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Handicapped Parking and a Free Society


Special parking permits that allow disabled motorists to park in spaces reserved for the handicapped are commonly issued in every state. But in the nation’s most populous state — California — where more than two million of such permits have been issued, it was recently reported by the Los Angeles Times that 56,000 people that had a permit were deceased.

It turns out that the California Department of Motor Vehicles checks state death records only every two years.

So, were disabled parking placards still used after those holding them had died? Certainly they were. The California DMV even acknowledges that more than a third of the placards displayed in vehicles are used illegally.

In my state of Florida, disabled persons can apply for a “disabled person parking permit” on form HSMV 83039. Their disability must be certified by a licensed physician, chiropractor, physician assistant, or advanced registered nurse practitioner (under the protocol of a licensed physician). The disabled person must have a permanent disability that limits his ability to walk 200 feet without stopping to rest because of:

        • Inability to walk without the use of or assistance from a brace, cane, crutch, prosthetic device, or other assistive device, or without assistance of another person.


          • The need to permanently use a wheelchair.

      • Restriction by lung disease to the extent that the person’s forced (respiratory) expiratory volume for 1 second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter or the person’s arterial oxygen is less than 60 mm/hg on room air at rest.

      • Use of portable oxygen.

      • Restriction by cardiac condition to the extent that the person’s functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or Class IV according to standards set by the American Heart Association.

      • Severe limitation in a person’s ability to walk because of an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition.

      If someone is legally blind, an optometrist can also certify his eligibility to obtain a permit.

      The parking permit is free and good for four years. A temporary permit can be issued for $15. Making a false or misleading statement on the application can result in a penalty of “up to one year in jail or a fine of $1,000 or both.”

      But having a handicapped-parking permit is no good if there are no designated places to park one’s vehicle in. Once again, the state of Florida comes to the rescue.

      According to the Florida statutes regarding handicapped parking spaces (553.5041),

      Each parking space must be no less than 12 feet wide. Parking access aisles must be part of an accessible route to the building of facility entrance. In accordance with ADAAG s. 4.6.3, access aisles must be placed adjacent to accessible parking spaces; however, two accessible parking spaces may share a common access aisle. The access aisle must be striped diagonally to designate it as a no-parking zone….

      Each such parking space must be prominently outlined in blue paint and must be repainted when necessary, to be clearly distinguishable as a parking space designated for persons who have disabilities and must be posted with a permanent above-grade sign of a color and design approved by the Department of Transportation which is placed on or at a distance of 84 inches above the ground to the bottom of the sign and which bears the international symbol of accessibility meeting the requirements of ADAAG s. 4.30.7 and the caption “PARKING BY DISABLED PERMIT ONLY.”

      Additionally, regarding the signs parking spaces,

      An approved Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) sign is 12 inches wide by 18 inches high, designated FTO-25 in accordance with FDOT Design Standards 17355 sheet 3. Design requirements for this reflective sign are: 1 inch Series “C” letters on blue background with white legend and border on top, and a bottom portion of white background with black opaque legend and border.

      FDOT standards require the blue outline to be a 6 inch wide blue stripe to be 2 inches inside of the standard 6 inch white stripe as shown in FDOT Design Standard 17346 sheet 10. This standard states “Use of pavement symbol in accessible parking spaces is optional, when used the symbol shall be 3 feet or 5 feet high and white in color.” Blue pavement markings shall be tinted to match shade 15180 of Federal Standard 595a.

      So how many handicapped parking spaces does a place of business need to provide? The state of Florida has determined that as well. Again, according to Florida statutes (553.5041), businesses with up to 100 parking spaces must have 1 handicapped parking space for each 25 regular spaces. For 101–200 parking spaces, 1 handicapped-parking space is required for each 50 regular spaces. For 201–500 parking spaces, 1 handicapped-parking space is required for each 100 regular spaces. For larger parking lots with between 501 and 1,000 spaces, 2 percent of the total must be reserved for the handicapped. For large parking lots with more than 1,000 spaces, the requirement is 20 handicapped parking spaces plus 1 for each 100 over 1,000.

      Now, all of these rules and regulations would be a waste of time if the parking habits of motorists were not monitored. The Florida statutes regarding “handicapped parking enforcement” (316.1959) state that “the provisions of handicapped parking shall be enforced by state, county, and municipal authorities in their respective jurisdictions whether on public or private property in the same manner as is used to enforce other parking laws and ordinances by said agencies.” Florida statute 316.008(4) provides for a fine of up to $250 for drivers who illegally park in designated handicapped-parking spaces.

      I certainly have no problem with the premise of a business’s designating a certain number of its parking spaces as reserved for the handicapped. And neither do I oppose standards for the color and size of parking spaces and signs. I would not even be against business owners’ strictly enforcing handicapped parking. But all of that has less to do with sympathy for the disabled (which I certainly have) than it does with freedom.

      The problem is governments’ mandating a certain number of handicapped parking spaces and setting standards for their use, size, and color.

      There are two issues here. The first is the ability of government to efficiently, equitably, and sensibly issue mandates and set standards for handicapped parking. The second is whether it is a legitimate function of government to issue mandates and set standards for handicapped parking.

      Consider the issue of the number of spaces reserved for the handicapped. Here the government adopts the one-size-fits-all approach. We’ve all seen what appears to be an empty parking space on the other side of a parking lot. But upon driving to it, we find out that we are not able to park there even though it has been empty all day — it’s a handicapped-parking space. And sometimes it seems as though the stores with the most handicapped-parking spaces have the fewest handicapped patrons. That is because the government requires a gym and a dance studio, where one is not very likely to run into a disabled person, to have the same number of handicapped-parking spaces per lot size as a Social Security office. Why is it that a Home Depot should have the same number of handicapped parking spaces as a hospital?

      And regarding the size and color of parking spaces, signs, symbols, and lettering, standards could exist for those things on the free market.

      The free market could also supply private agencies to certify those who are truly handicapped.

      Businesses could police their own parking lots.

      Opponents of liberty, antagonists of the free market, advocates of a nanny state, and other assorted statists would have everyone believe that without government intervention there would be few or no parking spaces reserved for the handicapped.

      They are the same people who insist that the poor would go hungry without food stamps, children would be malnourished without the federal school-lunch program, the sick would die without Medicare and Medicaid, and old people would be living on the street without Social Security.

      Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no reason to believe that handicapped parking would disappear if left up to the free market. To the contrary, some businesses might even reserve more of such parking spaces. Businesses that don’t see very many disabled patrons might cut back the number of their handicapped parking spaces to a more reasonable number.

      The free market is a wonderful thing. Without government handicapping the market, business owners would be free to cater to a diverse clientele, a select clientele, somewhere in between, or to no one in particular. In addition to handicapped parking, some businesses might want to provide special parking spaces for seniors, expectant mothers, people with small children, members of the clergy, military personnel, teachers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, roofers, or those motorists willing to pay a fee to park close to a place of business.

      The possibilities are endless, but only if parking is left to the free market instead of the government.

      True, in a free society, the possibility would exist that business owners would not want to set aside a special parking spot for anyone, including the handicapped. But to have a truly free society, it would have to be their decision to make.

      In the end, setting aside special parking spaces for the handicapped has nothing to do with someone’s being disabled. It has to do with liberty, property, and a free society.

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