The freedom to park in places allocated specifically for Persons with Disabilities is a privilege, and in the United States it is regulated according to law. While there are minor variations to the laws between states in America, the laws follow some basic lines.
The laws supporting disability parking privileges are there to ensure that Persons with Disabilities have access to parking that does not present an undue hardship. With parking lots that have grown in size these privileges are a significant help.
If you have either a temporary or a permanent disability and it impairs your ability to walk, or your disability presents concerns for your safety as you walk, the Motor Vehicle Department in your state can provide you with a placard that allows you to use parking spaces reserved for persons with disabilities. For people who have permanent disabilities, there is also the option of obtaining disability license plates. Both the license plates and the placards have the International Symbol of Access on them and permit you to park in disabled parking spaces in every state in America, as well as in other countries. You can apply for disabled plates or placards at any Motor Vehicle customer service center.
Disabled parking plates and placards are available for organizations and institutions that provide transportation for persons with disabilities through the Motor Vehicle Department in their state. The requirement for the organization or institution is that they must be a non-profit entity. Any business that either directly or indirectly charges a fee for their services is not eligible.
Temporary parking placards are generally only valid for a short period of time, usually about six months depending on the state. In order to be eligible for a temporary disabled parking placard you must have a physician, or in some states, a physician's assistant, nurse practitioner, chiropractor or podiatrist complete the appropriate medical forms. The medical personnel who completes the form required by the state you want to receive a placard from must also designate the approximate amount of time your temporary disability will last.
Temporary placards expire on the last day of the month and year indicated on them. If, after the date the placard has expired, you are still temporarily disabled, your physician or other qualified medical personnel can re-certify that you are still disabled and you can obtain another placard from your state. Temporary placards are usually red and easily identified by parking enforcement personnel, so it is wise to keep them up to date if you are still temporarily disabled.
For people who have permanent disabilities, the Motor Vehicle Departments in America offer permanent placards that are valid for a longer period of time, usually three years. To obtain one, you need the appropriate form filled out by your physician or other qualified medical personnel in your state. A permanent disability is considered one that either limits or impairs a person's ability to move from one place to another or walk, and has reached the maximum level of improvement and is not expected to change with additional treatment.
When a permanent placard expires, you can replace it again without having to go through the recertification process. The same is true for non-profit organizations that transport persons with disabilities. Like their temporary counterparts, permanent placards expire on the last day of the month and year indicated on them.
Disabled parking plates are also available, and are an option for persons whose physician or other medical personnel have found them to be permanently disabled in agreement with their state's requirements. Like the placards, disabled parking plates bear the International Access Symbol. The owner of a car with disabled parking plates can be the person with the disability, a parent or guardian of a person with a disability, or a non-profit organization that transports persons with disabilities. The plates are valid until the registration on your vehicle expires.
For Veterans, there are license plates available with the International Symbol of Access. The rules regarding these license plates vary from state to state, so researching the requirements of your particular state is essential. In the state of Colorado, for example, you must have a disability rating from the Veteran's Administration of at least 50% in order to obtain a Disabled Veteran license plate through the Motor Vehicle Department. In order to obtain a Disabled Veteran plate in any state, you must have a specific form filled out from you physician through the Veteran's Administration.
With your disabled parking placard or plates you can park in any parking place that is designated for a disabled person. Your disabled parking privileges DO NOT mean that you can park where it is prohibited, or in spaces that are reserved for specifically named vehicles, such as state vehicles. Your disabled parking privileges do not mean that you can park wherever you feel like, or where it would present a traffic hazard.
The process of obtaining permanent, disability parking plates here in Colorado State is something that I have experienced as recently as this month. My old car that I had driven for more than seven years finally gave up and I traded it in for a new one. I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles here in Colorado Springs, and obtained form DD2219, or the, Application for Persons With Disabilities Parking Privileges, form. The main form itself is one page, not a major ordeal. It did need to be signed by my physician, who happens to be a Veteran's Administration Doctor.
The form asks the usual basic information, such as for your name, address, city, state, zip, driver's license number and when it expires, and date of birth. The bottom half of the page is for use by the medical personnel who will fill it out.
There are five areas used to qualify a person as disabled; they state:
Underneath these statements which the doctor must choose from are lines for the doctor's signature, address, city, state, zip, phone number and check boxes for the doctor to designate whether the disability is permanent or temporary. There is also a line for the doctor's medical license number. The form must be dated, and turned in to the Motor Vehicle Department.
