This past session, lawmakers in Olympia tried to get a better handle on a problem that impacts many people with MS: the abuse and misuse of disabled parking. People with MS often rely on disability parking placards to help manage the fatigue that so often accompanies MS. Unfortunately, too many others take advantage of the placards and park in disabled parking spots, leaving people with MS without accessible parking.
The bill considered by legislators would have given additional tools to city officials to crack down on fraudulent drivers. However, it also raised concerns that legitimate users could be harmed by the crackdown.
In the end, legislators decided the problem needed some additional research before they could determine a fix, so the Department of Licensing (DOL) created a task force to ask the public for possible solutions. The DOL's blog post requesting public comment has already received quite a few suggestions in the comment thread. The comments also show the biggest challenge associated with this problem - cracking down on abusers could hurt people with invisible or intermittent disabilities, like people with MS.
The National MS Society has followed this issue closely for some time. In 2011, in an effort to free up parking spaces, the City of Seattle proposed ending free all day parking for people with a disabled parking placard. The Society opposed the effort and met with the Seattle City Council to voice our opposition to the effort, expressing concern that it would harm people whose extensive medical appointments require long parking stays. The City dropped the plan but has since continued to research other ideas.
What do you think we should do about this problem? Do you see it in your neighborhood? Give us your thoughts in the comment thread below and send your comments to the DOL task force at DPWorkgroup@dol.wa.gov.