Sea of blue

Disabled placards on the rise in many U.S. cities
Associated Press
Sep 7, 2013


A blue placard dangling from the rear-view mirror is the equivalent of parking gold for drivers in many cities — they can park for free and for as long as they want. Now there's a gold rush on for them.

And as the number of vehicles displaying a disabled placard has soared with an aging population and loosened eligibility standards, cities are seeing the impact in more congested downtowns and the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.

Now, officials are pushing back, tightening standards for those who can get the placards and making sure that the only people who get the privilege are those who really need it.

"It was astonishing to see car after car after car with the disabled placard," said Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, who is seeking a solution to the problem in a city with a reputation for bicycling and mass transit but still reliant on the car.

It's common in the city to find blocks in which there are more cars with placards than without. Stroll by a parking meter and you will see the placards through the windshields of both beaters and BMWs.

In the city's annual survey of roughly 9,000 downtown meters, just over 1,000 vehicles had disabled placards in October 2012, a 72 percent increase in five years. In the core area of downtown, a third of the vehicles had placards.

As a result, Portland lost an estimated $2.4 million in meter revenue last year, and the lack of turnover frustrates store owners, deprives the severely disabled of spaces near their destination and forces drivers to circle blocks in search of a spot.

Authorities issued 186 citations for unlawful use of a permit the fiscal year ending June 30, but believe there is more abuse.

Cheaters are tough to catch because the placard is generally valid and the driver, who may be borrowing one, is only at the car for a couple of minutes during the workday.

Experts say the easiest way to stop abuse is to make the disabled pay the meter, especially those not in wheelchairs. Places such as Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., and Arlington County, Va., did so and there was more turnover in the spots.

The Illinois Legislature passed a law that takes effect next year in which free-metered parking will be reserved for only the most severely disabled residents. It was spurred in part by Chicago's decision to privatize its parking meters. As part of the deal, it agreed to reimburse the company for free parking provided to holders of disabled placards. The tab since 2009: $55 million.

"Economically, a free parking pass is a very nice thing to have, and there are always enough people who are a bit unscrupulous when it comes to parking that you can't expect self-restraint," said Donald Shoup, a UCLA urban planning professor and author of "The High Cost of Free Parking."

One of Shoup's former students, Jonathan Williams, researched curbside parking in Los Angeles while getting his master's degree, finding that cars with placards took most spots when the workday began and often didn't leave until it ended.

On one block in the financial district, placards consumed 80 percent of the total meter hours. Though the spaces were occupied 95 percent of the time, meters that charged $4 an hour collected an average of only 28 cents an hour.

California started issuing placards in 1959 to people unable to move without a wheelchair. Within two decades, it was expanded to include people with breathing problems and general mobility problems.

"We looked back from 1990 to 2010, even normalized for population growth, there was a 350 percent increase in the number of placards issued in California," Williams said. "Even if there was no abuse, there are a lot of placards in circulation."

Oregon has issued placards to 354,000 of its 3 million drivers. Those authorized to sign a permit include doctors of medicine, chiropractors, osteopaths, podiatrists, optometrists, naturopaths, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Portland's Disabled Parking Task Force asked the Oregon Medical Association in 2010 to remind doctors about the impact of improper placards, and recommended temporary permits instead of ones that can be valid for years until a driver's license expires.

Betty Brislawn, 84, uses a placard because she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

A task force member, Brislawn said there are many cheaters, but you can't assume people with internal problems are less worthy of a placard than those in wheelchairs.

"My oxygen level, if I walk fast, will go down to 83 and that means I'm in really dire trouble; I could pass out," she said. "But otherwise I look fine."

Novick doesn't have a placard, though he was born with missing fibula bones and no left hand. The 4-foot-9 commissioner said ensuring open spaces for those with severe mobility problems should be the city's focus.

"Being really short, I would kind of like it if grocery stores had tongs you could use to take things off the top shelf," he joked. "That would be a good accommodation, but I still think I should have to pay for the groceries."



Dwight K.

