*Helping Seniors* Handicapped Parking; Don’t yell if you don’t know!


As a recent recipient of spinal surgery, I want to bring to your attention a problem seen in parking lots across America.  It’s about the guy who parks in a handicapped reserved spot, but ‘seemingly’ gets out of the car unassisted and strolls into the store.

His car is properly tagged or has the appropriate handicap plates.  But he was walking ‘just fine’; why the heck is he parking there??

This may help…

Spinal stenosis.  Multiple Sclerosis.  Lung cancer.  Heart problems.  The list is endless as to ailments that are ‘unseen’, and yet prevent otherwise normally healthy people from walking great distances.

Take spinal stenosis:  If it develops into full blown cauda equina syndrome (like mine), you suffer from unimagineable pain thru your legs, and almost complete numbness of your feet.  Even after emergency surgery, the recovery period can be up to a year!  And without someone taking off their shirt to show you the back scar, you may never know the difference.

And you also wouldn’t know that it can be very painful to walk even 50 yards.  Roundtrip.


People with heart problems may often times have limited range.  They really need those parking spots up close, but you can’t ‘tell’ from the outside that there is anything wrong.

The list goes on and on.

So the next time you, or someone with you yells at a ‘healthy’ looking driver getting out of a handicapped parked car, zip it.  If you are that concerned, write down the plate number and call it into the DMV.  They’d love to hear about imposters, and also encourage you not to harass those that are suffering from something you don’t.

Remember, don’t yell if you don’t know!


20 Responses to *Helping Seniors* Handicapped Parking; Don’t yell if you don’t know!

  1. Tensions around handicap parking continue to increase as the number of people with handicap parking permits increases. Most states today have a ratio of 10% to 15% issued permits to issued driver’s licenses. Meaning 10% to 15% of vehicles looking to park have a person with a handicap parking permit inside the vehicle (either driving or riding). While the number of handicap parking stalls remains around only 2% of all parking stalls. In short, demand for handicap parking far exceeds supply.

    Some will claim the demand has increased over the years solely due to an aging population. Truth be told, the increase demand is more due to fraud and a lax in permit eligibility requirements. Over the years the eligibility requirements have become broader and more inclusive. This is all well and good only if the supply of handicap parking stalls were also broadly increased to match demand. Since this did not happen, you have the increased tensions surrounding handicap parking.

    Many states are now introducing and approving new legislation to remove the free parking at meters component of handicap permits. This to help reduce the number of people fraudulently obtaining and using handicap permits. Many states are also tightening the eligibility requirements for handicap parking, Illinois being a good example. And states are moving to more closely matching Federal Regulations governing handicap parking (not to be confused with ADA regulations). I’m referring to The Code of Federal Regulations Title 23 – Part 1235 – Uniform System For Parking For Persons With Disabilities. Some states, Illinois again an example, have tighter eligibility requirements then the federal regulations. All states are suppose to closely mirror the federal regulations to comply with reciprocity agreements. This is what allows states to honor handicap permits/plates issued from other states within their own state and vice versa.

    The increase in demand and lack of supply are the reasons why people are judged (fairly or unfairly) when parking in handicap stalls. It’s not so much about judging if someone has a disability or not but judging if they need handicap parking. Over the years the definition of need has become blurred, especially when it comes to handicap parking. There are many types of disabilities, invisible and visible, that have little to no impact on mobility. So just having a disability itself does not warrant the need for a handicap parking permit/plate. Other disabilities, such as a quadriplegic or paraplegic are so obvious there is no questioning the need for handicap parking. It’s the gray area disabilities, invisible and visible, that dependent on their progression stage may or may not require the need for handicap parking. Someone could be in the early stages of ALS for example and not need handicap parking. But as ALS progresses and their ability to ambulate decreases they very much need handicap parking. And in later stages when they become wheelchair bound, it’s obvious they need handicap parking.

    It’s these gray area stages in a disability where people can fairly or unfairly be judged. Only the person with the disability can truly know if they need to park in handicap parking or merely want to park in handicap parking because it’s convenient. The federal regulation of cannot walk 200 feet without stopping is pretty restrictive. Most people that are at a stage where they truly cannot walk 200 feet will have visible signs. 200 feet is not very far, city blocks range from about 250 to 900 feet in length. One lap around the inside of an average Wal-mart is 1,320 feet. One lap around the inside of an average convenience store is about 175 feet. Bouncing in/out of a small coffee shop is around 50 feet. For something as small as a coffee shop one may not show any visible signs going in/out. But for most stores, the distance from where they park combined with the distance inside the store will be over 200 feet. And they would have visible signs they are struggling with the distance involved. Stopping to rest, breathing heavy, walking abnormally slowly, abnormal gate due to pain, etc. If there are no signs, like not needing to stop and rest, it’s reasonable to assume they probably could of park another 5-6 stalls farther out (about 50 more feet), and not used a handicap parking stall.

