After seeing handicap parking spaces in Italy, I became curious about how different countries handle the issue. I started my research in my own back yard. I thought I was informed about these policies in the US, but it turns out I had a thing or two to learn.
Handicap Parking in the US:
1. People with a permanent disability or a chronic illness can get a blue placard or have the International Symbol of Access specially marked on their license plate.
2. Temporary disabilities (ie. from an injury/surgery) can get you a red placard.
3. Some major cities allow free parking at city parking meters and exempts time limits for disabled motorists.
- California exempts both meter fees and time restrictions, currently. This is a major motivator for the abundant handicap placard fraud and is causing issues, to say the least. There is talk about ending meter fee exemptions like Washington DC and Philadelphia (and others) have already done.
- Michigan has a two-tiered placard policy. Only the most severely disabled applicants receive fee exemptions (about 2% of applicants). The second tier does not receive this benefit.
- For more info on these points, read this wonderful and informative article.
4. Your placard may or may not be valid in other US states
- California requires out of state visitors to apply for a temporary placard (about a 2 week process). Also, Californians must apply for a 30-day travel placard if they plan to use handicap parking in other states. Read it here.
- New York City caused a lot of controversy in cases of out-of-state visitors being denied placard privileges. Apparently NYC only recognizes New York and New York City placards. I went to NYC’s site and it mentioned nothing about out-of-state placards being invalid. It did however say that the New York state placard is “valid in all other states and Canadian provinces”. The New York DMV site also talked around if other states’ placards are valid and this time said that the NY state placard is valid “in most other states”.
- Other state DMVs also claim their placards are valid in every US state. But refer to the bullet on California law…
It’s really a mess. I think the best thing to do is visit the DMV site of whichever state you plan to visit. And keep in mind that if it’s hard for you to understand while doing all this research; I’m positive there will be more than one cop who isn’t informed. So print the webpage that states your rights in that state or the name of the person you talked to at their DMV. Better safe than sorry.