Handicapped Parking Without A Placard

Handicapped Parking Without A Placard

As someone who is active in the RA and chronic illness community, I’ve heard lots of horror stories about handicapped parking. So many people with invisible illnesses have been judged and yelled at by strangers for making use of completely legal and legitimate handicapped placards. And I think that is pretty terrible.

But you know what else is terrible? The other end of the spectrum: when people without handicapped placards think it’s ok to park in a handicapped spot for their own convenience. Because they’re just going to grab a coffee or drop a package at the post office real quick. Or because it’s raining or snowing. Or because there are no other spots nearby their destination. Or any other justification they might have for making a choice that I ultimately think is disrespectful to all disabled individuals. Not to mention illegal.

I recently witnessed an instance of illegal handicapped parking that I thought was particularly disrespectful. My family has season tickets to a local sports team, and at a recent game I noticed that a giant tour bus was parked across several handicapped parking spots. Closer inspection revealed the bus to be charted by a supporter’s club, a group that picks up fans from downtown bars and provides a tailgate party before each game. A grill was set up just outside the bus and they were serving beer from kegs located in the luggage compartments. There was even a game of cornhole set up across a few additional handicapped spots.


While I do think the bus is providing a great service for the community – by reducing the traffic at games and keeping people who have been drinking from driving – I was concerned to notice them taking up so many handicapped spots without any visible sign of a placard. After seeing this tailgate setup at a couple of games in a row and determining for myself that it was a regular occurrence, I decided to email the supporter’s club and ask for an explanation.

The first response I got was cordial, friendly even. The manager of the club explained that, at most games, there are a lot more handicapped parking spots available than placard holders wanting to use them. Since the tailgate requires a lot of heavy equipment – like grills, tables, tents, and kegs – the bus is often parked there for convenience. He claimed they were carefully monitoring the situation to ensure that they were not in violation of the ADA, and that I should never be denied the opportunity to park in a handicapped spot. He even gave me his cell phone number in case I experienced any issues in the future and encouraged me to stop by the tailgate party at the next game.

I wrote back as politely as I could, thanking him for taking the time to get back to me and for the valuable service they provide the community. But I also told him honestly that I would never feel comfortable asking an entire tailgate party to move so that I could make use of a handicapped spot. I also told him, even though there did appear to be plenty of handicapped parking available, that it is never legal to park in a designated space without a legally issued placard – let alone take up five or six spaces. As kindly as possible I warned him that, according to the law, parking illegally in a designated handicapped spot is a violation punishable by fine, loss of driving privileges, vehicle impound, or even possible jail time. I also said that I hoped the club would reconsider the kind of example they were setting for the community. I thanked him for his time.

Unfortunately, his second response was less than pleasant – bordering on hostile. But what did I expect? Did I think he was going to thank me for warning him they were breaking the law? Did I expect him to be grateful that they will probably be forced to find a less convenient spot for their tailgate party? He legitimately thought that parking there was ok. That they had a reasonable excuse. That they weren’t doing anything wrong. And he wasn’t the only person with that way of thinking . There were at least 50 people riding that bus and attending that tailgate party – and no indication that a single one (or even the bus company, for that matter) thought it was wrong of them to take up five or six handicapped parking spots without a placard.

But at least I tried. I tried to stand up for the disabled community. I tried to give a voice to the people who work so hard to get through an ordinary day that they deserve every little break they can get. Because I can tell you one thing for certain: most of us would park in the farthest spot in the lot every single time if we could just live without the conditions that grant us those placards in the first place.

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Comments

View Comments (18)
  • Lisa Butcher
    1 year ago

    Call your local news station that helps solve community issues. I also can’t believe Arena security allows this (in my town, many of these wonderful people are actual off duty police officers!) I’d say it’s directly related to being able bodied and never having to look at the world from the perspective of a disabled person. Just like my grandmother always said, empathy is the ability to put yourself in another fellow’s shoes and understand.

