Who Qualifies For A Disabled Parking Badge (And Who Doesn’t)?

Dr Handicap - handicap parking sign

A disabled parking badge makes life a great deal easier for its owner. A person in possession of a handicap parking permit can park in extremely conveniently located parking spaces, smack-bang in the center of the busiest and most high-traffic districts of America’s towns and cities. Needless to say, U.S. disabled parking permits are much sought after.

But not everybody who desires a parking permit actually qualifies to use one. There are many disabilities that certainly qualify a person for disabled parking permit usage, but there are also some conditions that do not count as a qualification. And unfortunately, fraud and abuse of the system are quite widespread. So, who qualifies for a disabled parking badge (and who doesn’t)?

Who Qualifies?

Although technically the exact list of qualifying conditions for a handicap parking spot can vary slightly state by state, the main list of maladies is very consistent across all American states. Also, the final say on whether or not a person qualifies to own a disabled parking permit is left to the examining physician, so in reality there is ample flexibility regarding who actually qualifies.

The core group of qualifying conditions for disabled parking in the U.S. is lengthy and wide-ranging. The following disabilities will qualify a person in the vast majority of circumstances, whichever state they reside in:

  • Multiple sclerosis, which makes mobility difficult or necessitates the use of a wheelchair.
  • A chronic inflammatory disease such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, or lupus.
  • Any heart condition that is designated a Class III or IV cardiac condition by the American Heart Association.
  • Being hard of hearing, deaf, blind, or partially sighted.
  • Respiratory problems such as emphysema or lung disease, or any condition that necessitates the use of a portable oxygen tank.
  • A lack of mobility due to extreme obesity or obesity-related health complications.
  • Being an amputee.
  • Most conditions that necessitate the use of a wheelchair, crutches, or Zimmer frame.
  • Any type of mobility problems that make it impossible for a person to walk a certain distance without needing to stop and rest (in some states the distance is 50 feet; in others, 200 feet).
  • Acute sensitivity to sunlight that leads to burning, blistering, or rashes.
  • Relatively severe back pain or back injury.
  • Brain injuries or tumors.
  • Chronic pain or fibromyalgia syndrome.
  • Chronic fatigue.

It is also possible to qualify for a disabled parking permit on a temporary basis. Conditions that may qualify a person for a temporary handicap driving permit include pregnancy; cancer treatment; recovery from recent surgery; short-term memory loss; or physical injuries to the legs, feet, hands, arms, back, or trunk.

Dr Handicap - pregnant woman

Who Doesn’t Qualify?

Most psychological disabilities such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder do not qualify a person to use a disabled driving permit. Neither do mild and manageable chronic pain conditions, such as a nondescript backache or general aches and pains. Being slightly overweight will also generally not qualify a person to avail of a disabled parking spot.

Abuse and Fraud

Tragically, there is a real problem with people abusing the system by making fraudulent claims for a disabled parking permit, or using a placard that they acquired in an underhand and dishonest manner.

Some industry experts even estimate that the majority of disabled parking badges out there are being used fraudulently! In a high-profile case, 19 members of UCLA’s 1999 football squad were charged with the fraudulent use of disabled parking badges.

This abuse of the system makes it more difficult for people who genuinely need to use a handicap parking placard to get one.

The main ways that fraudsters abuse the system is by illegally purchasing a badge that was originally issued to another person, forging a doctor’s signature on a fake letter and submitting it to the Department of Motor Vehicles, exaggerating or faking the symptoms of their disability, or using the placard of a person who is actually disabled, even when the placard owner is not in the vehicle.

Dr Handicap - doctors

How to Apply

If you would like to use a disabled parking permit and you believe you qualify, the next step is to have a consultation with a medical professional. You can do this in person at a doctor’s surgery, over the phone, or online. If the doctor agrees that you qualify for a placard, they will write you a letter of recommendation.

Once you have a doctor’s letter, you simply download an application form from the Department of Motor Vehicles website, fill it in, and post it off to your local DMV office alongside your doctor’s letter. Once the DMV receives your application, it usually takes them about 10 days to process it. So you should expect to receive your new disabled parking permit approximately two weeks after you send your application.

If you have a disability or medical condition and believe you qualify for a disabled parking permit, be sure to apply for one – it could change your life!