California vs New York: How Do Their Disabled Parking Laws Stack Up?

Dr Handicap - disabled sign

Disabled parking is something most able-bodied people never think much about; yet for those with disabilities, it can be the key to living a fulfilling and happy life. Disabled parking means much more to people with disabilities than simply allowing them to park in a more convenient place. For many, being that extra few feet closer to their destination can genuinely make all the difference in the world to a disabled person. It might allow them to visit their doctors, do their shopping, or simply enjoy life. Many disabled people don’t have a personal carer or helper, and must look after themselves; for them, a handicap parking permit is invaluable.

Disabled parking exists all over the world, and there is a unifying symbol that marks it internationally. It’s the famous white wheelchair on a blue background, a perennial marker of disabled facilities. But many disabled travelers might wonder if the rules are the same everywhere in the world. Indeed, many disabled citizens in America wonder if the disabled parking rules are consistent state-to-state in their home country. For the most part, they are, with a few exceptions. There’s no overarching federal law that governs the protocols of all 50 states, but by and large, they operate in the same manner. Protection for the disabled does exist at a country-wide level, however; the Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law, which protects disabled people from all types of discrimination – for example, when they’re trying to rent a house.

California and New York are two of the primary states in the country, and the laws that they introduce can often affect others. For example, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana way back in 1996; to date, 29 other states have followed suit, with more undoubtedly to follow. It’s worth comparing how these two trailblazing states approach disabled parking, and how their different initiatives stack up. It’s also worth noting that neither is necessarily better than the other; still, seeing how the opposite coasts implement their policies can be beneficial for disabled patients all over the country.

Dr Handicap - California

In regards to parking spaces, both states function very similarly. Spaces reserved for disabled parking permit holders are marked with the international logo. All spaces signaled in this way are fair game; however, if one is marked with a particular license plate or name, those are reserved solely for that person, making it illegal to park in them. If you’re not a disabled driver, it’s worth keeping in mind that you can’t park in the striped area adjacent to the spaces, as it’s there to allow safe access and disembarking from sliding door vans.

California disabled parking permits can be used in any state across the country, and in most countries across the world. New York, however, operates slightly differently. An NY permit can be utilized all over the state, except in New York City, where it’s illegal to park on the streets, even with a general permit. For this, you require a specific New York City parking permit, not the broader state one. This is largely due to the large amounts of traffic that the city experiences, and also the narrower roads that line the city center. NY permits can be used in New York City car parks, though, so this distinction is worth keeping in mind if you’re visiting the state – or even if you live there, as it’s proven quite controversial with state residents on occasion.

The other differentiating factor between the two states, and indeed most states across the country, is the qualifying conditions, which are decided for each state by their government. They largely follow the same basic framework, but have a few differences in the minutiae.

Dr Handicap - New York

In California, it largely comes down to mobility – if your mobility is compromised because of a disease or a disorder, or a lung condition affects your breathing, then you are entitled to a permit. Loss of use of both hands and legs will also qualify, as will impaired vision or blindness. The details of your specific disability have to be listed by your doctor upon application.

In New York, the guidelines are a little different. They include the standard mobility clauses, but also get more general with them – for example, if a patient can’t walk 200 feet without stopping, they will qualify for a New York disabled parking permit, whatever the reason. NY also has a broad clause which allows for the presence of mental impairment: “Any other physical or mental impairment not previously listed which constitutes an equal degree of disability, and imposes unusual hardship in the use of public transportation and prevents the person from getting around without great difficulty.” This opens up many different conditions for possible application for a permit, including a host of mental disabilities.

Will other states, including the notoriously liberal California, join New York in widening up their own disabled parking permit qualifying conditions? Only time will tell.