  2. Bill Payne…..the article was about handicapped parking spaces, abuse! With your long list of disabilities it’s just common sense that you shouldn’t be driving at all. Yes , texting, telephone talking, loud music, putting on make-up, and a host of other distracting habits are equally as dangerous as someone with known multiple health problems, getting behind the wheel of a car. That’s my opinion. Thank you for your service to this country.

  3. Wow! Call the plate into DMV? How about mind your own damn business!? The health problems of your fellow citizens are not your day-to-day business. Get a life and stop taking your frustrations out on strangers.

  4. It’s always good to reserve judgement when observing some able-body person parking in a handicapped parking space. I am a quadriplegic and can hardly find a handicap parking spot for my w/c van because of the hi availability of the placards in these days. There needs to be tighter restrictions on who can get them and for how long, as well as require a higher number of spaces per parking lot. I have plates on my van

  5. I was with my handicapped friend, She was driving I got out of the car and walked toward the back, Someone said to me you can’t park there, I just looked at them opened the trunk to get out my her wheelchair. No apology.

  6. I have neighbors with the placards but I see them giving them to their guests so the can park in the handicapped spaces at my apartment complex. There is also a lady with a placard who has a assigned place right behind the handicapped space but always uses the handicapped space…I don’t get that one.

  7. S.W. Kirkpatrick..You are so right. There IS a law regarding the situation you described. No one can park in a handicap parking spot and sit there waiting while the handicap person is inside the store.

    I am also against placards. I feel it you are disabled, then you should have a disabled ‘license’ plate, For those that will whine, if you are disabled that someone else has to drive you, then they can drop you off at the door and then find a place to park. That cuts down on alot of placard ‘ABUSERS’. I have disabled PLATES and I park in handicap spots, if I can find one, when I drive otherwise if my husband drives, he drops me off at the door and then parks.

  8. Another Myositist and Kidney diaease

  9. I too have mod/severe rheumatoid arthritis. And have a handicap placard. The more I walk the more I hurt. Especially if I have to walk on concrete, which all stores are. I make it into the store, but am practically dragging myself out of it. What gets me is when perfectly healthy people take the spots and then try to run you down in the store with their shopping carts, and act as if it is your fault that they ran into you.

  10. These are all good and valid comments. What troubles me are the many times I have seen the driver of the handicap-marked vehicle sit in the car reading a newspaper while someone else does the shopping. If the handicapped person isn’t getting out of the car, he shouldn’t occupy the reserved parking space.

  11. I am sure there are unseen disabilities. My brother has MS and often struggles to walk. But he doesn’t have a handicapped plate. My father in-law is 88 and doesn’t have a plate. I can’t feel my feet due to stenosis but I don’t have a plate. I watch people in their 20’s jump out of their properly tagged car and run into the store. The tags are far too easy to acquire and need to identify the person that is disabled. When you drive around the mall prior to Christmas I would bet $1000000 that not one of them is actually handicapped

  12. People will always be prone to “judging ” others. The time will come to each of us, ( if we live long enough) we will have a chance to eat our words. One must “experience” illness, frailty, old age, and a a host of other limitations before they can truly understand.

  13. how do you know that the people you THINK are borrowing their grandparents car with a tag are not the ones with the problem? Younger people also have medical problems that require closer parking spots..but you assume because they are younger..that they have borrowed someones car that has a handicap tag. Bottom line..Keep your nose out. If you really have a problem…call the DMV with the tag number.

  14. I’ve seen where someone uses their grandmothers car to go to the store and uses these spots to park although they themselves are not handicapped. I also wonder if mentaly handicapped people can get these plates? I think Doctors are too quick to issue permits and no one questions anything.

  15. Or the bigger problem. Family members who take the car with the tag so THEY don’t have to walk. I see it ALL the time. Just cause grandpa can’t walk doesn’t mean everybody in the family gets to park up front.

  16. I don’t mean to sound heartless, however both of the above comments are by people with severe debilitating , and possibly life-threatening problems that could arise at any time. If they are driving they are endangering the drivers on the road around them…………The bigger problem here is, should they be driving at all ? If it hurts to walk or takes your breath away, I’m sorry for your problems but you should have someone else drive you………………..and assist you, such as a family member. And then use the handicapped spot!

    • Anyone on the road could have a sudden medical emergency. What about diabetics that drive? People that ae legally blind can still drive as long as they pass the vision test. Who is more of a hazard on the road someone like me with a disability or a healthy person texting while driving?

  17. I too have unseen disabilities and get stares or rude comments. I am a 100% totally and permanently disabled veteran. I have a semi functioning digestive system with an esophagus that goes into spasms and knocks my heart out of rhythm. No front abdominal wall. Arthritis in my spine. 3 compressed discs 4 herniated discs and degenerative disc disease in L5 and S1. People do not see the pain I am constantly in or how hard it is to even walk sometimes. Thank you for this article

  18. I have severe rheumatoid arthritis. I have a handicapped placard. The more I walk, the more swelling and damage is done to my joints. If I have to park at the back of the parking lot and walk from there to the store, I have already used up most of my available steps. Not everyone who’s handicapped is in a wheel chair.

Your thoughts!