Normal parking spaces do not provide enough allowance for a wheelchair user to maneuver in and out of their vehicle without bumping into other cars. While normal parking spaces don’t pose a problem for able-bodied people at least, they tend to be a painstaking challenge to people with disabilities who find the spaces between the cars too small and too uncomfortable.
The enacting of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gave people with disabilities a breather and lead to the establishment of handicap parking spaces. Although handicap parking spaces were made for people with disabilities, not everyone with disabilities can park their car in a handicap parking spot.
In this article, we are going to talk about everything regarding handicap parking including who is eligible for handicap parking, handicap parking laws in various states in the U.S, and how to apply for a handicap parking permit.
What is Handicap Parking
If you’ve parked your car in a public parking space before, you might have come across a blue symbol displaying a person in a wheelchair in a blue background.
The exact spot under that symbol is reserved for people with disabilities and thus called a handicap parking space. Sometimes the symbol will be painted on the ground rather than displayed with a signpost.
Although these spaces are reserved for people with disabilities, you will need to have a handicap parking permit before you can be allowed to use them.
Who is Eligible for Handicap Parking
Unfortunately, not everyone with a disability can make use of disability parking spaces even though they were made for people with disabilities.
Generally, individuals with a disability that restricts their movement are allowed to use these spaces and own a disability parking permit.
Every state in the U.S has its own handicap parking laws and they dictate who is eligible and who isn’t. It is advised that you check your state’s handicap parking laws to see if you are eligible for handicap parking or not.
However, individuals with the conditions below are easily considered eligible for a handicap parking permit in most states in the US.
- Vision problems
- Loss of one or both of your limbs, either legs or hands
- Lung disease
- Impaired mobility
- Heart disease
Eligibility Requirements For Disability Parking Permit in Georgia
Below are the eligibility requirements for a disability parking permit for people with disabilities living in the state of Georgia
- Hearing impairment;
- Unable to walk without the assistance of a wheelchair, brace, cane, another person, crutch or any other assistive devices
- Severe breathing difficult or any serious Lung disease
- Use of portable oxygen;
- Heart disease or severe cardiac condition;
- Blindness or limited vision (this is acceptable in 26 US states)
- Limited mobility due to arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition
The conditions above qualify you for a permanent handicap parking permit, however, you can choose to apply for a temporary parking permit if you are undergoing cancer treatment, have leg injury or recovering from surgery.
Individuals that require the assistance of a wheelchair, crutches and any other assistive devices can also apply for a temporary handicap parking permit.
Before applying for a handicap parking permit, you should have a one-on-one with your doctor. Your doctor will tell you if you should go for a handicap parking permit and he will also fill some parts of your application form.
Your doctor can also help you decide if you should go for a temporary or permanent handicap parking permit based on your condition and recovery process.
Which Vehicles Are Eligible For Handicap Parking Permit?
Not only must you have a physical disability to be qualified, but your vehicle also must meet the qualification requirements especially if you are going for a parking permit that would be placed on your license plate.
In Georgia, your vehicle or truck must have a registered gross weight less than 10,000 lbs or you wouldn’t be given your handicap parking permit.
The parking permit could either be in the form of a marked license plate or a placard that should be displayed on the rear-view mirror when the vehicle is parked.
Cost of Getting a Handicap Parking Permit
Permits/placards for individuals with disabilities are free whether you are going for a permanent permit or a temporary one. However, this doesn’t mean that you get to park in the handicap parking space for free.
License plate permits normally attract a fee. The fee charged by states for the license plate permit varies. It is best to check with your state before moving further.
Is Handicap Parking Free?
A disability parking permit generally means that you are exempted from parking meter fees which are one of the reasons why the permits are being abused and misused by able-bodied individuals. However, parking is only free in a few major US cities while several other states do charge individuals for parking whether or not they have a disability parking permit.
California, South Carolina, Utah, Massachusetts, Virginia, Texas, and Maryland are among the few states that exempt holders of the permit from parking charges.
Handicap Parking Permit From State to State
Not all states in the US will recognize handicap parking permits from other states so if you are traveling to another state, you should check if the handicap permit issued by your state is acceptable there. Fortunately, most states do accept and recognize valid permits issued from other states.
Types of Handicap Parking Spaces
There are three different types of handicap parking spaces meant to serve most vehicle types used by people with disabilities. These handicap parking spaces are meant for cars and wheelchair vans but you can make use of any parking space regardless of the vehicle you drive.
However, you should try to make things convenient for everyone by parking in the right space. If you drive a sedan, you wouldn’t be breaking any rule if you park in a handicap spots meant for vans since states do not have laws that dictate which type of parking space you can access with your permit.
But that would make it more challenging for people with wheelchair-accessible vehicles to get in and out of their vehicles.
Always try to park in the appropriate spot even if you meet it empty.
Handicap Parking Spaces For Cars
These parking spaces are specifically for people with disability parking permits that drive standard vehicles. They are the best fit for sedans and SUVs. This parking space is the most common and provides enough room for a person using a wheelchair to enter or exit the vehicle.
