Handicap Parking Spot Abuse: What it is and How to Prevent it

handicap parking spot spaces in mall parking lot
Handicap parking spot abuse is not only inconsiderate, it's against the law. Here's what you can do about it.

Handicap parking spot abuse is something you don’t really understand until it happens to you or your loved one. It’s never malicious, it’s just that you’re in a rush to get to an important meeting, all the handicapped parking spots are free, and there are no other parking spots available. But here’s the thing: not only is handicap parking spot abuse inconsiderate, it’s also illegal. Those who park in handicap accessible parking spaces may be reported. If found to be in violation, abusers may receive a ticket or a fine.

People talk themselves into doing things they shouldn’t, all the time. In the case of handicap parking spot abuse, it’s easy to see how that happens: you tell yourself you’re only going to be a minute, really. Then you’ll complete your errand, and vacate the space. But if you or your loved one is disabled, you know the frustration of driving ‘round and around the parking lot, looking in vain for an empty handicap parking spot. That’s when you realize how awful handicap parking spot abuse really is. For those with disabilities, a lot of the time it’s either park in a handicap parking spot or turn around and go home without completing your errand.

Most people want to do the right thing. They know better than to use a parking space meant for the disabled without having a valid disabled parking permit in their possession. But of course, there’s always the outliers who either just don’t care, or think it’s not the worst thing in the world to occasionally take the most convenient spot available, even when it’s marked for people with disabilities. How do you spot these abusers, and what should you do about them?

handicap parking spot with blue wheelchair symbol

Handicap Parking Purpose

First of all, let’s look at the purpose of a handicap parking spot. Parking spots designated for the disabled are set aside for those with medical conditions that come with mobility issues. They are closer to the intended destination and more convenient for those who have trouble getting around. You have to apply for a special parking permit to park in a handicap parking space. The spaces have blue markings and display a wheelchair symbol either in the parking space itself or on a sign marking the spot as such.

Only a person who has applied for and received a valid handicap parking permit by way of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is permitted to park in handicap parking spaces. A handicap parking permit comes with a placard to put in the window of your car. The placard, prominently displayed, is the proof that the disabled person has the right to park in a handicap parking spot.

Let’s say you’re driving a disabled friend to the grocery store. Can you use their placard to park closer to the store for the friend’s convenience? The short answer is no. Each handicap parking permit is specific to one vehicle. If a family member with a disability regularly travels as a passenger in your car, you can apply for and receive the permit, for use when that family member is with you in the car.

row of handicap parking spots

Handicap Parking Permits Expire

Disabled parking permits are not good for use indefinitely. They come with an expiration date. Using an expired handicap parking permit can lead to a ticket or fine.

Do you suspect someone of abusing a handicap parking spot? Here’s what to do:

  • Remember that “assume” makes an ass out of “u” and “me.” Don’t assume someone is misusing a handicap parking spot. Some people have hidden disabilities that may not be visible to onlookers. Be very sure before you report someone for handicap parking spot abuse.
  • If you’re fairly sure the person is breaking the law, do call law or parking enforcement to report the incident. Possible alternatives to contacting the law? Some cities have hotlines or websites for reporting such violations. In other cases, a formal complaint can be registered at your local DMV.
  • What not to do? Don’t call 911. Handicap parking spot abuse, as bad as it is, is not an emergency.
  • Also, never confront someone for handicap parking spot abuse, even if you’re fairly sure you know what you’re seeing. Such confrontations can lead to violence. It’s better to let law enforcement handle things.
  • When reporting a handicap parking violation, make sure to include relevant information, such as the location of the parking spot, the make and model of the car, and the license plate number. In general, you don’t need to stand around and wait for law enforcement.
  • Law enforcement is unfortunately, slow to act on handicap parking spot abuse. It’s understandable. They’re busy arresting crooks, and the like. But handicap parking spot abuse is a crime and you are in your rights to make out a report. One great alternative to phoning in a report is to fill out a complaint online at Handicapped Fraud. This is a quick and easy route to take for reporting disabled parking space violations.

handicap parking spot sign with wheelchair

Protecting Those With Disabilities

It’s a sad comment on our society that people abuse the privileges of those with disabilities. The good news is that we’re not without recourse. There are ways and means to put an end to this abuse and protect the disabled. It begins, of course, with remembering that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

That means taking the time to do the right thing. So if you’re absolutely sure you see someone abusing a handicapped parking spot, please take the time to file a report. This is the best way to deter future offenders from taking advantage of one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society: those with disabilities.



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