Tennessee parking laws for disabled persons are set out in the Disabled Drivers Law of 1975. They are found in the state codes at Title 55, Chapter 21, starting at Section 101. Disabled persons in Tennessee can apply for a disabled parking placard, decal or license that entitles them to park in parking spots specially reserved for those living with disabilities.
Special plates are available for disabled veterans. Strict state laws regulate the use of these license plates, placards and decals, as well as the use of reserved parking spaces.
Disabled Parking Laws in Tennessee
It can be difficult for people with certain types of disabilities to ambulate. That means that if they have to park some distance from a doctor's office, a grocery store or even a restaurant, they might not be able to enter and use those facilities. That is why Tennessee, in line with other states, reserves certain parking spots for people with disabilities.
Tennessee's law in this regard is called the Disabled Drivers Law of 1975. It sets out specific provisions intended to make it easier for people with disabilities to access services and facilities by reserving specific accessible parking spaces for them.
This program is managed by the Tennessee Department of Revenue (DOR). It describes the licenses, placards and decals available to disabled persons that identify a vehicle entitled to use these reserved disabled parking spaces.
Who Qualifies as Disabled in Tennessee?
The intention of the Tennessee law is to provide convenient reserved parking for those whose disabilities make it difficult to walk from a distant parking location. Therefore, the state law is quite specific about the types of disabilities that qualify for these licenses and placards.
A driver or a passenger can qualify as disabled in Tennessee if they are:
- Disabled by paraplegia.
- Disabled by amputation of leg, foot or both hands.
- Disabled by loss of use of a leg, foot or both hands.
- Disabled by any other condition that results in a degree of disability so that the person is not able to get about without great difficulty.
- Disabled in a manner that confines the person to a wheelchair.
- Disabled in a manner that results in the person's inability to walk 200 feet without stopping to rest.
- Disabled in a manner that causes a person to use braces or crutches.
- Semi-ambulatory because of pulmonary or cardiac illness.
- They have vision of less than 20/200 with correcting glasses in both functioning eyes.
Additional Definitions of a "Disabled Driver" in Tennessee
While many of these conditions are similar to those in other states, Tennessee also includes a few unique disabilities. For example, the law states that the definition of a "disabled driver” also includes:
- Owner of a motor vehicle who is so disabled that the person cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest, and
- Who is seeking treatment and/or healing solely by prayer through spiritual means in the practice of religion in accordance with the creeds or tenets of the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts, and
- When the condition is certified by a Christian Science practitioner listed in the Christian Science Journal as resulting in a degree of disability so that the person is not able to get about without great difficulty.
Signifying Disability Eligibility for Parking Privileges
Individuals with qualifying disabilities can apply to obtain a license plate, a placard or a decal to signify their eligibility to park in a disabled parking spot in Tennessee. The types of permits or licenses issued by the Tennessee Department of Revenue include:
- Temporary disability placard.
- Permanent disability placard.
- Temporary disability decal.
- Permanent disability decal.
- Deaf person disability decal.
- Disabled person's license plate.
- Disabled veteran's license plate.
A disability placard, whether temporary or permanent, must be displayed on the driver side of the dashboard or hung from the rearview mirror of the vehicle. Disability decals shall be placed in the upper corner on the driver's side of the front windshield. A disability license plate must be attached to the exterior of the vehicle.
Permanent placards are valid for a period of two years. A disability license plate is valid for a period of one year.
Parking Permit Application Process
In order to get a disabled person decal, placard or license plate, a Tennessee driver must submit an application to the state Department of Revenue. Applicants must satisfy several eligibility criteria and requirements. These depend on whether the disability is permanent or temporary.
The person must complete the form and have it certified and signed by one of these practitioners:
- Licensed medical doctor.
- Physician's assistant or nurse practitioner in practice with a doctor.
- Christian Science practitioner listed in the Christian Science Journal.
Tennessee Application Fees
Payment of fees is also required. A license plate fee is $26.50 as of 2023, but it is free if the person uses a wheelchair. The same fee applies to a permanent placard. The decals used when the disabled person's car has a specialty license plate are free. Temporary placards require a fee of $10.
Qualifying as Temporarily Disabled
A temporarily disabled person does not need to meet the disability criteria that those seeking permanent disability status must meet. Rather, a temporarily disabled person for Tennessee DOT purposes is generally a person with temporary limitations as a result of surgery or an accident.
A person may qualify as temporarily disabled and apply for a temporary disabled placard if they have a temporary disabling condition. These are valid for up to six months and can be reissued once, if needed.
Parking Fees Waived for the Disabled
Tennessee state law mandates that all cities and counties must provide free parking to all disabled persons with a disabled parking placard displayed in their car or a disabled license plate or decal.
This includes all parking spots labeled for use by disabled persons, but is not limited to these. It also applies to all metered parking spaces, all street parking, and all parking in city parking lots.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.