Handicap Parking Etiquette: A Must-Know Guide For US Residents

In the United States, accessibility and inclusivity are fundamental principles that underpin our society. One important aspect of this is providing adequate accommodations for individuals with disabilities, including accessible parking spaces. Handicap parking spaces are not just a convenience; they’re a necessity for those who depend on them to lead a more independent and fulfilling life.

To ensure that these parking spaces serve their intended purpose, it’s crucial for everyone to understand and follow handicap parking etiquette. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the importance of handicap parking spaces, the laws and regulations governing them, and essential etiquette tips for US residents. Whether you already have a Hawaii handicap parking placard or are about to start your New Hampshire handicap parking application we’ve got tips for parking properly throughout the whole country!

The Importance of Handicap Parking Spaces

Handicap parking spaces are more than just painted lines on the pavement; they’re a lifeline for millions of Americans with disabilities. These spaces are strategically located near entrances to buildings, facilities, and public spaces to minimize the physical challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.

Here’s why they are so important:

1. Accessibility

The primary purpose of handicap parking spaces is to provide accessible parking for individuals with disabilities. These spaces are wider and closer to building entrances, making it easier for people with mobility impairments to access the facilities they need.

2. Independence

Accessible parking allows people with disabilities to maintain their independence. It enables them to go about their daily lives, whether that includes shopping for groceries, visiting a doctor’s office, or attending social events.

3. Safety

Handicap parking spaces are often equipped with features like ramps and curb cuts to ensure that individuals using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids can navigate safely. This enhances safety for both disabled and nondisabled individuals.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law enacted in 1990, mandates that businesses, public facilities, and state and local government agencies provide accessible parking spaces. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in legal consequences.

Understanding Handicap Parking Laws

To maintain the integrity and functionality of handicap parking spaces, it’s essential to be familiar with the laws and regulations governing them. The ADA sets the standard for accessible parking in the United States, but states and municipalities may also have additional requirements. Nebraska handicap parking rules may be different from Indiana handicap parking permit requirements, so whichever state you’re in, be sure to check your local rules and regulations.

1. ADA Requirements

The ADA outlines specific requirements for accessible parking spaces. Some of the key provisions include:

  • Minimum Number of Spaces: The ADA mandates that a certain percentage of parking spaces (usually 2% of the total) must be designated as accessible parking spaces. The exact number varies depending on the size of the parking lot.
  • Proximity to Entrances: Accessible parking spaces must be located as close as possible to the accessible entrance of the building or facility they serve.
  • Van-Accessible Spaces: A portion of accessible parking spaces must be van-accessible, which means they have additional width and features to accommodate wheelchair-accessible vans.
  • Signage: Accessible parking spaces must be clearly marked with the international symbol of accessibility, typically painted on the pavement and displayed on a sign. This is one thing that doesn’t really change between states – from California to Connecticut handicap parking signage will all feature the same symbol!

2. State and Local Regulations

As we mentioned, in addition to federal ADA requirements, individual states and municipalities may have their own regulations governing handicap parking. It’s important to be aware of these local laws as they can vary from place to place. State-specific requirements may include the number of accessible spaces required, penalties for violations, and specific design standards. Qualifying conditions may also differ – Mississippi handicap parking eligibility requirements may be slightly different from Delaware handicap parking requirements, for example.

3. Penalties for Violations

Parking in a handicap space without proper authorization or using someone else’s accessible parking permit can result in significant penalties. These can include fines, towing of the vehicle, and even the suspension of your driver’s license. It’s crucial to respect these laws to avoid legal consequences and to ensure that accessible parking spaces are available to those who truly need them.

Handicap Parking Etiquette: Tips for US Residents

Understanding the importance of accessible parking and the laws surrounding it is the first step. Practicing proper handicap parking etiquette is equally crucial. Here are some etiquette tips that every US resident should follow:

1. Use Only If You Qualify

Accessible parking spaces are reserved for individuals with disabilities who have valid permits. If you don’t have a disability or the necessary permit, never park in these spaces, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Using an accessible parking space without authorization is not only illegal, but also unfair to those who genuinely need it.

