Wash. Seeks to Rein In Abuse of Disabled Parking Permits

By Liz Jones

New recommendations are on the table for Washington state drivers with disabilities. Currently, anyone with a special permit can park for free. But a state work group suggests that more people should have to feed the meter.

If you use a wheelchair or can’t reach physically reach the parking meter, you could still qualify for free parking. But people with more mobility may need to pay up. Those are some suggestions in a recent report from the state work group. Its task from the legislature is to find ways to eliminate abuse of disabled parking permits. More than 700,000 permits are active in Washington, according the Daily Herald of Everett.

Syvia Feurstenberg is with the ARC of King County. The organization advocates for the rights of disabled people. She says the payment system would be a burden. Feurstenberg: The people that we support with disabilities, most of them live on social security, which is less than $800 a month.

And it’s not just about money, she says. It’s also about time. She points out it can take a disabled person longer to get around, and a running meter poses a problem.

Rather than an all-or-nothing approach statewide, the report recommends cities and counties could make their own rules about free or extended parking.

Feurstenberg thinks that sounds like a headache. He says "More complicated system, harder to access, people will be confused... I think it’s silly."

Other recommendations include stricter rules to obtain the parking permits…and harsher penalties for fraudulent users. The legislature’s expected to take up this issue during the upcoming session.

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