem with that. I’d rather have people who have a physical problem that MAY impact their ability to drive safely be required to be cleared by a doctor than have people who can’t drive safely out on the road.

      Ed

  2. Crystal Brickell says:

    I understand the need, but is it a solution? Have these invisible illnesses been overlooked as well. Myself a diagnosed MS RRMS person gave up my license because of” bad days” it scared me. I didn’t want hurt someone else or myself in driving with a condition that literally has a mind of it’s own very unpredictable. I am sorry to say it but there are people out there who shouldn’t be driving. The idea is frightening. If they “do” or are diagnosed with a invisible illness they should be tested again then. They are taking not only their lives into their own hands but others to without a thought of the consequences. “Ponder that”.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Crystal,

      I agree with the need to have a doctor clear people who have an illness that may effect their ability to drive safely. On the other hand, I can drive without a problem (and a doctor has certified this) but my trouble walking could make me appear to be drunk. A little symbol alerting an officer that an illness, rather than drinking, might be responsible for my appearance might be useful.

      Ed

  3. Belinda MATTOS says:

    I think this is a great idea. At the very least, it can raise awareness about invisible disabilities among law enforcement. I realize that some might think this is another attempt at government intrusion into our personal lives. However, as the IDA web site states, this is a voluntary designation. It is not mandatory. I have no problem having this on my drivers license. I think the broad presence and use of artificial intelligence presents more of an impact on my personal data than an indicator on my license. Thanks, Ed, for sharing this information.

  4. Jenn says:

    Disagree 100%. Officers are trained to discover drunkenness. If however, you were in an accident through no fault of your own, that “invisible” symbol would be one of the first brought up w courts, insurance etc.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      That’s a good point, Jenn. Of course, I suspect that a driver’s medical history is likely to be looked at following an accident whether there’s a symbol on the license or not.

      Ed

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