Setting a New Year’s Resolution for yourself in 2021? Maybe you’ve been thinking you need to do something that will make life a little easier for you. If you have a disability, here’s an idea: getting a handicap parking permit! This can give you access to closer and more convenient parking places so you can get around with a lot less trouble. If you’re not sure how to get started, here’s a guide on how to obtain a handicap parking badge in 2021.

What is a handicap parking permit?

Once you’ve been approved for a permit, you’ll get a placard you can hang from your rearview mirror when your vehicle is parked. This placard gives you permission to park in any designated wheelchair-accessible parking place (usually marked with blue curbs or the wheelchair symbol). These parking spaces are generally as close as possible to the front of businesses, retail locations, public parks, etc. so that disabled individuals don’t have to walk far to get where they need to go.

Some cities or states have additional benefits that come with a disabled parking permit, such as free street metered parking, or the ability to park in a parking place for an undetermined amount of time even if a time limit is posted.

Disabled Parking - wheelchair user
Image by Klimkin on Pixabay: A medical professional will need to certify that you have a condition that limits your mobility.

What medical conditions qualify for handicap parking?

In order to qualify for a permit, you’ll need to have a specified medical condition that makes it difficult for you to walk great distances or to be mobile. These conditions include:

  • Having lost the use of one or more of your limbs (due to paralysis, amputation, or other permanent disability)
  • Being severely and/or permanently disabled and unable to walk without needing to use a brace, cane, crutch, prosthetic device, wheelchair, another person, or any other assistive device
  • Suffering from lung disease so that your forced expiratory volume for one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than 60 mm/hg on room air at rest (this can include respiratory illnesses such as asthma, COPD, lung cancer, and others)
  • Suffering from a cardiac condition so that your functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or Class IV by the American Heart Association standards
  • Requiring the use of portable oxygen
  • Being severely and/or permanently limited in the ability to walk more than 200 feet without stopping to rest (can be due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition)

Some states also specify additional conditions, including severe sun allergies or vision problems, as qualifying medical conditions. In order to have your condition certified, you must undergo an evaluation by a licensed medical professional in your state.

How do I get a handicap placard from the DMV?

Your first step to getting a placard should be to either visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or to head to your state’s DMV website. There you’ll find instructions on how to fill out a handicap placard application. One important step you need to take is to have your physician assess your medical condition and medical history and figure out whether you’d be a good candidate for a temporary permit (which typically lasts a few months) or a permanent permit (which expires and can be renewed every several years). The medical professional will also need to complete a portion of your application, authorizing your need for a permit.

You’ll then need to finish filling out the application with some personal information (date of birth, address, etc.). The application can be completed online or on paper, depending on your state. Once you’ve finished, you can submit your application either electronically, in person at your local DMV, or by mailing it to your state’s DMV. If your application is approved, you’ll receive your placard in the mail for your own personal use.

Disabled Parking - DMV online
Image by Janeb13 on Pixabay: Head online to your state’s DMV website to apply or replace a handicap placard.

How do I replace a handicap parking placard?

You must remember to keep your placard as up-to-date as possible. This means that you should pay attention to the expiration date listed on the placard. If your placard is going to expire, you need to follow the renewal process laid out by your specific state’s DMV, since every state is a little different. If you lose your placard or it’s stolen, you’ll need to fill out a replacement application to get a new one.

To make sure you’re always following the rules of the road in 2021, make sure to never lend out your placard to friends and family – you must be in the car (either as the driver or as a passenger) if you’re going to use the placard. And don’t forget to remove your placard from your rearview mirror when the vehicle is in motion. It’s also crucial that you read all posted signs and obey any parking laws, just like you would in a non-handicap parking place.

As long as you keep your placard up-to-date and are abiding by the laws, you’ll have access to more convenient parking places that can help make things so much easier for you in the new year.

Featured image by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels