How A Legally Blind Person Can Apply For A Disabled Parking Permit

Dr Handicap - eye

Legal blindness is a very prevalent condition in the United States – more so than you might think. And for people with visual impairments, driving is enough of a struggle in and of itself; there’s no need for the process of finding a parking place to be even more difficult. Here’s everything you need to know about what legal blindness is, how people who are legally blind can obtain a disabled parking permit, and how such a permit can help them in day-to-day life.

Many people who wear glasses or contacts like to joke, “I’m blind!” when in fact they actually aren’t. However, it’s true that the information around legal blindness can get confusing – after all, not everyone who’s legally blind has a service dog or uses a cane. So what’s the difference between low vision and blindness?

First of all, the term “total blindness” refers to someone who has a complete lack of form and light perception. In layman’s terms, they literally can’t see anything. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 39 million people worldwide are blind. Individuals who are completely blind rely on their other senses as they go about their daily lives. Some people who are totally blind use aids such as a cane and/or a service dog to help them go about their life, but not all of them do.

Many more people, however, aren’t totally blind, but are legally blind. The phrase “legally blind” is used by the United States government to help decide if an individual qualifies for disability benefits. The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) defines legal blindness as “reduced central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye with use of the best eyeglass lens to correct your eyesight,” or “limitation of your field of view such that the widest diameter of the visual field in your better eye subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.” In other words, most people who are legally blind have some sight available to them. However, this low vision can’t be corrected; glasses, contact lenses, or surgery won’t help completely. And you are only considered legally blind if your visual acuity in your better eye is 20/200 or worse while you’re wearing corrective lenses.

Dr Handicap - vision impaired

Just like people who are totally blind, people with low vision (or visual impairment) face many problems. And since individuals with low vision don’t always appear to be disabled, they may have to deal with discrimination or derision. Everyday activities, such as walking down the sidewalk, making a purchase in cash, or browsing the internet can become extremely difficult. About 246 million people worldwide have low vision. In addition to the 39 million individuals who are blind, that’s 285 million people who are visually impaired – so this is an important problem that affects a variety of people.

While technology might one day allow totally blind people to drive themselves, for now most legally blind people enlist the help of a friend or family member to drive them where they need to go. All legally blind individuals can obtain a disabled parking permit for their car.

In most states, permanent handicap parking placards are free; temporary placards are $6; and disabled license plates are free, but vehicle registration fees are still required.

Handicap parking programs vary by state. Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) controls its individual program. For instance, in California, you must have “severe vision impairment” to qualify for a disabled parking permit. Your handicap parking placard must be displayed on your review mirror when parked and removed when the vehicle is in motion again.

Dr Handicap - disabled parking spaces

In Texas, cars with s handicap parking placard or license plates can park in disabled spots and park for free in metered spaces. The person who was issued the disabled parking badge must be the driver of the car or the passenger who is in the car. Permanent handicap parking placards are good for up to four years. Upon filling out your application form, you must certify that you have visual acuity of no more than 20/200 in your best eye with corrective lenses, or visual acuity of greater than 20/200 but with a limited field of vision with an angle of 20 degrees or less.

For someone who is totally blind or legally blind, a disabled parking permit can be a huge help on a day-to-day basis around town. With low vision, walking long distances can be a struggle, so a disabled parking permit for blind individuals will allow them to easily find an up-close space so they don’t have far to walk.

Still have more questions about whether you or a loved one qualifies for a disabled parking permit? Schedule an evaluation with one of our certified doctors!