Handicap Parking Spaces For Vans (One Sided Entry)
Wheelchair accessible vans take up more space than standard vehicles, therefore they require a larger parking space. This parking space is usually marked “Van Accessible” so if you move with a mobility van, you would want to check for this sign before parking.
Handicap Parking Spaces For Vans (Two-Sided Entry)
This type of parking space provides more space and has access to aisles on both sides. Parking in this space not only allows the driver to enter or exit the vehicle conveniently but also provides enough space for a driver to maneuver.
Of all three, this is the most convenient handicap parking space. Every parking lot with accessible parking spaces have at least one van accessible parking space. It could allow for only one-sided entry or two-sided entry however both are good enough to allow you to enter and exit the vehicle without hassle.
Ensure you park in the right parking space, regardless of the number of spots available in the accessible parking space.
How to Apply for Handicap Parking Permit
Before applying for a handicap parking permit, you should first confirm if you are eligible to receive the permit by checking the eligibility requirements in your state. It is also advised that you confirm your eligibility status with your doctor. Your doctor will also determine if you need a permanent or temporary handicap parking permit.
Once your eligibility status is confirmed, you can begin the application process. Each state in the US has a department or office that handles the issuance of handicap parking permits. If you live in California, you can get it from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
You can get the form online or offline by visiting the appropriate office in your state. Your doctor would also be required to fill and sign some parts of the form so make sure they are available during the period.
Disability Parking Placards
As said above, they are placed in the rear-view mirrors of the vehicle approved during the application for the permit. Placards generally do not incur any fees during the application process, however, your state might charge a fee for issuing the permit.
Disability Parking License Plates
This option is ideal for those going for permanent disability parking permits. Your vehicle’s license plate will be changed by the department in charge of the process and it will stand as your permit. Getting a disability parking license plates will incur a fee.
Renewing Your Handicap Parking Permit
Disability parking permits are valid from anywhere between 2 – 4 years for permanent parking permits and 180 days for temporary parking permits. Permanent permits issued on California have a validity period of 2 years while those issued in Georgia are valid for 4 years. You will have to renew your placard immediately the validity period elapses.
In some states, you cannot renew your temporary parking permit more than six times, so it’s best to speak with your doctor before applying for a disability parking permit and make sure you go for the right one.
If you lose your placard, you can get a new one from the office that issued the original placard. Some offices charge fees for replacing temporary placards while others replace temporary and permanent placards with no additional fees required.
Handicap Parking Laws
There are laws that govern how the permit is to be used and the kind of access to handicap parking spaces it grants. Below are some of the general rules of handicap parking in every state in the US.
- You are not allowed to park in a space that has a person’s name or license number displayed on the sign or painted on the space.
- You are not allowed to park in the crosshatched area adjacent to the handicap parking space.
- If you have an expired placard, you are to renew it before you can use it to gain access to handicap parking spaces.
Handicap Parking Laws By State
The laws of most states are almost the same, however, you should check for issues regarding traveling with your disability parking placard, and parking areas.
Handicap Parking Laws In California
Travel Parking Placard
Travelers who have a permanent disability parking placard or license plate issued in California and will be traveling to other states in the US can apply for a travel parking placard. The placard is valid for 30 days and it’s for those who will be traveling in other vehicles.
If you are coming from other US states with a placard issued in your home state, you can use that placard to access handicap parking spaces in California. However, this privilege is granted to only those who travel with the vehicles that were granted the disability parking placard or license plate.
If you are traveling in another vehicle, you will have to apply for a non-resident travel parking placard. The placard has a validity period of 90 days.
- Parking spaces for persons with disabilities are denoted with a blue symbol of a person in a wheelchair. You can park next to the blue or green curb for as long as you wish.
- You are allowed to park at a parking meter at no cost (other states could charge for parking in this area).
- You are allowed to park in spaces that require a resident or merchant permit.
- You are not allowed to park in the area marked with a crosshatched pattern. These spaces are meant for wheelchair and wheelchair lift access
- You are not allowed to park next to red, yellow or white curbs
- You are not to lend or alter your placard
- You are not allowed to use someone else’s placard even if that person is a family member.
- It is illegal to forge a licensed medical professional’s signature which is required on the application form. Such an act will subject you to a fine.
- It is illegal to possess or display a counterfeit placard or license plates.
- It is illegal to provide false information to obtain a disability parking permit.
Disability parking permits have continuously been abused due to the fact that the permit allows people to park for free, however, if you are caught with a disability parking permit that is not yours, you will have to face the consequences. Also, you will be subject to fines and legal penalties if you are caught with your car illegally parked in a handicapped parking space.
Handicap parking permits are not for everyone with a disability. Individuals with invisible disabilities might not be eligible for a handicap parking permit if such disability doesn’t restrict their movement. Make sure you check the eligibility requirements of your state and meet with your doctor before applying for a disability parking permit.