How to Renew a Handicap Placard in Massachusetts

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Businesses everywhere have handicapped parking spaces, and companies in Massachusetts are no exception. Vehicle operators who meet the state's eligibility requirements can get handicapped placards and license plates from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and renew them through the agency.

When it comes time to renew a placard or plate, the RMV automatically sends new ones to permanently disabled drivers. Drivers who have a temporarily disability must reapply for a new placard when theirs expires.

Defining Disability Placards and Plates

The RMV issues disability plates to qualified Massachusetts residents who are own a registered passenger vehicle or a motorcycle. A person who has a passenger vehicle disability plate can also obtain a placard. When applying for a disability plate, the driver or vehicle owner must show "good cause" for needing it – a valid reason as to why they need the plate and the length for which they need it.

The RMV also offers the following:

  • Disability placards for qualified applicants on a permanent or temporary basis. The RMV will issue only one valid placard to one person at a time.
  • Disabled veteran plates for qualified state residents who are veterans and meet the same requirements as people who qualify for a disability plate. The DV plate letter (RMV35A) defines veterans' service-connected disabilities

they must have at least 60 percent service-connected disabilities in their combined rating. Only qualifying people who are the owners of registered passenger vehicles can receive disability veteran plates.

What Disabilities Qualify in Massachusetts?

To obtain a disability placard, plate or a veteran's disability license plate, the applicant must live in Massachusetts. A registered and licensed doctor, physician's assistant, registered nurse, osteopath, chiropractor, optometrist or podiatrist must prove or show that the applicant meets one of these medical conditions:

  • They can't walk 200 feet without taking time to rest.
  • They can't walk without the assistance of assistive devices, such as a prosthetic aid, or help from another person.
  • Their lung disease restricts their forced expiratory volume (FEV) in one second, and after spirometry measurement, it is under one liter.
  • They use transportable oxygen.
  • They have a Class III heart condition, per American Heart Association standards.
  • They have a Class IV heart condition, per American Heart Association standards. The vehicle operator must surrender their driver's license if they have this condition.
  • They have Class III or Class IV functional arthritis, per American College of Rheumatology standards.
  • They have Stage III or Stage IV anatomic arthritis, per American College of Rheumatology standards.
  • They are legally blind and can show certification proving it. The vehicle operator must surrender their driver's license if they have this condition.
  • They have lost at least one limb or lost the use of at least one limb permanently.

Drivers can also get temporary disability placards. In this instance, a medical professional must prove the driver will have a disability for at least two months.

Applying for and Renewing a Disabled Parking Placard or Plate

To apply for disabled placards or plates, a driver must complete the RMV's Application for Disabled Parking. A healthcare provider must fill out a section of the application form verifying the driver's disability status. Drivers applying for a disabled veteran placard will need a letter (RMV35A) from the Veteran’s Administration, which they can request by calling 800-827-1000.

Placards are free, but disability passenger plates are $60 each for two years, and disability motorcycle plates are $20 each for one year. Drivers can send their completed applications to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, Attention: Medical Affairs, PO Box 55889, Boston, MA 02205-5889.

The RMV will automatically send drivers with a permanent disability new placard after theirs expires. People with temporary disability placards must re-certify when their placards expire by submitting a new application.

Replacing Mutilated or Lost Disability Placards

If a driver's current placard has been mutilated or lost, they can apply for a replacement. To do this, they must submit a letter describing why they need a duplicate and including their name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, the placard number, or the date of the placard's issuance. All holders of a placard must have a photo of themselves in the RMV's system or they cannot receive a replacement.

RMV branches are located throughout Massachusetts. They offer various services including license, registration and title transactions, driver's license and road testing, plate returns, the purchase of E-Z Pass Transponders, and suspension payments.

Some RMV locations are limited in the services they offer. Drivers can look up their location at MassRMV.com or call 800-858-3926 to find out about services and hours.

Disability Plates and Placards in Massachusetts

After an individual gets their placard from the RMV, they must properly display it in the vehicle on their rearview mirror facing the front of the vehicle. This allows them to park in a designated disability parking space. If they park at a meter with their placard displayed, they do not have to pay to park. When driving, they must remove the placard – not doing so results in a $50 fine.

A driver who gets caught allowing someone to use their disabled placard privileges faces a $500 fine, the loss of their disability parking privileges, and suspension of their driver’s license for 30 days. Disabled person placards are not legal for use in vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or greater.

Using or retaining possession of a disabled placard after its expiration date can also result in a fine. Those who have a placard should lock their vehicle and close the car's windows when using the card.