Drivers with Disabilities in Washington
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Special parking privileges for Washington's drivers with disabilities are not really special treatment. These privileges, granted by Washington's Department of Licensing (DOL), are intended to allow those with disabilities to enjoy the same freedom and enjoyment of public places and healthy work environments as everyone else.
Not only is it illegal to park in disabled parking spots without the appropriate license plates or parking permits, but it is also unfair to Washington's disabled drivers and their families. There are significant penalties, including possible driver's license suspension, for attempting to fraudulently obtain disabled plates or permits.
Disabled license plates or special year tabs are issued for permanent disabilities only. Removable rearview mirror placards may be issued for either permanent or temporary disabilities, as certified by your physician.
Those with permanent disabilities must renew their privilege every five years (whether they've got a license plate or a placard), and disabled license plates must be renewed annually (just like regular license plates). Temporary placards are valid for up to six months. Placards are free, and disabled parking license plates cost nothing in addition to the normal registration fees for the vehicle.
The point of disabled parking privileges is to make it easier for those who have difficulty walking to park close to building entrances. A number of disabilities qualify under the law. A physician will have to certify that the applicant meets one of the following criteria:
- Cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest.
- Is severely limited in ability to walk due to arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition.
- Cannot walk without the use of an assistive device.
- Uses portable oxygen.
- Is legally blind with limited mobility.
- Ability to walk is restricted by lung disease.
- Class III or IV impairment by cardiovascular disease.
- Has a disability resulting from an acute sensitivity to automobile emissions, which limits or impairs the ability to walk.
With a disabled license plate, year tag, or parking placard, you may park in spaces reserved for those with disabilities. You may also park in metered spaces for free for an unlimited period of time. You may never, however, park where parking is prohibited (such as a bus stop, loading zone, or fire lane).
Unusually, Washington requires gas stations with a full-service option to pump your gas and charge you the self-serve price if you are not accompanied by anyone who can gas up your car for you. Service stations without full service are exempt, so skip the remotely controlled pumps at convenience stores if you'll need help at the pump.
How does a disabled Washington driver or their family member obtain special license plates or placards for parking privileges? The first step is to fill out Washington's Disabled Parking Privilege Application. An authorized physician must complete and sign one portion of the application, while the applicant should complete the rest. Most Vehicle Licensing Offices will process your application.
Washington drivers who qualify for disabled license plates or rearview mirror placards may choose from among the following three options:
- One disabled plate, with the disabled person as the registered or co-registered owner of the vehicle.
- One disabled license plate with one placard.
- As many as two placards, which may be used with any vehicle used in transporting disabled individuals.
Some organizations may also qualify for disabled plates or placards.
For more information, Washington's Department of Licensing may be contacted by phone at (360) 902-3770 or by TTD at (360) 664-8885. You may also reach the department at the following address:
- Department of Licensing
- Individual with Disabilities
- P.O. Box 9043
- Olympia, WA 98507-9043
All 50 states and most countries honor Washington's temporary placards. If you have any doubt while traveling abroad whether your placard is valid there, visit any police station for an answer.
Temporary placards are valid for up to six months. If your disability persists longer than six months, you must apply for a new placard. You cannot renew the existing placard.
Even if you don't drive, as a Washington resident you'll want some form of identification. In WA, you can get a regular photo ID card or an Enhanced ID Card.
While a regular photo ID card proves your identity, helps you make certain purchases, and can allow access to age-restricted locations such as night clubs, an Enhanced ID Card does all that plus acts as an acceptable passport alternative for re-entry into the United States at land and sea borders.
For more on both types of IDs, visit our Applying for an ID Card section.
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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