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Handicap Placards: What You Need to Know

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Even if you haven’t heard the term “handicap placard” before, you’ve most likely seen one. Also known as a “disabled parking permit,” this blue card hanging from the rearview mirror shows that someone with a disability is in the car, either as a driver or passenger. This placard makes parking easier and more accessible for people with reduced mobility.

Legally, insurance companies can’t refuse coverage for people with disabilities or charge them higher premiums, thanks to the Disability Discrimination Act. But driving vehicles modified to fit special equipment might lead to higher rates. Compare car insurance rates from multiple companies to ensure you’ve secured the best deal.

Quick Facts

  • Any disability — visible or not — that affects your mobility qualifies you for a handicap placard.

  • The ADA protects handicapped drivers from discrimination by auto insurance providers.

  • The process of getting a handicap placard varies from state to state, so check with your DMV.

Who qualifies for a handicap placard?

Does having a disability affect car insurance rates?

The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for car insurance companies to charge drivers with disabilities more for car insurance coverage.

The purpose of a handicap placard is to act as a visual parking permit, allowing someone with a disability to have easier access to shops, public spaces, and more. If you have a chronic illness that makes it difficult to breathe or walk and negatively affects your ability to move, you might want to consider talking to your doctor to obtain a diagnosis for a handicap placard.

Common medical conditions that qualify for a handicap placard include:

  • Any disease that significantly impairs your ability to walk or use your legs, like cerebral palsy, arthritis, asthma, lung disease, or heart disease

  • The loss or limited use of any limbs, like your legs or hands, including those with amputations and paraplegia

  • The use of assistive mobility devices, like a wheelchair, cane, or crutches

  • A neurological disease like epilepsy or a mental health illness

  • Any vision impairment, like low vision or partial sightedness

Medical diagnoses can be visible or invisible to the eye. For example, if you rely on crutches, a wheelchair, or perhaps a portable oxygen tank to get around, it might be more immediately obvious that you need preferential parking. However, people with chronic illnesses that are less visible to the eye, like asthma, lung disease, or arthritis, can also qualify for a disability parking placard.

Being able to use the parking spaces closer to entrances and exits can save time and energy. Each state has its own laws and resources for people with disabilities. The best thing to do is to check with your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) to see what you need for a handicap parking permit. The DMV will also likely need proof of condition from your healthcare provider.

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Applying for a handicap placard

You can (and should) apply for your parking permit after your doctor assesses your medical condition and verifies your eligibility for a handicap placard. You can get a handicap parking application either in person at the DMV or by using their online services. Before submitting your completed application in person or by mail, ask a healthcare provider to confirm your disability.

Once you have completed and signed your form, ask a medical professional — whether it be a physician, optometrist, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or anyone else who is qualified — to fill out and sign the part of the form to confirm your disability. Some states may waive this requirement if you go into the DMV and have an impairment that is clearly visible.

If your application is approved, you’ll have access to parking spots closer to the entrance. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and also sets the standards for safe and accessible parking spots. Instead of a blue placard, you also have the option of a disabled license plate.

The application process varies from state to state

Applying for a placard is different in each state. Some states may not even require disability verification from a medical professional. In most cases, the fee to apply is very low, ranging from completely free to maybe $20 at most. And it can differ for a temporary or a permanent placard. Also, some states, like New York, require you to go to the city clerk’s office instead of the DMV.

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Types of handicap placards

As mentioned, the process to get a handicap placard looks a little bit different in each state. Do research on your state’s requirements. In addition, the physical placard itself can vary. Some states might use stickers instead of issuing placards that you hang on your rearview mirror, although you can even choose to get a special license plate.

Despite each state’s differences, all placards use the International Symbol of Access (ISA), or the Wheelchair Symbol. You have likely seen it before: a blue square with a white image of a person in a wheelchair.

Permanent Handicap Placard

  • Some states don’t require a fee when you apply for this.

  • Typically, permanent status is valid for 2 to 10 years.

  • Diagnoses that qualify as a permanent disability would typically include a chronic illness like lung disease or visual impairment.

  • If you have a chronic (or constantly recurring) disability, you will need to renew your placard regularly.

Temporary Handicap Placard

  • The application fee for this will probably range from $0 to $20.