I went to see my doctor at the Veteran's Administration Clinic here in Colorado Springs, and asked him to fill out the form. He was willing to do so, and checked the two boxes you see designated above. I have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the knees, hips and ankles. I am also preparing for arthroscopies on both knees this month. I took the form to the Department of Motor Vehicles, where I registered my car and obtained disabled parking plates for it at the same time. I was unable to get a Disabled Veteran parking plate because I have a 40% disability rating through the Veterans Administration; not a 50% rating.
The privilege of parking closer to stores and events has been a very great help to me. Instead of trekking across massive parking lots at shopping malls and events, I now actually find myself with some energy left when I arrive where I am going. Being able to park near my destination means less wear and tear on me physically. I am able to spend more time shopping or enjoying events. The same is true for others who use parking designated for persons with disabilities.
There are some issues that have presented themselves already in relation to disability parking, placards, and abuse of designated parking spaces. One of the first things I have noticed is that many of the parking spaces allocated to persons with disabilities are similar to those for non-disabled persons; they leave no space for a person to get adaptive equipment out of a vehicle. In other words, if a person has to get a wheelchair out of the driver's side, or even the passenger side, of a vehicle there simply isn't any room if another car is parked next to the space. Even if you do not have to get a wheelchair out of your car in one of these spaces, it can still be difficult to get out of your car with a cane.
There are also parking spaces that do have some extra space, designated with hash marks on the side. Unfortunately, many of these parking spaces only have that extra space on the passenger side, making the person who drives the vehicle short on space. People with disabilities do drive!
There are a number of complaints I have heard regarding the abuse of disability parking privileges. One of the predominant complaints has to do with people who are not disabled that choose to park in a space designated for persons with disabilities to park in with the notion that they will, only be a minute. Somehow, that, minute, turns into several, and in the meantime a person with a disability and state qualified permission to park in the spot has been denied the right to park there. Not only is parking in a spot designated for persons with disabilities who have a placard or plates by someone who does not have the privilege illegal and punishable by fines, it is a social ugliness that makes the offender look like a selfish, lazy person.
The people who choose to park in a space designated for persons with disabilities, yet do not have either a placard or plates, might learn not to park in such a space if a couple of things were to happen. The first is citizen reporting. If people with disabilities who have been denied their parking privilege due to the actions of someone parking in a space who does not have a placard or plates were able to call on a cell phone and report it to the police, that would be a start. If the police then had the power to both fine the owner of the vehicle and then call a tow truck well; lesson learned.
Another complaint I have encountered has to do with businesses that do not maintain their disability parking spaces, so that questions arise of whether or not the space truly is a designated place to park. Here's what happens - the painted symbol that is supposed to be kept fresh and readily visible, along with the lines defining the space, have gone pale, cracked, and faded; we have encountered these spots all too often. Somebody without a placard or plate parks there, and then questions whether the parking place was even a designated one if questioned. When approached, the business says that they will, get to it, but somehow they never seem to, or it takes a very long time to do so.
One solution to this lack of maintenance of disability parking spaces is to make it a finable offense to ignore maintenance of these spaces. Businesses that ignore their disability parking maintenance, or other parking spaces for that matter, and receive a complaint, would be fined a certain amount per month until they are brought up to standard. If the business chooses to pay the fine for a period longer than six months, the fine would then be doubled each month until compliance has been achieved. In other words, paint the lines and the symbol, it's cheaper.
Even worse are those places of business that simply do not designate enough disability parking spaces in the first place. When I went to the Division of Motor Vehicles to obtain my disability parking plates and register my car, I found a full parking lot out front. In that parking lot were very few designated disability parking places. My option was to park in the shopping mall parking lot, and I found myself wobbling across nearly an acre of land to get to the front door. By the time I got there I was so physically sore I had to sit down for a while, and I was hurting for hours afterwards.
One solution to the issue of lack of adequate parking is to designate the entire front row of parking nearest to every store or place of business where there are multiple rows of parking available as disability parking. For those stores or places of business where there are not multiple rows of parking available, the proportion of parking designated for persons with disabilities needs to be in proportion to the numbers of persons with disabilities in the nation. In other words, one-fifth of America has a disability; therefore one-fifth of all parking spaces in America should be designated as disability parking spaces.
With proper use of disability parking privileges, we can respect each other's right to equal access where shopping, access to businesses and events are concerned. The current system of disability parking privilege in America is working to an extent, and while there are issues to be dealt with, the system in place is something that can be worked with and improved upon. For those of us who use the system of disability parking in this nation it is a welcome one.