Friday, May 28, 2010

Should Hidden Disabilities Be On Your ID?

(Photo Credit:

- by Barbara Davis -

While searching through the Fox News website yesterday, I found an article about attempts by Georgia legislators to make it possible for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to voluntarily have this diagnosis placed on their driver’s license. The reasoning behind it is to ensure the safety of officers who pull people over: supposedly the PTSD designation on the license will prepare the officer in the event of violent or unexpected behavior.

My first reaction to the article was, “Who would voluntarily have this diagnosis on their license, and why would they?” My second reaction was that if the purpose of the PTSD diagnosis on the license is to prepare officers for the unexpected, wouldn’t it be a little late by the time they got close enough to the person to look at the license? Thirdly, I tried to think of an upside to voluntarily having this diagnosis on a license, and couldn’t think of a single one. I could, however, think of quite a few downsides.

I once had a driver’s license in the state of Florida. It was a restricted license. The two restrictions were that I must wear hearing aids at all times, and that I must wear eye glasses at all times. These seem like innocent enough statements on a license, but the reactions the first one evoked made me glad to move to a state that left those restrictions off.

I can still remember how the scenario usually went when asked to show ID in those Florida days. I would walk into a bar/restaurant and be greeted in a tone of voice adults reserve for other adults. Once the host/hostess saw my license, I was suddenly talked to like I was in kindergarten and couldn’t find my way home. He/she would also address me in a very loud voice. This distorted the person’s lip movements and made it impossible for me to understand what was being said. I always ended up feeling frustrated, embarrassed and uncomfortable. Needless to say, it put quite a damper on any fun I was planning to have.

If I got this kind of reaction with a hearing loss reveal on the license, I can only imagine what a PTSD reveal could do. I can picture being asked to leave, or being constantly scrutinized in case my behavior became erratic. I can also imagine that a bartender would be reluctant to serve me alcohol due to misconceptions about this disability.

In a world where we have to show ID for nearly everything, life could get really complicated if a PTSD diagnosis was listed on my license. I don’t want to think about the kind of reaction I would get if I tried to board an airplane, apply for admission to a college or university, or attend a meeting in a school, hospital or elsewhere. Plus, in my job search, I would automatically reveal my disability on the job, since I would have to show ID once hired.

I can understand first responders wanting to protect themselves from potentially dangerous situations. But it seems to me it would be much more effective to become educated about PTSD, and to always be prepared to deal with the unexpected, no matter what the circumstances. Asking people to voluntarily disclose a disability on their driver’s license is not only ineffective, it can potentially cause all kinds of problems for the person with a disability.

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