What to Do If You Think Someone is Misusing a Designated Disabled Parking Spot

Dr. Handicap - yellow handicap parking place

As someone with a valid disabled parking permit, you know how valuable each and every designated handicap parking space is. Finding a closer parking place can mean you have an easier time running errands or more energy to last you through the rest of your day. Because disabled parking is so essential to you being able to achieve your day-to-day goals, it can be maddening to see other people misusing a handicap parking spot or taking a disabled parking spot when they don’t have a placard. Here are some steps you can take if you see an individual misusing a designated disabled parking spot.

  1. Evaluate your assumptions

Before you take any real action towards a person who might be taking up a handicap parking space illegally, make sure you think through any assumptions you might have about that person.

First, remember there are many conditions that qualify a person for a handicap parking placard that don’t have outwardly obvious symptoms. For example, serious illnesses like asthma, lupus, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis can all be extremely debilitating for a person, but their symptoms aren’t always plainly visible to others. Even though a person doesn’t need to use a wheelchair or a cane, they can still be just as deserving of a handicap parking placard. Before you assume a person getting out of the car “seems healthy,” remember that many people with “hidden illnesses” still warrant the use of a handicap parking placard.

Second, consider that the person might have been in a rush and simply forgot their handicap parking placard. Although they shouldn’t be using a disabled parking spot without a valid placard, you might want to cut the person some slack – everyone has off days where they forget stuff.

Dr. Handicap - woman on the phone
  1. Report to the authorities

If you’ve stepped back and evaluated the situation, and still believe that the person is misusing a designated disabled parking spot, then your next step can be to call the authorities. Some cities recommend calling 911 to report a disabled parking violation. You’ll need to provide the 911 operator with the location of the vehicle and a description of both the car and the driver. The operator will also likely ask you for a vehicle license plate number to help them do a search of whether the person does have a valid handicap parking placard or not.

If you can stay a safe distance from the car, you can use your smartphone to take pictures of the vehicle in case the police are not able to dispatch someone right away to investigate the situation. If you’re able to remain at the scene, you can give the law enforcement officer your personal information and tell them why you think the space is being misused. If the offender is still at the scene, the officer can talk to them and cite them with a ticket or monetary fine (which could reach as high as several hundred dollars). If the person is no longer at the scene, officers can usually follow up and issue a ticket or fine at a later time if they see fit.

It’s important to remember that some cities are understaffed and are not equipped to send a police officer out to do checks on parking places every time someone calls in. Even if you can’t meet with an officer, you can feel good that you’ve taken steps to have the person reprimanded.

  1. Call a parking enforcement hotline

When cities don’t have extra resources to send officers to every parking violation, they sometimes have specific parking enforcement hotlines you can call. These lines are set up so you can report someone misusing a handicap parking space. Someone can take down your information, what you witnessed, and then follow up with appropriate action at a later time. If the area you live in doesn’t have one of these hotlines (and you’re not comfortable calling 911), you can also call your local sheriff department. The call won’t be treated as an emergency, but they’ll still be able to direct you to the proper person to get your concerns addressed.

  1. Call the DMV

You also have the option of calling your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Most states have specific departments in the DMV that are designed to investigate the misuse of disabled parking permits. The DMV worker can give you a form to fill out to report what you’ve observed, and then they can investigate further if it’s warranted.

Dr. Handicap - bad handicap parker
  1. Report illegal parkers online

If you’re interested in a little vigilante justice, consider reporting an illegal parker to the HandicappedFraud.org website. The site allows you to submit a disabled parking complaint in your area by entering the address where the offense occurred and a description or picture of the vehicle. The site then submits this information to your state’s authorities who can follow up with an investigation if necessary. The site also lets you view reports that list recent offenders and where these offenses took place. This can help you see if the person you witnessed park illegally is someone who misuses disabled parking regularly.

  1. Avoid confrontations

Although you want to make sure you’re reporting people who are misusing a handicap parking space, this should never take precedence over your safety. Getting into a confrontation with someone about a parking space can lead to dangerous (and sometimes violent) altercations. Even if you think you can have a calm conversation with someone, the other party might just be looking for a fight. You won’t be able to accomplish anything if there is shouting or yelling. Your best bet is to avoid interacting with the person at all. Report what you saw to the proper authorities, and let them dole out the consequences. It’s never worth it to put yourself in any kind of unsafe situation.

If you think you’ve seen someone misusing a disabled parking spot, alert the authorities in whatever form you choose. Then, hopefully, there will be fewer illegal parkers out there to take handicap parking spaces away from those who truly need them.