States Cracking Down On Accessible Parking Abuse
In some cities, drivers with disabilities trying to find accessible parking spaces are often out of luck, because many of those spots are taken by able-bodied people who use parking placards intended for those with disabilities to get a choice spot or save a few bucks.
The misuse of these permits, which usually hang on rearview mirrors or sit on dashboards, is a growing problem. It is especially acute in large cities, where parking is expensive and availability is limited.
“This is a significant issue for our members,” said Mark Perriello, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, a national disability rights group. “When people are out shopping or dining, they need these spots. When they can’t find them, it leaves people with disabilities out on the sidelines.”
Some states, which typically issue the placards, are combating abuse of these privileges by imposing stiffer penalties or stepping up enforcement. A few have chosen to end free parking for people with disabilities or have left that decision to the cities. Others are looking more closely at who gets these permits.
At least three states — Massachusetts, New Mexico and South Carolina — now require that placards display a photo of the person to whom they are issued. (Massachusetts and New Mexico provide a sleeve or flap to cover it for privacy.) Similar legislation was introduced in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, but failed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Some states have enacted penalties for misusing handicapped placards, stickers or plates. In Connecticut, for example, using a dead person’s placard can result in a $500 fine. In New Jersey, anyone convicted of making a false statement or providing misinformation to get a placard is subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and 18 months in prison.
David Wingate, elder and disabilty lawyer, serving the communities of Frederick County and Montgomery County, Maryland.