Yeah its hard to tell that some people have a medical issue...but if people having breathing trouble and mobility issues cause they're very over weight.. I don't really see that as a medical issue


Agreed! ONLY the FITTEST disabled deserve privileged parking.




I bet more than 50% are just over weight lazy welfare people who NEED to do a little walking. Their keeping the real disabled from the proper parking spots!




Watched a perfectly abled (I'd say 40 year old) lady walk out of Walmart yesterday, light up a cig, walk perfectly with no signs of a struggle to her car parked in a handicap spot, fire it up and drive away.

Just like Medicaid, welfare and any other state and government run entity, its being overrun by people who are abusing the privilege.

What I believe what will happen soon enough is that states will start going to a two color handicap parking area in most bigger retail stores. The current blue tags will be close to the door but not the closest, and be given to Obese people who cannot walk far. The very closest spots will go to a red zone/tag and be given to more debilitating people, such as those who are severely handicap. This will take up about 10-15 more spots at your local Walmart, Meijer...etc. Watch....its going to happen.


The people who are abusing the privilege are not disabled, hence no privilege. Obesity should not qualify anyone for a placard and being on "welfare" shouldn't and doesn't either. The real concern is about the loss of revenue in some cities but other cities do just fine!


Ironic, that the handicap tags are blue which is the color associated with the welfare democratic party. Yet another entitlement that is being misused.

sandtown born a...

Are you really that far out there??? Being handicapped or the placard being blue has nothing to do with politics. Ignorance or ignorant people never cease to amaze me.

Eph 2 8-10

Just wait 'till he needs one. He'll be singing a different tune. Don't you just love ignorant judgmental people.....


I agree. This is not a political issue, although if he wants to make it one, we could certainly make a case that more people (Democrats and Republicans alike) are on welfare and food stamps today due to the GOP-induced recession of 2007-2008.

JudgeMeNot's picture

You need to be deprogrammed. Get a life and contribute something and stay off the blogs using different names.


Sandtown is right! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think Sam is a she! There you have it! LOL!

Pterocarya frax...

What I find ironic, Sam, is that the color red, which is the color of the fascist republican party, is also associated with "communism", "blood" as in republicans are killing us, and "stop signs", as in stop this party that is destroying our country.


Too funny!


blood is the main thing keeping you alive.....boooyaaaaaaaaahhhhhh


The law should be changed so that the handicapped person must exit the car. Too many times I see young people using their parents' or grandparent's car, parking in the reserved spots. I have spoken to two young ladies last month and they acted like just because there was a placard in the car that they could make use of it.
I do agree, fat is not a handicap!


Hope you don't catch a beat down bothering folks!


I have a placard and AM disabled. I, too, got tired of seeing young people use another's disabled placard and finally said something. I asked if she or the boy were disabled and she said no. It belonged to his grandmother. The girl asked if I was a cop? I said "no, but I can get one here quickly if she didn't move the car out of that space". I took out my cellphone and called the non emergency number. The girl moved the car and the police came. The boy came out and she told him what happened. He took off and I got their plate number, gave it to the cop and he went after them. Got them at the light. This isn't a political cause, people, its medical...nothing more, nothing less. Try humanity for once, not politics.

I am sick and tired of watching people abuse the placquard and the right to use it. I didn't want mine at first, but as it got harder for me to walk, I had no choice. I am not overweight, nor am I FAT. I weight just 128 pounds and getting smaller every month. I have trouble breathing and have metal in my body. I don't look sick but I am....I am dying. Don't judge a book by it's cover, not a person by his or her looks. None of us has that right.

These placks should be given out by doctors who know what is wrong with a person, not based on whims or anything else. They should be given out by checklists that mean something.


No no its the democrats faults, no no its the Republicans, what a crock of crape. Untill we wake up and quit blaming the other party for everything nothing will ever change. What is wrong with choosen the best man for the job, or hearing the issue first and then taking a liberal or conservitive stance, instead of doing what ever makes your party and its contribution givers happy.. wake up America ........this two party system is a joke and is the ruin of our country and what it stands for. No one outside of the two major parties can even get elected or get anything accomplished due to the fact that they are scared of pissing off the party...


