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Letters to the Editors

Driver criticizes DMV policies that restrict people with multiple sclerosis

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 21, 2000


Editor: Subject: Has the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles taken the role of physician now?

I went to the Brooksville driver's license office to apply for a Florida driver's license. I had recently relocated from another state and needed to apply for my Florida driver's license. At this time, I approached the counter when my number was called. I have multiple sclerosis and sometimes when I am in unfamiliar territory I use a cane for balance when I walk. The clerk watched me approach the counter and asked me, "How may I assist you?"

I explained I have moved from another state to Florida and I would like to obtain my Florida license. The clerk asked me for my current driver's license and my Social Security card. As I was handing the documents to him he asked me, "Is there something wrong with you or your left arm?" At that time, most of my left arm was out of sight because of the high counter and I was holding my cane in my left hand. I never think twice about telling anyone innocently "No, I just have MS," and I sort of held up my cane.

The clerk began to type in the computer, hesitated and then excused himself and got up and proceeded to go to an office where I could not see him for a minute or two. While I awaited his return, a senior citizen was taking an eye test to the right of me. When he proceeded to the third eye test machine, he was comfortable he could see better out of it than the other two. All the while being accommodated by the clerk waiting on him.

When the clerk returned he explained to me I was not able to get my license at this time because I have multiple sclerosis. Of course, I didn't see what this had to do with anything. I never filled out any papers, or was asked if there was anything that would impair my driving ability. He proceeded to turn around and asked his supervisor if he could give me my current license back and she prompted him, "Yes," and then he told her "You handle it." I was approached by the supervisor and she told me the same thing the clerk had told me. She further explained Florida statutes require, because I have MS, a Medical Advisory Board approval. This involved a request from her be sent to Tallahassee and they would get in touch with me.

I asked to see this Florida statute and was taken back to her office. She showed me an internal DMV (procedure/handbook) that interprets the state statute on MS to be a "progressive neurological disease." Under protest I gave her the necessary information to proceed with the request.

I have since received my Medical Advisory Board approval, based on a medical report on my physical condition from my neurologist. My doctor does not state I have a progressive neurological disease, and yet the DMV requires I take a road test and submit another medical report in two years.

When I left the DMV it was very obvious the above-described treatment of me was because I approached the DMV counter using a cane. Do I have to be subject to these restrictions because of my MS? Am I to be discriminated against and judged of my driving ability because I utilize a cane for balance when I walk? Doesn't my excellent driving record speak of my ability to handle a motor vehicle?
-- Linda A. Becker, Spring Hill

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