September 6, 2013

Sea of blue disabled placards in many U.S. cities

Cities are seeing the impact in more congested downtowns and the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.

By Steven Dubois / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A handicapped parking tag hangs from the rearview mirror of a car parked at a metered parking spot in Portland, Ore., where it's common to find blocks in which there are more cars with placards than without.

AP

California started issuing placards in 1959 to people unable to move without a wheelchair. Within two decades, it was expanded to include people with breathing problems and general mobility problems.

"We looked back from 1990 to 2010, even normalized for population growth, there was a 350 percent increase in the number of placards issued in California," Williams said. "Even if there was no abuse, there are a lot of placards in circulation."

Oregon has issued placards to 354,000 of its 3 million drivers. Those authorized to sign a permit include doctors of medicine, chiropractors, osteopaths, podiatrists, optometrists, naturopaths, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Portland's Disabled Parking Task Force asked the Oregon Medical Association in 2010 to remind doctors about the impact of improper placards, and recommended temporary permits instead of ones that can be valid for years until a driver's license expires.

Betty Brislawn, 84, uses a placard because she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

A task force member, Brislawn said there are many cheaters, but you can't assume people with internal problems are less worthy of a placard than those in wheelchairs.

"My oxygen level, if I walk fast, will go down to 83 and that means I'm in really dire trouble; I could pass out," she said. "But otherwise I look fine."

Novick doesn't have a placard, though he was born with missing fibula bones and no left hand. The 4-foot-9 commissioner said ensuring open spaces for those with severe mobility problems should be the city's focus.

"Being really short, I would kind of like it if grocery stores had tongs you could use to take things off the top shelf," he joked. "That would be a good accommodation, but I still think I should have to pay for the groceries."

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