Its so easy and entertaining to rattle the chains of the far left, by the way more people has signed up for food stamps under Obama than anytime since 1978, which by the way was the Carter years.


Well Sam, the economy was pretty bad when Obama took office. It is also true that red states have the most food stamp recipients. Jus sayin'!!!!!

JudgeMeNot's picture

Leave it to a liberal to complain about a red states while 10 times more food stamp recipients reside in a blue states. The fact is, that most of the nearly 50 million Americans collecting food stamps vote for liberal democrats. Thanks for proving your ignorance once again.

Pterocarya frax...

Citation needed.


Might want to check you facts, the blue states are leaders in food stamps and welfare, but then again you never let facts get in your left wing agenda.

The Big Dog's back

So many people are on food stamps, not because they are lazy, but because the US has a higher level of income inequality than any other developed nation on Earth.

Americans have an average income of $19,352 ($9.30 / hr) based on the Census. They pay an overall average tax of 23.4%.

The upper 1% have an average income of $1,137,684. The top 1% currently pays 18.8% in total taxes.

In 2008 corporations made 1.830 Trillion and paid 12.6% in taxes.

Net Worth of the top 1% combined: $27.74 Trillion
Net Worth of the next 19% combined: $32.678 Trillion
Net Worth of the bottom 80% combined: $4.547 Trillion

Those are the facts!

It's easier to think you haven't been fooled by politicians and the elite into giving away the wealth of the nation. If you did that you'd have yourself to blame.

The bottom 80% have been fueled by hate of our fellow citizens based on race, income, religion, etc. While we were distracted our money was stolen.

Are you going to continue to be distracted?

Darwin's choice

No jobs = no money = assistance of some kind = most in US history and 5 years of failed Obama non-leadership is the reason. Lying doesn't change the facts....

he said she said

My mother was always overweight thanks to a thyroid problem that her mother passed down to all the females. I had someone TRY to cuss me out because I was parked in a handicap spot helping my mother out of the car. Little did that person know that my mother had bone cancer. Walking, sitting and laying down were all very painful for her. She looked healthy on the outside but her bones were cracking and breaking every time she moved.

So my suggestion to you would be to call the police when you see this 'healthy' person hopping into a car with a handicap placard; get the number on the placard if possible.

The placard goes with the person it is registered to, not the car. The people that are abusing this should be fined double what the fine is!!


Great point!



2cents's picture

If you want to see a funny one go over to the Great Northern Mall, they have spots designated for pregnant women! I think the spots are good but sometimes they have way to many. Take Target for instance, the entire center rows are for handicap people, I do not think I have seen 10 handy caped people in that store at any one time. Maybe abuse on all sides, why not just make the entire parking lot handy caped?

Better yet, how about a little common sense from the doctor giving these things out to the people using them and the state for mandating how many per store.


Some folks seem to judge others by appearance. A person could have a heart condition that isn't visible or many other medical conditons that you can't see. As far as the obese people, yes you can see the person's size but you don't know why they are that way. Perhaps they have a medical condition that makes it impossible for them to exercise(walk) or some other type of medical condition. Not all obesity is necessarily caused by overeating and having a placard doesn't necessarily mean that person doesn't hold down a job. What makes me mad is seeing someone sitting in the driver's seat in a handicap spot waiting for someone to come out of the store. If that person isn't leaving the car, they don't need to use a handicap spot. If the person shopping is the one with the handicap, the driver can drop them off and pick them up at the door instead of taking the parking spot from someone who really needs it.

Licorice Schtick

"Not all obesity is necessarily caused by overeating..."

I doubt that, but even if true, surely 99.9% of all obesity is. (That's not to say there aren't contributing causes, of course.)

Compassion is in order, but telling people it's OK to be obese is just a form of food addiction enablement. It's not helpful; it just makes them feel better while they slowly kill themselves at everyone's expense.

JudgeMeNot's picture

Why would it be your expense?


If you doubt that check the medical facts.

Licorice Schtick

In Ohio it takes a letter from a doctor to get a placard, and doctors are sometimes complicit in misuse - they wanna keep their patients happy. It would be nice if there was some sort of oversight of this.