  • piilaadziitis
    2 years ago

    Every time when i see somebody – not with the worst health – parking in handicapped area. I just say them simple fact: Be thankful that your parking place is meant to be somewhere else, not here!

    You should see those faces every time…

  • Elizabeth1
    2 years ago

    I am so very proud of you for talking to the bus driver, manager, and all the other people you contacted.,,How dare they???? I use my sticker around 4 times monthly, but IF I can walk, I will. I live close to Nashville, Tn. and am now retired due to disability. When I worked, I had no choice but to use my sticker. I LOOK ok, until I get out of the car and begin to try to walk. I am almost at the point of having to use a cane, but I am putting it off as long as I can. I wish other people realized how jealous I am of their ability to walk, dance and bend their knees(and get up from ended knee). ,Thank you so much for advocating for we, the disabled. We didn’t choose this lifestyle, we got stuck with it. My prayers go out to everyone who is sick and unable to take care of themselves.

  • Wesmoms
    3 years ago

    Thank you, Mariah, for the post. May I suggest that next time (hopefully there won’t BE a next time, but past patterns seem to indicate that there probably will) you encounter this situation, you should call the police-on their non emergency line, of course. You didn’t indicate what the outcome of the contact was (perhaps none of the reader’s business), but they will respond, and most likely ticket the vehicle. If the bus is parked there again the next time, call the police again. Thankfully, parking in a disabled space without a permit (or using a permit that doesn’t belong to you, or using a permit without the disabled individual present) is a class C misdemeanor. This is different than just a “regular” parking ticket in that if someone is ticketed several times for the same offense, the penalties and fines may become stiffer (at least in my state; people should check their state law, but this has been the same in all 5 states in which I’ve resided). Also, if a vehicle is parked in the striped area meant to allow for van and other access, they may be ticketed for parking in a disabled space without permit.

    Unfortunately, we’re living in an age where most people don’t give a flip about others, which I think is sad. It’s just crazy, when you think about this issue, because not only is the person parked in a disabled space without a permit failing to be considerate of others, they are also breaking the law. Though I suppose, if a person can so blatantly disregard the needs of others, they probably don’t even give a second thought to breaking the law. I have found, though, that since I’ve been active in contacting the police when I come across this situation (as have many other disabled friends and acquaintances), it seems that the number of people parking without a permit has decreased markedly in my city because it is known that both civilians and police are being proactive.

  • Beee
    1 year ago

    I totally agree with Wesmoms. Hopefully there won’t be a “next time”, but if there is, call the police. Hey, you tried to handle this nicely, but some people just have to learn things the hard way…

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Wesmoms~
    I did eventually get in touch with the police about this situation. It took a while to get a response (I have little kids who make talking on the phone quite a challenge – so I went for email) and I can’t say I was particularly impressed with how it was handled. They did assure me that the situation had been taken care of, but I was unable to attend any of the other games this season so I never saw for myself if that was true. But, as I said, at least I tried to stand up for people with legally issued placards! My best to you!
    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

  • Kreekyjoints
    3 years ago

    Greetings Mariah,

    Thank you for advocating by using your voice to stop injustice. We need to be passionate about our disabilities. We need to hold others accountable for their actions or lack of. The sentence that resonated with me was the last sentence. I would walk from the last spot if I could but I cant. Once again thank you.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Kreekyjoints~
    I certainly agree! My best to you!
    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

  • Dave K
    3 years ago

    For those with a “smart Phone”, there is a free app called “mobility parking”.
    I allows a user to photograph a vehicle without a handicapped placard that is illegally parked in a designated handicapped spot.
    The photographs of the vehicle’s license plate allows the local police to issue a parking violation ticket and prosecute illegal parkers without being exposed to confrontation.
    A great way to report the scoff laws!

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    3 years ago

    Interesting! Thanks for sharing – I will have to check it out!
    ~Mariah~

  • JS Stephens
    3 years ago

    Thank You for this post Mariah. This is a real pet peeve of mine. I pick up my younger grandchildren after school. I park in a little parking lot adjacent to the school & the kids come to me there. Well, it’s a very small parking lot for a little park & there is only 1 handicapped spot. Because so many parents park there as I do for our kids, numerous times the 1 hc spot is taken by a vehicle that of course has no placard. I am so fed up with it I finally called the police yesterday. That car didn’t have a driver in it & I didn’t stay there long enough to see what happened, but I hope they got a ticket. We have to stand up for ourselves!

