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Handicapped parking spaces are specially marked and available for use by disabled individuals who meet certain criteria. To use these disabled parking spaces, an individual must first obtain a handicapped parking permit. After determining if he is eligible, a person trying to obtain one of these must fill out an application. Most states in the United States require an person's doctor to fill out a portion of this application as well, attesting to the fact that the applicant does have a disability.
The first step toward obtaining a handicapped parking permit is determining if you are eligible. Although this varies depending on the state, most areas will give parking permits to individuals who have trouble walking 200 feet (61 meters) without any problems. This can include individuals in a wheelchair, or those with arthritis or a chronic breathing condition, like emphysema.
Many times, an application to get a handicapped parking permit can be obtained at your state's department of motor vehicles, driver's license center, or similar office. This application will often require you to fill out certain personal information including your name, address, and telephone number. Information regarding your driver's license or vehicle may also be required.
It is also common for your doctor to provide information. Usually he must provide information, including the nature of your disability, when it was first diagnosed, and whether it is permanent or temporary. Penalties for attesting to false information on an application for a handicapped parking permit could result in a hefty fine or a prison sentence.
After the application is filled out and signed, it must then be mailed to the correct office. Keep in mind that in some states, a person requesting a handicapped parking permit must mail it not to the department of motor vehicles, but to some other office. For example, residents of Hawaii must send their completed application to the health department.
If your disability is permanent, you may have the option of getting a handicapped license plate. These plates are very similar to regular license plates, but they usually have a handicapped symbol on them. You would have to have a separate handicapped parking permit if you drove any other car and wanted to park in a handicapped space. This would also be necessary if you got a ride with someone instead of taking your own car. These separate placards are usually plastic cards that can be hung from the rear view mirror of a vehicle.
The 200 feet requirement is not do you have trouble walking 200 feet; it's you cannot walk 200 feet. There's a huge difference between having difficulty walking and severely limited walking. Too many doctors today are authorizing permits to people who can walk 200 feet or more. And this is the main reason people get stares when parking in a disabled space even if they have a valid permit.
@umbra21 - I have a family member who you wouldn't think had a disability to look at, but she really struggles when she has to walk any distance.
She tries to get in and out of the supermarket as quickly as she can so she's not on her feet too long, but at least in the supermarket she has the trolley to lean on.
Parking lots can be huge, with lots of moving hazards. She simple can't react fast enough to get herself across it safely, but at least her doctor was able to get her a disabled parking permit so she doesn't have to anymore.
So, yeah, don't get impatient, that person who looks perfectly average might be struggling more than you know.
For a while I could be quite judgmental about people who took handicapped parking spaces even when they seemed like they were completely fine.
Even if they had the permit displayed on the car I'd still be annoyed and just figured they managed to cheat and get it somehow.
And I know there are people who manage to do this. After all, it's not too difficult to pull one over on your doctor if you are really determined (and have no moral character).
But, then a friend pointed out that I have no idea what that person is going through. I'm judging them on the fact that they aren't in a wheelchair.
But as it says in the article, there are many different conditions which might leave someone unable to walk a great distance to the entrance of the supermarket but still able to walk in general.
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