Accessible parking is important to many Americans: 26% of adults in the United States live with a disability. Almost 14% of those adults have a mobility disability with serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs, and nearly 7% of the adults with an independent living disability have difficulty doing errands alone. Those with a mobility-limiting disability that may make walking painful or difficult could be qualified for a parking permit. With a handicap parking permit, accessible parking spots near the entrances of buildings are readily available to help the individuals who need them save time and energy. What Qualifies as a Disability? Disability qualifications are determined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Condition requirements must be verified by a state-licensed medical professional. Loss or limited use of one or both legs, and/or both hands. Other conditions may apply, depending on state eligibility guidelines. Common conditions covered by state (but not federal) regulations include: temporary disability as a result from major surgery, pregnancy with complications, and elderly status. There are several steps to obtaining an accessible parking permit or placard, and the process generally takes some time. Find out more: How to Get California Disabled Person Parking Placards, Permits, & Plates
If a disability is easily discernible or visible, the requirement of a physician’s certification may be waived in some states. Check for eligibility with a local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Become aware of the options available. Time and terms for permits may vary per state. Some states offer license plates with permanent accessibility symbols that may be used in place of a placard or accessibility sticker. Each state has its own forms and criteria for parking permits. Typically, the program is run by the state’s DMV. The DMV will need verification of any medical conditions by a state- certified healthcare professional such as an optometrist, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner. For veterans with service-related disabilities, fees may sometimes be waived. In most states, the applicant must apply for the permit themselves. Some states allow for an individual to apply on the applicant’s behalf. Renewal and expiration dates, processes, and costs vary by state.
Some permits may renew automatically. Some permits need resubmittal of applications. Others may require recertification by a medical professional. The costs associated with accessibility parking permits and placards depend on the state. Many states provide free parking to individuals with disabilities by waiving costs of metered parking — sometimes even in state-owned parking garages. It is important to note that many states require metered or parking garage waivers for free parking. You can obtain these waivers through an application and registration process with the state or local DMV. These state- and local-issued waivers are applicable only in certain areas. Private parking facilities and garages may be exempt from free parking, even with a waiver. Some cities and states will provide you with an accessible spot in a residential area, if needed and applied for. Provided by the local disability commission or DMV, the accessibility parking spot may be open to use for anyone with a permit, while others can be reserved for use by a specific individual.
There are multiple types of accessibility permits, placards, and even permanent license plates. Placards and permits may also come in a variety of colors designating specific parking conditions available to permit-holders. Red placards are for people with temporary disabilities, and temporary permits. These are typically issued with a temporary time frame — typically six months — but may be renewed if needed. Dark blue placards are for those with permanent disabilities. Though these permits indicate a permanent disability, they may still be subject to renewal periods. The renewal period varies by state. Light blue placards are for “wheelchair users only” specific parking spaces. The renewal period varies by state. Who Can Use My Handicap Placard? An accessibility permit or placard is issued to you and may be used in any vehicle you are employing for transit. This means that you, the permit-holder, may use it as a driver or a passenger.