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Pain Management Health Center

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Handicap Parking Permits: How to Get One

If you have a chronic illness like arthritis or lung disease that makes it painful or difficult to walk, you might qualify for a handicapped parking permit. Ask your doctor about eligibility. People with limited mobility can save time, energy, and frustration when they park in handicapped parking spots near the entrances to businesses.

Each state has its own forms and criteria for handicapped parking permits. Typically, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) runs the program. Check on your state’s specific process.

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The DMV will need your doctor to verify your medical condition. Other health-care professionals -- such as an optometrist, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner -- may also be able to document your condition. If you’re visibly disabled and appear at a DMV office, the requirement of a physician’s certification might be waived in some states.

Check with your own state to find out the specific criteria regarding who qualifies for disabled parking. Common conditions include:

  • Lung disease
  • Heart disease
  • Substantially impaired mobility, for example, use of a wheelchair, brace, or cane
  • A disease that significantly limits your ability walk or to use your legs
  • Documented vision problems, including low-vision or partial sightedness
  • Loss of one or both legs or loss of both hands, or limited use of these parts

Be aware that other conditions also may apply, so ask your doctor about your eligibility. For example, some states will grant permits to people who use portable oxygen or have an acute sensitivity to sunlight that causes burning and blistering of the skin.

How to Apply for a Handicap Parking Permit

  • Get a handicapped parking application from the DMV office or online.
  • Complete and sign the form. Ask your health-care provider to fill out and sign the portion that certifies disability. (Again, in some states, certification requirements might be waived if you’re visibly disabled and appear in person at the DMV.)
  • Submit the application by mail or in person.

Although many people apply for permanent disabled parking, states also offer placards for temporary disability, such as after after having surgery. Typically, these temporary placards are valid for up to six months or up to the date that your doctor notes on the application.

Fees also vary. Some states charge a small fee, and others provide placards free of charge.

You are the only one legally allowed to use the placard, whether you’re a driver or passenger in the vehicle. It’s illegal for anyone else to use the placard if you’re not in the vehicle. Misusing the placard can result in cancellation of the permit, fines and other penalties.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on January 23, 2016

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