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi JS ~

    Sorry to hear that you are dealing with this frustrating situation as well! It is hard to report these violations – it makes me feel like a tattle tale! But you are right: we have to stand up for ourselves (because sometimes no one else is)

    ~Mariah~

  • Anita
    3 years ago

    It’s amazing how hostile people get even when they’re in the wrong. I saw some people idling in a handicap spot at the commuter train station and as I walked past the car, I pointed at the handicap sign with my cane. It was raining, so I suppose this precious person felt that made it okay to take up the last available HC spot. The woman passenger rolled down her window and went on an ugly, epithet-filled tirade. A couple minutes into this, I pulled out my phone and called the police, who showed up only a few minutes later and issued them a ticket.

    From then on, I always kept an eye out for that nasty person, not wanting to encounter her again, especially when I can’t exactly run away or fight if someone chooses to get violent. It’s really sad to see so many people who feel their “only a couple minutes” entitles them to deprive others of a necessary accommodation.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Anita~
    What an awful experience – I am sorry you had to go through that. That’s why I stuck to emailing with the people in charge in this instance! Several of my friends suggested confronting the tailgaters in person – or parking the bus in – but the last thing I wanted was to have a confrontation with 50 people who had been drinking!
    ~Mariah~

  • jan curtice
    3 years ago

    You are so on target with this posting. If there isn’t a space, I have to go home. I have reached a point where I no longer have a problem confronting someone or leaving a note or even calling the situation to the attention of the police. Another place where there is a problem is the handicapped bathroom stalls. Many women think they are “break rooms”. Well, I need the rails. So, when I hear someone in the stall chatting on their phone, after a reasonable amount of time I ask if they are going to be long (or something similar) and let them know I need the handicapped stall. I also stand next to the stall tapping my cane. I’ve also been known to tell them when they linger on the phone that I am going to have to use the regular stall and to hang around, I may need help. Flushes them right out. This may sound ugly, but with the meds and medical conditions I have waiting for someone on the phone for 15 minutes really isn’t an option.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Jan~
    That’s a great point about bathroom stalls as well. I am certainly guilty of going in there myself – though for me it is usually with a stroller full of kids (the only way I can keep track of them while I go!) And I certainly go as quickly as I can! I personally don’t understand talking on the phone in the bathroom at all – it’s the last place I’d want to talk!
    ~Mariah~

  • Loreen Hackett
    3 years ago

    Immensely thankful you took the time to write them. We need more people standing up to this. I’ve made it my mission, so to speak, to confront those (rather nicely at first) who do this, and in the dozens upon dozens I’ve encountered, not a single one has ever apologized. NOT ONE. More often than not, they are rude, rotten, and even vulgar. It is almost always the excuse of “I was only a f@#* minute..” They know damned well they were in the wrong, and project it onto the poor disabled person calling them out on it. I sadly have no hope most will ever change their behavior, given their ridiculous and often mean responses, but if I’ve unnerved even a couple, it is worth it. Perhaps if they’ve taken the last handicap spot (with no placard, and a good 75% of the time, it is at convenience stores), I’ll start just parking directly behind them, and see how that goes! Keep up the great work.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Loreen~

    Thanks for sharing your story. As you say, this can be such a difficult thing to stand up to. Unfortunately my story doesn’t have a very happy ending either. After writing this post I contacted the general manager of the charter bus company, the stadium who owns the parking lots, AND the local police department – and the bus was still parked in the same location at the next game (albeit with it’s blinkers on, which somehow made it ok?) I was honestly very discouraged by the whole experience – that so many people could simply not care that they were breaking the law AND being disrespectful. But I keep telling myself that I did the best I could to do something about it!

    ~Mariah~

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