Law & Legal & Attorney Traffic Law

Massachusetts Handicap Parking Laws

    • Handicapped-designated parking spaces allow access to those with permanent or temporary physical disabilities.Handicap Parking image by Joelyn Pullano from

      Designated handicapped accessible parking is required in most parking lots to ensure access for the disabled to public places, like grocery stores or churches. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets nationwide standards, concerning the placement and design of handicapped accessible parking spaces, which, in Massachusetts, is supplemented by Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (AAB) regulations. In addition, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for issuing handicapped parking permits, and state law imposes penalties for abuse of handicapped accessible parking spaces. Between the various agencies, there are a number of laws in Massachusetts governing the placement, design and use of handicapped accessible parking spaces.


    • According to ADA and Massachusetts regulations, any lot used for visitor, customer or employee parking should have handicapped accessible parking spaces. State law also says that the “spaces should be in a level location providing the shortest safe, accessible route of travel to an accessible entrance.” (see Ref. 1) The number of required spaces depends on the size of the lot; lots with 1 to 25 spaces require only 1 handicapped accessible space, while lots with 26 to 40 spaces require 2 handicapped accessible spaces and so on. However, some lots require a certain percentage of accessible spaces. For instance, 10 percent of the spaces at outpatient medical facilities should be designated handicapped parking—20 percent for “facilities specializing in treatment or services for people with mobility impairment,” according to state regulations. [see Ref.1) Additionally, at least one of every eight handicapped accessible spots should be designed and designated “van accessible,” with a minimum of one van accessible spot per lot.


    • All handicapped accessible spaces in Massachusetts should have an official blue “handicapped parking” sign at the back of the space entrance facing out. All van accessible spaces need an official “van accessible” sign below the regular sign. Regular handicapped accessible spaces need to be at least 8 feet wide, with a 5-foot wide aisle between spaces—van accessible spaces need an 8-foot aisle.


    • The Massachusetts DOT issues handicapped parking permits in the form of special license plates and rear-view mirror hanging placards. According to the DOT, in order to receive a handicapped parking permit, a physician, nurse practitioner or chiropractor must verify that you “cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest,” or that you suffer from a qualifying condition, such as stage 3 or 4 functional arthritis. (see Ref. 2) Permits may be valid for a couple of months up to multiple years, depending on your qualifying condition.


    • A parking ticket of $100 to $300 may be issued to a person who parks in a handicapped accessible spot without a handicapped placard or license plate. In addition, the police can have the car towed. However, the law is much stricter for those who abuse handicapped parking permits. If you are found to be wrongfully using a handicapped permit (using somebody else’s placard or using a phony placard, for example), you can be fined $500 (or $1000, if it’s not your first time). A citation for wrongful use of a handicapped permit will also result in a mandatory 30-day license suspension.

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