A Disabled American's Guide to Handicap Parking Rules

Blue handicap parking sign with trees in the background.

Have you ever driven around a packed parking lot and wondered if you could slip into a handicapped spot, even just for a few minutes? If you don't have a disability, the answer is always 'no'. 

For the 14% of Americans with a disability affecting their mobility, access to handicapped parking has a significant impact on their daily lives. While those with a disability are likely to be familiar with handicap parking rules, it is important for the general population to understand and follow the rules for handicap parking spaces too. 

Different Types of Handicap Parking Spaces 

Everyone has seen the designated handicap parking spaces in public parking lots. Did you know that there are two different types of handicap parking spaces though? Each is painted differently to designate their intended purpose. 

Standard Handicap Parking Spaces

These parking spots have a white wheelchair user painted over a blue background. Sometimes there is a metal sign with the same logo posted in front of the space as well or instead. 

Van-Accessible Handicap Parking Spaces

Wheelchair accessible vehicles require larger parking space to accommodate side-entry or rear-entry ramps. 

The parking spots for such vehicles are identified by white diagonal lines painted across one or both sides of the space. 

Handicap Parking Rules and Etiquette

There are specific regulations for anyone who holds a handicap parking permit, placard, or license plate. For everyone else, it is important to also respect the needs of others by following the rules and extending certain courtesies. 

If You DO Have a Handicap Parking Permit

If you hold a handicap parking permit, it is valid for any vehicle of which you are either a driver or a passenger. It does not matter who owns the vehicle as long as the permit-holder is traveling in it. 

You must never loan out your handicap parking permit or placard to others. This is misuse and there is the potential for consequences, including fines or cancellation of the permit.

Sometimes there are free parking exceptions on the street or in parking garages. Handicap parking meter rules and residential parking rules vary by city and state. Check with your locality for the specific regulations where you live.  

In any case, you must always display your permit in a visible location. 

If You DO NOT Have a Handicap Parking Permit

First and foremost, NEVER park in a handicap parking space if you or your passenger do not hold a permit. If parking adjacent to a handicap space, be sure you do not obstruct the striped aisles. Otherwise, those required side-entry or exit cannot use the space.  

Never judge others using a handicap parking space, even if they don't 'look' disabled. Not all disabilities are external. Mobility is also impeded by things such as lung, respiratory, and vision issues. 

Mutual Respect Keeps Everyone Happy

Understanding handicap parking rules is especially important in the car-centric culture of the United States regardless if you do or do not hold a handicap parking permit.

If you or a loved one is looking for mobility solutions, reach out to us and see how we can help! 

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