Metro-East News

Think twice before stealing that disability parking spot this weekend

People who swipe disability parking spots this weekend will face stiff penalties.

Illinois Secretary of State Police will be enforcing the disability parking program this weekend at St. Clair Square mall, checking for abuse of disability placards and license plates.

It’s part of a widespread enforcement activity starting on Black Friday, a project undertaken for the past 11 years by the Secretary of State’s office. Bill Bogden, the disability liaison for Secretary of State Jesse White, told WSIU that it’s important to remember these spaces are designed to be used by people with disabilities.

“It’s not a community space,” he said. “It’s not a space for, ‘Oh, I’m only going to be in and out of the store for five minutes,’ and so forth. Those spaces are very essential for individuals with disabilities to safety get in and get out of their vehicles.”

Other targeted shopping centers are in Aurora, Bloomington, Carbondale, Chicago, Oak Brook, Orland Park, Peoria, Rockford, Schaumburg and Springfield, according to Patch.com.

“Our mission is not to issue tickets, but to ensure that accessible parking spaces are available to those who need them,” White told Patch.com. “Parking illegally in a space reserved for people with disabilities means a possible driver’s license suspension and a hefty fine, money which could otherwise be used on gifts. Remember, if you don’t belong there, don’t park there.”

Drivers who are caught misusing a placard can face a license suspension of up to six months and a $600 fine. The fine for parking in a disability-accessible space without a placard or an approved license can be up to $350. Repeat violators can face longer license suspensions and higher fines; using a deceased person’s placard or a fraudulent placard can result in a $2,500 fine and one-year revocation of the driver’s license.

People with temporary or permanent disabilities can apply for a disability parking placard or license plate with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. A new two-tier program has been established regarding disability parking for free at parking meters to reduce fraud; details are available on the Secretary of State’s website.

There are currently 627,281 permanent disability placards and 51,416 disability license plates registered in Illinois. Anyone who observes abuse of disability parking spaces is encouraged to call the Secretary of State’s office at (217) 785-0309 or on www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

However, a woman interviewed by Patch.com also reminds the public that some disabilities are not immediately visible, such as multiple sclerosis, and reported that nasty notes had been left on her car when she used her legitimate disability placard to park at the doctor’s office. She warned that people should not automatically assume a person is not disabled if they aren’t using a wheelchair or cane at that moment.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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