Using a disabled placard when its owner stays in the car

The in basket:  Mechelle Finklein says she ran into unexpected trouble July 1 trying to use her mother’s disabled placard while driving her on errands.

“I used a disabled spot in front of a business in the Fred Meyer

parking lot,” Michelle said. “My mother decided not to get out of the car, as it would

take more time for me to get her walker out and for her to

get in the business then it would be for me to drop off what I needed

for her.

“A volunteer Port Orchard officer (whom she described as “very kind”) pulled up behind my car and asked to see a permit, so my mother got it out and showed it to

him.  When I came out of the business, he talked to me. He said

there  was a fine for parking in a disabled spot if the driver of the

car was not the disabled person.  He said they were designed  for the

driver of the car, not because the driver was driving some one that

was disabled.

“The  officer also said that I could park in front of a business to get my mom

out of the car and LEAVE her there and

move my car to a regular parking spot,  then when she was

finished with her errand, I could LEAVE her standing at the door and go

move my car to the front of the business, put her in the car and

leave the parking lot   Sorry, but I’m not leaving my 88-year old

mother anywhere that she may not be safe.

“If this is really the law,

people need to be told and the law needs to be changed for the

convenience of the disabled. If my mother not getting out of the car

caused the violation, then people  need to be informed of that


The out basket: I told Mechelle that I didn’t think the officer was spot on in what she understood him to say about the law, but that he was fully justified in contacting her.

As I’ve long understood it, her problem wasn’t that the driver of the car wasn’t disabled, but that the disabled person to whom the placard was issued didn’t need the closer proximity to the business, because she stayed in the car.

Though it happened in Port Orchard, I contacted Deputy Schon Montague of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, who has taken over from the retired Deputy Pete Ball in supervising the county’s volunteer disabled parking patrol officers.

While noting that it was a Port Orchard incident, he described the rules that govern his volunteers and his reading of the law.

“I know that a person without a disability can drive and park in a

handicapped spot and take a handicapped passenger into the store using

the passenger’s placard,” he said.

“You can do this because of a transference

of authority from the handicapped person to you.  If they were driving,

they would have used it but if you drive for them they still need to

walk that shorter distance if you don’t want to drop them off at the

front door.

“However, in this case the handicapped person was not really

using the authority of the placard because she was not getting out of

the car.  So there was no transfer of authority to the non-disabled


“Long story short I agree with you and the Port Orchard


6 thoughts on “Using a disabled placard when its owner stays in the car

  1. Sounds like much ado about nothing….must’a been a slow activity day for this volunteer, he’s kind of splitting hairs…the object of the enforcement should be to insure that the permit is not being used by a person other than the person to whom it was issued.

    Are these volunteers “indemnified” by the local government against civil claims, (lawsuits),?? “Kind” or not he’s playing with fire in the event he causes some injury or embarrassment to a person by shuffling vehicles or handicapped persons from one spot to another.

  2. Amen to Deputy Montague. There are too damn many lazy people out there with an attitude of entitlement. If her mother was not leaving the car, there is no reason the driver could not have parked in a space further away, except that SHE didn’t want to walk the extra few feet. Whether she “intended” to or not, she was using her mother for a close parking space like carpool-lane cheaters use a blow-up doll.

  3. I very often took my disabled mother with me on errands. I preferred to park in the handicapped access spaces, even if she were not going to get out of the car. The regular spaces are so narrow that the passenger door could not be opened wide enough for her to get out if another car was parked on that side. It was not about the distance I would have to walk. It was about her safety. If she needed to get out of the car, the car had to be situated so that she could do so.
    Her permit was for any car she was in, not just for one she would drive. The spaces are not just for closer walks – they are also for access to enough room for the door and a walker or wheelchair, if necessary.

    At some locations, the handicapped marked spaces are not the closest to the door. They are the closest to a ramp, and they are wider than the regular spaces, or have stripes in the space next to them so that no one can park there.

  4. I have fibromyalgia, and, I don’t drive because of it. Very often, I am in a state of exhaustion and find it difficult to complete even the task of walking through a grocery store. If I am not going in a store we don’t use the handicapped parking spot, but I would like to point out one flaw in this ‘sitting in the car while using placard’ rule. There have been times when I just have to go back to the car and wait for my driver. We may be parked in a handicapped space, and I certainly can’t stop my helper in mid-shopping with items in the cart to go move the car to another non-handicapped one. How would the officer handle that situation? Is he or she going to haul my carcass out of the car and send me to jail? Maybe get on the loudspeaker for the store and call my husband or friend? I had someone say to me once,”Well, you’re not THAT handicapped”. Yes, I AM. If I’m sitting in our car in a handicapped spot it’s for a damn good reason.

  5. Can the person who is disabled stay in the car whilst parked in a disabled bay stay in the car whilst the passenger does shopping for the disabled driver !!

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