You’ve just received your new disability sticker, or placard, which is a portable sign that drivers use to prove that they have permission to park in a handicapped spot. For drivers and passengers with a disability, obtaining a disabled sticker makes travel much more convenient and safe, since disabled parking spaces are wider, easier to access, and close to building entrances. It’s an essential item for both those with visible and invisible disabilities.

You can also use your permit for van-accessible spots, which are larger parking spaces with room for bigger cars or vans that may have a wheelchair lift. But whichever spot you want to park in now that you’ve received your disability placard, it’s important to ask yourself: do you know how to use it correctly? As a disabled driver or passenger, it’s your responsibility to use your disability sticker correctly to avoid a large fine or penalty.

If you’re new to the process, here’s how to properly display a disability sticker for a car to avoid a fine.

Why are disabled parking fines so steep?

Fines for misusing disabled parking placards and spaces are set by the state, with each state deciding on its own fines. These can range from the hundreds into the thousands of dollars, as states are serious about keeping their disabled drivers safe. In Texas, for example, misuse is subject to fines of up to $2,500.

The reason fines are so steep is to protect disabled members of the community. If someone has

Illegally parked in a disabled space, that takes up the space and prevents someone with a genuine need from parking there. As a result, the disabled driver might be unable to safely access the building. So, as a deterrent, disabled parking fines are high.

Although many drivers may have accidentally parked in a disabled space as an honest mistake, others intentionally abuse parking spaces to save time or park closer to a building, which makes life harder for disabled drivers.

person using wheelchair
Image by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels: Illegally parking in a disabled spot makes it harder for people with disabilities to access safe parking, so always use your disability sticker correctly.

How to use a disability sticker

Unsure about when and how to display your disabled sticker? If so, here are a few tips.

1. Always keep your disabled parking sticker for the car handy

Even if you have a disabled sticker, you can’t park in a disabled spot unless it’s clearly displayed on your vehicle. This means if you accidentally leave it at home, you can’t park in a disabled spot. Annoying, we know!

You can prevent this by always having your sticker with you. If it’s a placard rather than a “sticky”-type sticker that’s affixed to your car, you may want to keep it in the glove box or in another secure place.

2. Take it down when you drive

If your sticker will be displayed on your mirror when you park, you don’t need to display it as you drive, otherwise it may block the view through your windshield. Some states issue large disability placards, so always take them down if they’re obscuring your view.

Keep it nearby, though, just in case you need to show it to anyone such as a police officer or parking attendant.

3. Apply to rear-view mirror when parked

Ready to park? In that case, where should disability stickers be displayed? In most states, you’ll hang your sticker from your rear-view mirror. This way, it’s clearly visible to anyone looking, such as parking staff or city traffic inspectors.

If you can’t hang your placard for any reason, place it on the dashboard so it’s visible to anyone looking inside the car. If you have a placard but forget to display it, you can still be fined, so never forget this step!

For drivers who have a permanent disabled license plate, there’s no need to also display a disability sticker.

Disabled Parking - disabled parking spaces
Image by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash: Learning how to use a disability sticker correctly means you’ll never get hit with a fine.

4. Never loan your sticker to anyone else

Perhaps your neighbor has a disability too, but he’s misplaced his disability sticker. Can you loan him yours? Definitely not – the law is clear in all states that disabled stickers can only be used by the person they are issued to and aren’t transferable to others.

It’s your responsibility to keep your sticker safe and make sure it isn’t lost, stolen, or damaged. However, if it is lost, you can usually pay for a replacement.

Help, I forgot to put my disability sticker on and got a ticket!

It’s never a good day when you get a parking ticket, but it definitely stings if you get one because you forgot to display your parking sticker!

If this happens, try to remain calm. Although it’s frustrating to get a ticket, you do have options. One is to challenge the ticket, as some states will let you submit evidence to prove that you do have a legitimate reason to park in a disabled space and they may repeal the fine. Or, if you had parked there due to an emergency situation and didn’t have time to display your placard, that might also be an acceptable reason.

Fines are sometimes thrown out if the signage was unclear or damaged, so take photos of any evidence that might help your case. As a last resort, you can always just pay the fine and chalk it up to a lesson learned!

Over time, you’ll get into a routine of when and how to use your disability sticker, so there’ll be no risk of accidentally getting a fine. Then, you can drive and park with confidence!

Featured image by 652234 on Pixabay