2. Display the Proper Permit

If you have a disability that qualifies you for accessible parking, ensure that you have the appropriate permit or license plate. The specific requirements for obtaining these permits vary by state, so check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent agency for the necessary information and application process.

3. Respect Van-Accessible Spaces

Van-accessible spaces are designed to accommodate wheelchair-accessible vans equipped with ramps or lifts. Even if you have a disability, if your vehicle doesn’t require this additional space, use a standard accessible space to leave the van-accessible spaces open for those who need them.

4. Avoid Parking in Access Aisles

Accessible parking spaces are often accompanied by access aisles marked with diagonal stripes. These aisles are meant to provide space for individuals with disabilities to enter and exit their vehicles safely. Never park in these access aisles, as doing so can make it impossible for someone to use their accessible parking space.

5. Respect the Time Limits

Some accessible parking spaces have time limits, indicated on signs. Be sure to adhere to these time limits. Overstaying your time limit can inconvenience others who need to use the space.

6. Keep the Area Clear

Accessible parking spaces often have extra room to accommodate mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers. Always keep these areas clear to allow individuals with disabilities to move freely and safely.

7. Report Violations

If you notice someone parking illegally in an accessible space, consider reporting it to the local authorities. Many cities have dedicated hotlines or online reporting systems for such violations. Your action can help ensure that accessible parking spaces are available to those who need them.

How to Get a Handicap Parking Permit in the United States

Getting a handicap parking permit in the United States is a process that varies slightly from state to state, but generally follows a similar set of guidelines. From Idaho to Iowa handicap parking application will usually involve these steps:

1. Determine Eligibility

To qualify for a handicap parking permit, you typically need to have a medical condition that impairs your mobility significantly. Conditions may include difficulty walking, lung disease, heart conditions, visual impairments, or the use of mobility aids like wheelchairs or walkers.

2. Consult Your Healthcare Professional

The first step is to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or physician, who can evaluate your condition and determine if you meet the eligibility criteria for a handicap parking permit. They will need to complete a medical certification form, which is often available through the DMV website for your state. (If you need an online consultation with a doctor, Dr Handicap can help!)

3. Gather Required Documentation

Depending on your state, you may need to provide additional documentation, such as proof of identity, vehicle registration, and a valid driver’s license. Check with your state’s DMV or equivalent agency for specific requirements.

4. Complete the Application

Obtain the handicap parking permit application from your state’s DMV or download it from their website. Fill out the application form completely and accurately, providing all necessary information, including the medical certification from your healthcare professional.

5. Submit the Application

Submit the completed application, along with any required documentation, to your state’s DMV or the appropriate agency. This can often be done in person at a DMV office, by mail, or online, depending on your state’s procedures.

6. Pay Any Applicable Fees

Some states may charge a fee for a handicap parking permit. Check with your state’s DMV for information on the fee amount and payment methods.

7. Receive Your Permit

Once your application is approved, you will receive your handicap parking permit. This may come in the form of a placard, a license plate, or a special decal.

8. Renew when Needed

In most states you’ll need to renew your permit after a specific period, but as always, this differs – Louisiana handicap parking permit renewal periods may not be the same as those for Maryland handicap parking placard renewal! Check your permit’s expiration date and renew in time to continue to use disabled parking.


Handicap parking spaces are a critical component of ensuring accessibility and inclusivity for individuals with disabilities in the United States. To uphold the principles of fairness, legality, and respect, it’s essential for all US residents to understand the importance of these spaces, be aware of the applicable laws, and practice proper handicap parking etiquette. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and supportive society where everyone has the opportunity to participate fully and independently in their communities.

Featured image by Królestwo Nauki on Pexels

What Is Handicap Accessible Parking Abuse And How Can We Stop It?

While most people use handicap parking spaces legally with a valid disabled parking permit, there are still folks out there who perform handicap parking violations. This can be done in a range of ways, but mainly consists of people abusing the privilege of handicap accessible parking spaces. As frustrating as this can be, there are some actions you can take to report and end these types of violations. Here’s some helpful information on what defines a handicapped parking space and what you can do to stop permit abuse.

What is a handicap parking place?

