I would like clarification on the subject of handicap parking. I have a handicap sticker, and I heard there have been changes to the handicap parking laws. I was told that the new wheelchair-only spaces, would have a sign that read "Wheelchair Only," but I have not seen any of these signs. I have seen signs with big wheelchairs, but I am afraid to park there as I am not in a wheelchair. Also, does "Van Accessible" mean only vans or can anyone use that space? I do not want a big ticket and, frankly, I am not sure where to park and where not to. Can you help sort this out?
— Rosemary C., Medford
Rosemary, we're hoping the following information will appease your concerns and help you avoid that big ticket — $450 — that comes from violating handicap parking laws.
In 2009, legislation was passed which allowed for "Wheel Chair User Only" parking spaces. As the statute was not effective until January 2010, there are most likely only a handful of these signs, if any, in the area, said Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen.
"If (the sign) is on private property or premises open to the public, they will be installed at the discretion of the owners," said Hansen.
The new signs will read, "Wheel Chair User Only." The size of the wheelchair on the sign is irrelevant. Hansen encourages wheelchair users to go down to the DMV, show proof from your doctor of your handicap, and obtain a "Wheel Chair User Only" placard. The new placard will be light to medium blue, whereas the standard handicap parking permit is dark blue.
Most parking lots do have "Van Accessible" spaces. These areas, open to all handicap placard holders, are designed for large vehicles. The striped area to the side of the space allows for people in wheelchairs to get in and out of their vehicle, or for a ramp, side mount or wheelchair lift to come down.
As you have mentioned you have a handicap placard, you are free to park in a "Van Accessible" space.
Hansen reminds drivers the handicap placards must be issued to the driver or a passenger in the car, and cannot be borrowed from grandma and grandpa.
Able-bodied people "need to get out of them," Hansen said. "We need to take care of our folks that can't get out and about."