Today the Chris Hinds Act was signed into law!

Did you know the #1 reason people fraudulently obtain and use disability parking placards is for free parking?  This bill addresses that concern while keeping access for those who physically cannot pay a parking meter because of their disability.  Currently, anyone with a disability parking placard can park for free at a meter, but as of January 1, 2019 (when this law takes effect), current placards and plates will no longer qualify for free parking.  All other rights and responsibilities will still apply – any disability parking placard or plate provides access to marked disability parking spaces.  The only change is whether a municipality can charge a person with a valid placard or plate to pay at a parking meter.

Who benefits?

There are several groups who benefit:

  • People with disabilities.  Currently 570,000 valid placards exist in Colorado, and Colorado has 5.6 million people.  That means there’s a chance that more than 10% of Coloradans have placards, but the number is expected to drop once this law takes effect.  This is good for those with disabilities because there will be fewer people trying to park in disability parking spaces.  (By the way, ADA only requires 2% of spaces be accessible for people with disabilities.)
  • Small businesses.  Small businesses rely on street parking for access to their shops.  They often can’t afford to buy and maintain large parking lots.  Parking meters are designed to encourage people to park in that space only for as long as they need, but if someone can park for free, they often park far longer than they need. A UCLA study shows the average person who pays a parking meter parks for an average of 22 minutes and the average person who has a placard parks for 315 minutes.  That’s a huge difference, and it stifles access to small businesses.
  • Able bodied people.  Even those without disabilities benefit because parking spaces experience more availability when more people pay for parking meters.
  • Municipalities and parking lot owners.  Groups that own parking lots often rely on meter revenue to maintain their parking lots.  This will give them greater flexibility to decide how to pay for upkeep, etc.

Who doesn’t benefit?

The people who fraudulently use disability parking placards for free parking do not benefit.

There are people who currently have the perk of free parking that will soon no longer get free parking.  However, the law has been designed to carefully consider those whose physical disabilities who cannot pay a parking meter as a result of those disabilities.

Equity

As Americans, we’re established in the principle that all people are created equal.  As a result, many of our laws are designed to provide equity for all people.

For those with disabilities, obtaining equal access to transportation and destinations has been an uphill climb.  However, current law provides free parking for some people who actually can pay for parking.  That’s not equal access; that’s a perk.  It’s not equitable for someone who is fighting for equal access on so many fronts to then have the perk of free parking when they don’t actually need a free pass on parking meters.

Who qualifies for the new placard?

There are 3 qualifications for the new disability parking placard:

  • Lack of fine motor control in both hands
  • Inability to reach above 48″ in height due to a few particular physical disabilities
  • Use of an assistive device (such as a walker or wheelchair) that interferes with a person’s ability to pay a parking meter

When does this law take effect?

This law takes effect on January 1, 2019.  That means you have plenty of time to consider what your options are before the law takes effect.

For more information check out these resources:

  • https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/06/disability-placards/2776461/
  • https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/one-out-of-every-8-california-drivers-now-has-a-disabled-parking-placard/110357389
  • https://www.parking.org/2016/01/27/tpp-2015-08-solutions-to-disabled-parking-placard-usage/
  • https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/02/11/more-cheaters-use-handicapped-parking-than-you-think/ENuOcYjfbmPKGRc0Sn6kZO/story.html