A Guide to Disabled Parking in Illinois

Dr Handicap - Chicago
Dr Handicap - Chicago

Situated smack-bang in the American Midwest, Illinois is one of the most populous states in the country. The capital, Chicago, is one of the liveliest cities in the U.S., while the local airport, O’Hare International, sees some of the busiest air traffic in the world. Illinois is extremely important for continental business and travel because of its prime location, while many people from the U.S. and abroad choose to visit Chicago (and Illinois) for tourism reasons. For a state with so many citizens and visitors, you’d expect a pretty robust disabled parking system – so how does disabled parking in Illinois work, exactly?

It would be handy if there was a federally regulated disabled parking system in the U.S., but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Each state makes its own disabled parking laws and rules, and isn’t beholden to any overarching federal legislation. The good news, however, is that most states conform to the same guidelines, at least broadly. Unlike a divisive and controversial subject such as medical marijuana, disabled parking is much more straightforward. The further good news is that any permit you apply for in Illinois can be used in any other state, and even in many places overseas. The reverse is also true; if you’re planning a visit to Illinois, and are wondering if your out-of-state permit applies, rest assured that you can utilize Illinois disabled parking without hassle.

Illinois drivers with disabilities can apply for a disabled parking permit from the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State (SOS for short). The SOS issues four distinct types of permit: permanent placards, temporary placards, organization placards, and disability license plates. The type of permit you receive depends totally on your doctor’s evaluation and certification of your condition. Let’s break down the four types of permit available for disabled parking in Illinois, and cover all the options that exist.

Dr Handicap - travel

First of all, there’s the permanent placards. To make things slightly more confusing, they are broken down into two separate types. The meter-exempt permanent placards, which are colored yellow and gray, are for a very specific type of disabled individual. If you’re not able to handle tokens or coins because of limited motor control in your hands, if you can’t reach a minimum of 42 inches above ground level, or if you cannot access a parking meter, you are eligible for this type of permanent placard. If your disability doesn’t hinder you from accessing parking meters, then you’re eligible for the second type of permanent placard, which is colored blue. This kind of separation between the two variations of permanent placard was introduced in 2014. Illinois is one of the few states who makes this distinction.

If you suffer from a temporary disability, you can apply for a temporary placard, which is identified by the color red. The final type of placard is a little different, as it’s issued to organizations as opposed to individuals. Any organization that provides free transport to people with disabilities is eligible for this type of placard; the color varies.

If you want a disabled license plate in Illinois, there are a few stipulations you have to meet. You either must be permanently disabled and own a vehicle in your name, be the parent or guardian of a permanently disabled minor, be an immediate family member who transports a person with disabilities who lives at your address, or be an organization that transports people with disabilities, such as a school or nursing home. Disabled veteran license plates are also available for citizens who have served in the military.

Dr Handicap - Illinois

When you’re applying for your permit, you can do so via mail or in person, but only for temporary placards if you choose the latter. Parking placards are free in Illinois, but if you’re using a license plate, you must pay registration fees (a $29 replacement fee, and a $101 registration fee). You’ll need to get your application signed by a licensed medical professional, either a doctor, physician’s assistant, advanced nurse, or optometrist, and mail your full materials to the SOS.

The qualifying conditions for disabled parking in Illinois are quite liberal, and include any disorder that substantially interferes with mobility. In addition, there are a number of clauses that also entitle you to disabled parking in Illinois, such as the inability to walk 200 feet without assistance, the use of portable oxygen, the existence of a heart condition, or the loss of a limb. Bear in mind that to legally avail of either the placard (any type) or the plates, the driver or passenger of the car must be the owner of the permit. If not, parking in a disabled space is breaking the law, even if the disabled person is in your family or owns the vehicle. Doing so can result in fines of $250–$2,500, and the suspension of the permit in question and/or driving privileges for up to one year.

Illinois has a very robust and generous disabled parking plan. Use it correctly and you’ll have no trouble navigating your way around one of the U.S.’s most populated states.

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