There are a lot of other ways to misuse this system, some of them mentioned above. It's born of ignorance, selfishness and laziness. I know of one high school kid who loved to use Gramma's car with handicap plates because he thought that made it OK to park in blue spots. Maybe tougher penalties would help, but only if law enforcement took this seriously, and they tend to respond only to complaints, unless a particular officer has personal experience with this.

Having a family member with special needs quickly turns one into a advocate for accessibility.

Kottage Kat

While some of us who have do NOT always park in handicapped zone.
On bad day yes, as I have heart disease. Walking is good for me and I often park at a distance for the exercise
I look realativly (sp) healthy and do not abuse what I see as as blessing WHEN I NEED IT
My gripe is the people at Walmart that park on the lines where there is no parking just because they have a sticker

2cents's picture

"some of us who have do NOT always park in handicapped zone"

Yep, correct Kat, my mom is 85, drives just fine, and has leg problems so when we go places I park her car in that zone and have to walk her in, it is the distance for her. On the other hand a good friend is waiting to have a knee replaced and has good and bad days, I also see a local guy with one leg park way out in no mans land. I guess he does not feel like he is handicapped. Again it is all about common sense, abuse is typical in America anymore, very sad but true!

JudgeMeNot's picture

Please report handicapped parking violators respectfully. Remember that we can not know somebody's personal situation.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

That is probably a more tactful way of doing things rather than printing out a "notice" from! The dashes, of course, should be replaced by letters if your imagination fills them in. "Infraction 1" has some funny options like "diagonal parking: cool car".


There is a red handicap placard for short term disability. I know because I had one a few years ago. It was good for 6 months. I don't think I have ever seen another one except mine.


One parked across from us just the other day. The man had a blow up cast on his right foot and he had a red sticker in his window.

One word of caution to ANY of u who may have those stickers...It states clearly on it that it is to be REMOVED when you so. The police can stop you and give you a ticket for obtructed vision. My husband likes to read those police things in the SR....he saw several for the placard in the window. Its a moving violation so just beware. They let kids have all that junk in their windows but you cannot have that placquard in your window and drive with it in. Not if you don't want to get a ticket.


I observed a large lady, on a motorized cart, check out using her food stamps, paid cash for her high sugar soda, beer and cigarettes come out of the store, lite a cigarette and loaded up her beer and cigarettes into a fairly new vehicle from her handicapped parking space. Of course she left the motorized cart in the middle of the parking lot all the while a young teenage girl with her talked on a cell phone, my guess free from the government.

The Big Dog's back

Go ahead, take a wild guess as to which state relies on food stamps the most?

Has to be one of those lefty, bleeding-heart, tax-guzzling states, doesn't it? Lots of cities, lots of public spending and entitlements, very little "real America." That's exactly the profile of today's taker society, isn't it?

Well, only if you feel that Mississippi fits any of those descriptions. According to the Department of Agriculture's latest figures, mapped out by The Wall Street Journal, 22% of citizens in The Magnolia State are currently enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That's more than one in every five people in the state and well above the national average of 15%.

Just to be clear, that's the same Mississippi that still sports the Confederate Stars and Bars in its state flag and elected firmly Republican Phil Bryant as its governor and Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker as its senators. The state now has roughly 663,000 people on food stamps, a population larger than that of Boston, Seattle, Denver or Washington, D.C.


The fat welfare queen should not have had to use her cash benefit on soda. Soda can be bought with the "Food Stamps".


The 1rst state to offer tax abatements also. (30's) Still one, if not the poorest states in the Union.


Sometimes obesity is caused by a person's medical problem, or medications and they get trapped a vicious cycle.

Then what? Can you tell a person's medical history just by what they look like? I know folks (under 60) who have balance issues who don't like to use a cane, all the time, but they still have a placard, IF they need it on a bad day.

Another point, I drove my mom (she never weighed over 115 tops) around in my car, so I had the placard in my car - for her.

I do agree, though, there is a lot of fraud. just like anything else.


I gots da bronchitis.......aint nobody got time for dat......I needs a handicap tag.