New Ill. law limits disabled parking exemption

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois motorists will soon have to prove they deserve the free parking that comes with their disability placards that hang from their rearview mirrors under a state law that will take effect in January.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported that under the new law, free parking will be limited to those motorists who present a note from their doctors explaining that they cannot access parking meters or ticket machines either because they are unable to reach them or unable to walk more than 20 feet because of a variety of physical problems.

Those motorists will receive a decal that will distinguish their placards from the 683,000 registered placards in the state that now allow the drivers to park for free.

The new law will almost certainly mean the number of motorists who qualify for free parking will dramatically fall, according to Bill Bogdan, disability liaison with the secretary of state’s office.

In fact, between April, when the renewal process began, and the end of July, only about 6,300 of the 55,000 people who applied for the disability placards met the new requirements, he said. The expectation is that only about 10 to 15 percent of disabled drivers will ultimately qualify.

Bogdan said he hopes the new law will deter abuse by motorists who have been known to use a dead family member’s placard, an expired placard or a placard that was purchased on eBay or Craigslist.

“The benefit of the meter-exempt parking shouldn’t basically transfer to the able-bodied person,” he said.

A spokesman for Access Living, a nonprofit that assists people with disabilities, said he’s all for the new law.

“We knew something had to change,” said Gary Arnold. “It was clear that there was rampant abuse.”

The new law could also benefit the city of Chicago. Under the terms of a deal with Chicago Parking Meters, the city must reimburse the company for money it loses because so many drivers use the placards to avoid paying parking meters, said Bogdan.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com