Thursday, January 9, 2014

Should the state have new rules for disability parking placards?

A new report to the Washington legislature recommends that the state allow fewer people with disabilities to qualify for free or unlimited street parking. This proposal, meant to crack down on fraud and abuse of disabled parking placards, may prevent many people with MS from gaining access to free or unlimited on-street parking.

The report does not propose revising eligibility for the blue disability parking placards, but instead suggests creating a new orange placard that allows for free parking and parking beyond the posted time limit. Currently, state law says that anyone with a disability placard can park in a metered space for an unlimited amount of time. This provision would be eliminated and under the new proposal, blue placards could not be used for free, unlimited on-street parking.

Nearly 700,000 permanent disability parking placards are in use throughout the state and it is thought that many of these placards are being used fraudently. The abuse seems to be most rampant in Seattle where many blocks are filled with a disproportionate number of disabled parkers during the work day. The City of Seattle has tried for many years to fix this problem and asked the legislature for a solution.

The new orange placards would have a much stricter definition of disability, and allow someone to qualify if they meet any of the four criteria:

  • Cannot insert coins in parking meters or obtain tickets from ticket machines in parking lots or ramps due to a lack of fine motor control of both hands.
  • Cannot reach up to 42 inches from the ground, due to lack of finger, hand, or upper extremity strength or mobility.
  • Cannot approach a parking meter due to use of a wheelchair or other device.
  • Cannot walk more than 20 feet due to an orthopedic, neurological, cardiovascular, or lung condition which is so severe that the ability to walk is almost completely impeded.
These criteria seems to eliminate people with MS who experience fatigue and gait, except in the most extreme circumstances.

The report also suggests additional changes to crack down on fraud, including increasing penalties for fraudulent use of a disabled parking placard. The whole report is available here. The Chapter's Washington Government Relations Committee is reviewing the report and will ensure that the legislature understands the perspective of the MS community when they are reviewing the proposal.

What do you think about this proposal? Should it be harder for people to get a disabled parking permit? What else can be done to crack down on the abuse of disability parking placards?

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