In Pennsylvania, an individual is eligible to get a disability parking placard (handicap parking permit) if they have a permanent or temporary disability.
If the person’s health care provider certifies they have a permanent disability, the individual is eligible for a Persons with Disability Registration plate (handicap license plate) or a Permanent Persons with Disability Parking Placard.
If the person’s health care provider certifies that they have a temporary disability, the individual is eligible for a Temporary Persons with Disability Parking Placard. A person with a disability registration plate or either type of disability parking placard can park in a spot marked with a handicap parking sign.
Get a Disability Plate or Placard
To get a disability registration plate, a person should submit an application for a person with a disability or hearing impaired registration plate or a person with a disability motorcycle plate (MV-145) to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
The form must be notarized, and the applicant must submit the required fee with the form, which is $11, as of October 2022.
A person may apply for a disability parking placard by submitting an application for the placard to PennDOT. The form must be notarized, but no fee is required for an application for a placard.
Validity of Parking Placards
A temporary placard is valid for six months; a permanent placard is valid for five years. The time for a temporary placard cannot be extended, and a person must complete a new application to get another temporary placard.
Fines for Parking Without a Placard
According to state law, the fine for parking in a handicap spot in Pennsylvania ranges between $50 and $200. A city may impose an additional fee for parking in a handicap spot. For example, Pittsburgh charges a $30.50 fee and a $200 fine for parking in a handicap spot.
Severely Disabled Veterans Plates
PennDOT also issues plates for an individual who qualifies as a severely disabled veteran. A person with these plates is allowed to park in handicap spaces.
A severely disabled veteran must show PennDOT that they have a 100 percent service-connected disability or a service-connected disability of the type stated in Pennsylvania Statutes Title 75 Section 1338, certified by a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs regional office administrator in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.
The veteran may also submit a letter of promulgations (making an idea known by declaration) or awards from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that indicates that the person has a 100 percent service-connected disability rating.
Providing Handicap Parking Facilities
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations so employees with disabilities can have access to parking at work. This means that the employer can provide a disabled employee with a designated spot in the workplace parking lot.
Alternatively, the employer can allow the disabled person to park in a spot marked specifically for people with disabilities. The ADA further requires that businesses of all sizes provide at least one designated disabled space for every 25 parking spaces.
Parking spaces for people with disabilities are called accessible parking spaces. The ADA provides that these spaces must be at least 96 inches wide with a 60-inch-wide access aisle. One of every six accessible parking spaces has to be van accessible at least 132 inches wide with a vertical clearance for the top of the van of 98 inches.
Disabled Parking Space in Front of Residence
PennDOT does not authorize a disabled parking space in front of a person’s residence. An individual interested in such a spot has to contact their local municipality.
Upon the request of a person with a disability, local authorities may put up a sign on the highway as close as possible to the individual’s residence. The sign may indicate the place is reserved for the person with a disability.
Procedures for the application and granting of reserved spaces vary according to municipality. For example, the Borough of West Chester in Chester County does not guarantee that a person with a disability will be granted a spot near their home. A reserved residential parking sign does not designate the space for the exclusive use of the person who lives there.
Applying for Off-street Handicap Parking Space
To apply for an off-street handicap space, the Borough of West Chester requires that an applicant submit a letter of request to the parking department. The applicant must also enclose a copy of the handicapped placard, the driver’s license and the vehicle registration.
When reviewing the need for the handicap space, the parking department will survey the area requested and will determine how many other handicap spaces are on the block and whether those spaces are used consistently.
After the parking department has received the request and completed its survey, the parking committee will consider the request. The committee looks at the impact on traffic flow, impact on the neighbors, if there are multiple handicap signs in a block, and whether there is reasonable accessibility to parking spots for all residents.
Borough Council Review
The request is then presented to the full borough council for review. If it passes the borough council review, then the borough writes an ordinance and schedules a public hearing. After this process has been completed, the department of public works installs the handicap sign.
The borough maintains a spreadsheet with all handicap spaces. Every two years, it sends a letter to each address with a handicap sign in front. The homeowner or business must present the letter of request, copy of the handicapped placard, driver’s license and vehicle registration to the parking department to ensure the space is still needed.
If the resident or business does not supply the proper documents or there is no longer a need for the handicap space, the borough will take the space down. A person who does not have a disability and parks in a handicap-designated space on a street can be fined. The person can be towed if the sign in front of the space says unlawfully parked vehicles will be towed.
- PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services: Persons With Disability Parking Placards, Initial Issuance
- Pittsburg Parking Authority: List of Infractions
- U.S. Government: Americans with Disabilities Act
- Pennsylvania Statutes: Title 75, Vehicles
- Borough of West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania: Handicap Parking - Street Handicap Space policy
- Borough of West Chester, Pennsylvania: Letter of Request for Handicapped Parking Space
- PennDOT: Application for Person With a Disability or Hearing Impaired Registration Plate or a Person With a Disability Motorcycle Plate, MV-145
- PennDOT: Person With Disability Parking Placard Application (MV-145a)
- PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services: Placard Frequently Asked Questions
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.