LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Disability-access parking spots: some have no choice but to use them. Others abuse them. But soon, it will be a lot harder for drivers to take those front spots illegally.
Starting October 1st, when drivers renew those permanent disabled parking permits, they'll need to provide a form signed by a licensed physician, as proof that they truly need it. It's just another way to weed out dishonest drivers. Those with permits say, it's about time.
"I had trouble walking with my knees," Clarene Trexler said.
Arthritis is a daily pain for Trexler. But having a parking permit cuts down on the steps she has to take.
Arthur Hirsch has one too, dealing with terrible foot pain caused by diabetes. "Some people, they're using the permit as a free parking spot," Hirsch said. "It's supposed to be for the person, not for the vehicle."
Under the current law, people with permanent disabled parking permits must renew them every 4 years, but they don't have to prove they need them.
Starting next month, it will get tougher to cheat the system. Anyone in Florida with a blue permanent disabled parking permit must provide a certificate of disability signed by a doctor or other medical professional, each time they renew.
"People with permanent disabilities, when that person dies, that placard is still there. People think it's there for their use," said Kevin Berry, Chair of the Southwest Florida Americans with Disabilities Board.
Berry says the placards are meant to level the playing field, and this move helps drive that message home.
"This is a step in the right direction," Berry said. "I wish it was every two years instead of four, but it is a step in the right direction."
Hirsch agrees, but worries what it could mean for those who don't have insurance. "It might be an inconvenience to the people to pay for a doctor to re-certify," Hirsch said.
Trexler just hopes drivers get the message saying, "I'm thankful for being able to get around, and being able to park closer is a help."
Using a permit that doesn't belong to you can be a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying a $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail. Fines for parking in one of the spots illegally are usually $250. You can report violations or abuse of permits by calling the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Customer Service Center at 850-617-3803.