Handicapped tag

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Example of a handicapped license plate
A temporary handicap sign, usually given to someone as they are recovering from a surgery.

A handicapped tag or handicapped placard is a placard or license plate, permitting the owner or operator of a vehicle to special privileges regarding the parking of that vehicle, including the privilege to park in a space reserved for persons with disabilities, or in some areas, permitting a person to park in a time-limited space for longer time, and to park at a meter without payment. It is sometimes also referred to as a disabled parking permit.

Criteria for disability[edit]

A person's medical condition must meet the legal definition of a disability to qualify for a handicapped parking permit. "Disability" means a condition in which a person has: Severe visual impairment (usually visual acuity of 20/200 or less); or Mobility problems, such as wheelchair confinement, lung or heart problems, arthritis, foot disorder, or medical conditions that cause a person to use a brace, cane, crutch or other assistive device.

The definition for "disability" according to Social Security is:

"Inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months".[1]

In Kentucky, the criteria to receive a handicapped tag includes:

"Any person who has a severe visual, audio, or physical impairment, including partial paralysis, lower limb amputation, chronic heart condition, emphysema, arthritis, rheumatism, or other debilitating condition which limits or impairs one's mobility or ability to walk may be issued a handicap placard. In addition, any agency or organization, which transports handicapped persons, may apply for a placard for each vehicle used in that capacity."[2]

How to apply for a permit[edit]

To apply for a permit, one should ask a doctor to complete the "Disability Statement" section in the permit application, which can be found online. After the application has been fully completed, it can be submitted and paid for at the local county tax office.[3]

A person may either obtain a license plate with the International Symbol of Access, or may obtain a placard which typically attaches to the rear-view mirror or is placed on the dashboard of the vehicle while parked.

Handicapped parking space requirements[edit]

Indicates parking is restricted to users with handicapped tag (plate) or placard

According to the Americans With Disabilities Act Handbook, "Accessible parking spaces should be at least 96 in (2440 mm) wide. Parking access aisles shall be part of an accessible route to the building or facility entrance..."[4]

State regulations for handicapped parking tags[edit]

For example, in California, the handicapped parking tag allows you to park:

  • "In parking spaces with the International Symbol of Access (wheelchair symbol)
  • Next to a blue curb authorized for handicap parking
  • Next to a green curb (green curbs indicate limited time parking) for as long as you wish
  • There is no time limit with a DP placard, DP license plates, or DV license plates
  • In an on-street metered parking space at no charge
  • Streets where preferential parking privileges are given to residents and merchants (private off street merchant parking facilities may be restricted to customers and employees)"[5]

New Regulation in California:

According to the state Assembly Majority Whip Fiona Ma, "A law that went into effect Jan. 1 gives cities the authority to increase fines for handicap parking violations up to $1,000 and to allow parking-control officers to issue tickets. Previously, only law enforcement officers could give such tickets".[6]

Similarly, there has been a law change in South Carolina:

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Beth Parks, "A law went into effect Jan. 1 requiring a photo of the disabled person be put on the placard that is hung on the rear-view mirror".[6]

Integration of Handicap Parking with Electric Vehicle Charging[edit]

In California alone, there are over 27,000 Plug in Electric Vehicles (PEV) with about 2,000 being added every month. While most PEV charging is done at home, the public charging infrastructure is also expanding, with 6218 public charging stations as of July 2013.[7] Although the number of PEVs is still a small portion of the cars on the road, and the number of PEVs with Handicap placards is much smaller still, the needs of handicap PEV drivers must be integrated with public charging spaces. Guidelines are that 1 in 25 PEV Charging Stations be made ADA space compliant,[8] Although not intuitively obvious, it's important to recognize that a PEV charging station is not parking space, rather a charging service, in the same manner that gas station fill up spots are not parking spaces. Electric vehicle charging stations that meet the ADA space requirements are not to be reserved exclusively for the use of persons with disabilities,[9] they are shared by any PEV needing to charge. Further more any PEV charging space, ADA space compliant or not, cannot be used by non-PEV vehicles, including those with handicap placards. Recommended signage, along with common courtesy, ask that ADA space compliant charging stations are to be used last.


  1. ^ Nancy Hablutzel and Brian T McMahon (1998). The Americans with Disabilities Act: Access and Accommodations. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. p. 40. ISBN 1-878205-41-2. 
  2. ^ "Handicap Parking Permits". Kentucky Meade County Clerk. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  3. ^ "Disabled Wary of Some Handicap-Space Users". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 2006-12-21. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  4. ^ U.S. Department of Justice (October 1991). Americans with Disabilities Act Handbook. Equal Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. p. 25. 
  5. ^ "Disabled Person Parking Placard or Plates FFVR 7". California Department of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  6. ^ a b Barnett, Ron (2010-02-03). "States, cities target handicap parking fraud". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-12-01. 
  7. ^ Electric Vehicle Charging Station Locations
  8. ^ "Interim Disabled Access Guidelines for 97-03 Electrical Vehicle Charging Stations" (PDF). 
  9. ^ "State of California Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Plug-In Electric Vehicles: Universal Charging Access Guidelines and Best Practices" (PDF).