  • A license plate with disabled status is usually not an option for temporary status because it’s typically valid for only six months.

  • A temporary permit is usually a good option for someone with a temporary disability that requires an assistive device, such as a wheelchair, cast, or crutches, to support a short-term physical impairment.

  • Temporary placards can only be renewed a certain number of times, depending on your condition.

Disabled Veteran Placard

  • This placard is specifically for U.S. military veterans with severe disabilities, and the permits are typically valid for 2 to 10 years. Check your state’s .gov website if you have questions about federally supported resources and benefits.

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Handicapped driver car insurance

People with disabilities are completely eligible to get a driver’s license, but they must meet the test requirements and have the proper modifications made to their car for safety reasons. This may raise rates, but drivers with disabilities can rest easy knowing that they are protected by the ADA, which outlaws companies from charging more just because they have a disability.

A disability can affect auto insurance rates if you have made vehicle modifications to accommodate your condition, like wheelchair or loading ramps, a special steering wheel, altered pedals, or any other adaptive equipment. Vehicles that have been modified to be more accessible or adapted for disabilities can be more expensive to insure.

Thanks to the ADA, it’s illegal for insurers to charge drivers with disabilities higher insurance premiums based on their disability. However, you might see pricier rates if you have claims or collisions on your driving record that may have been caused by an impairment. If you are visually impaired and get into an accident, that can impact rates versus just having a disability in general.

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Do I need special insurance as a handicapped driver?

Don’t worry — as a driver with a disability, it’s not required for you to get any more car insurance coverage than the average driver. In most states, this just means liability coverage (both bodily injury and property damage liability) at a minimum. And, of course, you can add collision and comprehensive coverage on top of that for more thorough coverage.

However, drivers with disabilities might want to consider additional coverage if they find it useful. While these add-ons are completely optional, they might provide peace of mind. For example, roadside assistance, which sometimes includes gasoline delivery or a jump start if your car breaks down, can be even more helpful and convenient for a driver or passenger with limited mobility.

Know that there is no such thing as car insurance policies or coverage specifically for people with disabilities. If an insurance company tries to sell you on this, it’s a red flag, as the ADA outlaws any type of discrimination against people with disabilities.

Getting a handicap placard: what you need to know

All in all, getting a handicap placard can be an easy, accessible, low-cost solution for drivers with disabilities. Your impairment doesn’t need to be visible (i.e., having arthritis is just as valid as using a wheelchair); it just needs to be verified by a medical professional. Each state has its own laws and processes for applying for a disabled parking permit, so check in with your state’s DMV.

While being a driver with a disability should not affect your car insurance rates, it might if your car has been modified to accommodate your mobility requirements. The best way to save on your auto insurance policy is by shopping around and comparing quotes. Make sure you’re getting the best deal to fit your lifestyle and needs.

Handicap placard FAQs

  • Can I use my handicap placard in someone else’s car?

    Yes. People with a placard don’t need to be the ones driving; they can also receive parking privileges as a passenger. For example, if a friend or family member is using their car to drive someone with a disability, then the placard can be used. This means that driving or not, the disabled person needs to be present in the car when using the permit to park.

  • Can someone else use my handicap placard?

    If you’re in the car traveling with them, yes they can. However, a disabled person with a handicap permit can’t loan their placard to someone else. Using a placard without the proper verification and for the wrong reasons — like to secure a better parking spot — can have some serious legal implications. Wrongly using a placard is illegal and punishable by law enforcement.

  • Do handicap placards expire?

    Yes, both temporary and permanent placards expire. Temporary placards usually last for about six months and have limited renewals. And permanent placards can be valid for around two to 10 years and still need to be renewed, but less frequently. Expiration varies by state, so be sure to review your state’s laws. You can check with the DMV when you apply for your permit.

  • How can I find affordable auto insurance as a disabled driver?

    If your vehicle has been modified to support your mobility needs, you might see higher car insurance rates. But don’t worry — you can still find affordable rates. All you have to do is use an online comparison tool to see all your options and compare them side by side.

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Maria Sanchez
Maria SanchezInsurance Writer

Maria Sanchez is a personal finance writer specializing in auto, home, and renters insurance. With a special interest in educational content, Maria distills complex financial information to be more accessible to the greater public. She holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and the London School of Economics.