Designated disabled parking places are set aside for individuals who have a specific medical condition that makes mobility difficult for them, as well as a special parking permit. These spots are positioned in key places in public parking lots at businesses, retailers, office buildings, etc., at the most convenient and accessible locations to make it easy for disabled individuals to access. The parking places are generally marked with blue paint and have a symbol of a wheelchair either printed directly on the ground or on posted signs.

Anyone who has a legitimate parking permit (obtained by going through the full application process with their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles) is allowed to park in these spaces. Parking in a handicap spot without a permit could lead to a ticket and/or a fine.

Dr. Handicap - handicap parking lot view
Image by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash: Handicap parking places are typically marked with blue paint and a wheelchair symbol.

What is handicap accessible parking abuse?

Disabled parking abuse occurs whenever anyone is misusing a handicap placard or parking without a placard at all. Anytime someone breaks the rules of the road or doesn’t abide by parking regulations, they’re abusing handicap parking privileges.

An individual is breaking the law if they:

Park in a handicap spot without a permit

Handicap spots are designated for disabled individuals and should only be used when a disabled person is a driver or a passenger of that specific vehicle. Parking in a handicap parking place without a permit clearly displayed is expressly prohibited.

Borrow someone else’s parking permit

Each permit is officially issued to a specific individual and cannot be lent out to anyone else (including friends or family). A handicap parking space can only be occupied if the disabled person is a driver or passenger of that particular car.

Use an expired or invalid handicap permit

Disabled parking permits have strict expiration dates on them. Individuals can be ticketed or fined if they try to use an expired or invalid permit.

Use a fraudulent permit

Any type of counterfeit or fake parking permit is against the law and should never be used to park in a handicap accessible parking space.

What can you do to stop parking abuse?

There are several ways to stop parking abuse from taking place. Here’s a list of how to report handicapped parking abuse:

Check your assumptions before reporting anyone

Before you report a possible handicap parking violation, keep in mind that you might not be able to tell if a person is disabled just by looking at them. Some individuals have what are called “hidden disabilities”, meaning their medical condition doesn’t have outward symptoms that are obviously noticeable, and they don’t require assistance in walking (such as with a wheelchair or cane).

Try to remember that you won’t always know if someone is using a handicap parking place illegally because you won’t be able to tell if they have a legitimate need for a parking permit.

Call law or parking enforcement

If you’re sure that someone is using a disabled parking space without a valid permit, contact your local law enforcement. Avoid using 911, as this isn’t an emergency situation.

By contacting local officials or a parking enforcement agency, you can offer the location of the parking place, along with information about the vehicle in question (like the make and model of the car and the license plate number). It’s typically not necessary for you to stay until law enforcement arrives – unfortunately, sometimes these types of calls cannot be prioritized.

Call city hotlines

Some cities have specific hotlines you can call to report parking issues, including handicap parking abuses. Make sure to have relevant information about the vehicle in order to help report possible illegal parking violators.

Dr Handicap - using phone in car
Image by Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash: You have the option of calling law enforcement or parking hotlines to report handicap parking abuses.

Check with the DMV

Many DMV offices have designated departments that focus on handicap parking abuse. If you’d like to report a person who is parked illegally (especially if they do this often) or a person who is using a fraudulent or expired placard, you can reach out to your local DMV branch to make a formal complaint.

Report illegal parkers online

Because government agencies like local police and the DMV can be notoriously slow to act, you might want to take another avenue of reporting. HandicappedFraud.org allows you to submit a complaint directly on the website, and then the relevant information is handed over to state agencies like the DMV. All you need is the address of where the complaint occurred, the date, the car’s license plate, and the placard number (if they have a placard at all). This can be a great option if you want to submit a complaint quickly and easily.

Remember that it’s best to never get into any type of confrontation with a person you suspect is parking illegally. In the past, these kinds of altercations have even led to violence. If you feel reporting the individual is necessary, try one of the above steps instead of approaching the person directly. It’s a much safer option to just let law enforcement handle the situation.

Although handicap parking abuses occur all the time, there are some steps you can take to combat them. Just remember to always use your own handicap parking permit appropriately, and you’ll be able to protect the privilege of handicap parking.

Featured image by Leonardo Lameu on Unsplash