It's a simple fact of life: Americans are obsessed with parking as close as they can to their final destination, whether that be their home or the store they are heading to. That desire can lead to altercations in mall parking lots and even on residential streets. But for persons with disabilities that make walking difficult, parking issues are more significant.
That is the reason that governments assign disabled parking spaces in many commercial areas: to give disabled persons access to parking close to commercial areas. Anyone living in North Carolina will want to get an overview of the disabled parking requirements in their state. This may save them from fines or even towing if they break the disabled parking laws.
Disabilities Causing Mobility Issues
Not every person with a disability will have trouble walking, but mobility limitations are definitely a part of some types of physical or mental conditions. Generally, states that offer disability parking focus on assisting those people who cannot walk or move around easily.
North Carolina is among the states offering disability parking privileges to those with mobility impairment. Who is eligible to use them? Under North Carolina statutes, the only persons permitted to take advantage of the disability parking program are individuals:
- Who are not able to walk without assistance.
- With mobility impairments caused by lung disease.
- With mobility impairments caused by defective vision.
- With mobility impairments caused by cardiac, arthritic, neurological or orthopedic conditions.
Disability Parking in North Carolina
In North Carolina, the state Division of Motor Vehicles issues two types of identification for vehicle owners who need parking assistance: disability placards and disability license plates. These placards and plates are available for those who live in the state and are certified as having one of the disabilities that limit mobility. Temporary placards are available for those visiting the state.
The disability placards and plates are only available by application and can be used only by the individual who applies for the placard and is accepted. If the disabled person is not in the vehicle, the driver may not use the disability placard/plate.
A placard must be displayed from the vehicle's rear-view mirror. On the other hand, the disability plates must be installed on the vehicle. They replace the license plates on the back of the vehicle. Note that the North Carolina disability placards and plates are recognized in other states. Likewise, North Carolina law enforcement officers recognize valid placards from other states and countries.
Applying for a Disability Placard or Plate
A disabled person who qualifies for disabled parking in North Carolina, or someone who is taking care of a disabled person who qualifies, can apply for either a disabled placard or a disabled plate. The application must be made at an NCDMV license plate agency.
There are separate applications for the disability placard and for the disability license plate. An application for a permanent placard or a license plate must include proof of identity and residence. It must be signed by a physician, a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner, or by an authorized representative of the Division of Services for the Blind.
The application for a placard is valid for five years and can be extended by recertification by a medical professional. The license plate must also be recertified every five years and must be renewed annually by sticker. A temporary placard is valid for only six months and cannot be renewed.
Costs for a Placard or Special License Plate
The disability placard and the disability license plates in North Carolina are not expensive. Placards cost $6 each and an individual can get two of them. This is the cost for both permanent and temporary placards. On the other hand, disability license plates cost $36.
What Does North Carolina Disability Parking Permit Include?
Anyone with a valid disability placard or license in North Carolina is permitted to use any parking space marked for the disabled without any time limits. In most municipalities, the vehicle with the disabled plaque or plate can also park in any regular parking spot longer than the time that is posted. However, they do not have the right to park in:
- Fire lanes.
- Loading zones.
- Areas marked with striped lines.
- Spots obstructing the entrance or exit to a property.
Vehicle Size Considerations
Note that some disability spaces are designed for disability vans, while others are for smaller vehicles. The average disability parking space for cars is 60 inches wide.
Spaces intended for vans are 96 inches wide and provide sufficient room for disability ramps or lifts to allow wheelchairs to exit safely. Many van accessible spaces are located next to striped aisles, or access aisles. These are intended for wheelchair transfer, walker use and for ramps and lifts to operate safely.
While the state encourages disabled people who drive small cars to use smaller parking spots, it is not unlawful for a car to park in a van-accessible parking space if the vehicle has a distinguishing license plate, removable windshield placard, or a disabled veteran plate.
Penalties for Misusing Disability Parking in North Carolina
It is against the law in the state of North Carolina for anyone to park in a disability parking space in a vehicle that doesn't have a valid parking placard or disability plate. It is likewise against the law to park a vehicle in a way that blocks a curb ramp or curb cut intended for the use of people in wheelchairs or with disabilities.
It is also illegal for a person to use or try to use a vehicle with a disability license plat or placard if they are not eligible. This is also true for a disabled veteran registration plate.
The state takes these violations quite seriously. Tickets for these offenses carry penalties of $100 to $250, and the vehicle can be towed. Additionally, county and municipal authorities in their jurisdictions can add other citations and fines.
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.