Disability Plates and Placards
Registry of Motor Vehicles Website
Obtaining Disability Plates
Disability license plates are only issued for veterans with permanent disabilties and qualified motorcycle owners. Everyone else who qualifies for disability parking will be issued a placard. Permanent disabilities only.
Obtaining Disability Placards
Placards are issued to qualified Massachusetts residents on a temporary or permanent basis. Persons who do not own vehicles may only apply for disability placards. For a temporary placard a medical professional must certify that the disability is predicted to last at least two months. If you have more than one family member who meets the disability criteria for a placard, you will need a placard for each person. You can use the placard in any venicle in which the person with a disability is being transported.
Applications for Placards and Plates must be completed by the applicant and by the attending physician.
Applications are available at all Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) offices, or you can have one mailed to you by calling the Phone Center at (617) 351-4500 or (800) 858-3926 (within 508/413 only) from 9AM to 5PM, Monday - Friday, except holidays.
To obtain Disability Veterans Plate or a Placard you must be a Massachusetts resident. In addition, a Massachusetts registered and licensed physician, chiropractor or nurse practitioner must certify that you meet one of the following conditions:
- Cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest.
- Cannot walk without the assistance of another person, prosthetic aid or other assistive device.
- Are restricted by lung disease to such a degree that your forced (respiratory) expiratory volume (FEV) in one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one (1) liter.
- Use portable oxygen.
- Have a Class III cardiac condition according to the standards set by the American Heart Association.
- Have a Class IV cardiac condition according to the standards set by the American Heart Association. A customer in this condition must surrender his or her license.
- Have Class III or Class IV functional arthritis according to the standards set by the American College of Rheumatology.
- Have Stage III or Stage IV anatomic arthritis according to the standards set by the American College of Rheumatology.
- Have been declared legally blind (please attach copy of certification). A customer in this classification must surrender his or her license.
- Have lost one or more limbs or permanently lost the use of one or more limbs.
To be eligible for a Temporary Placard, the medical professional must certify that the disability is predicted to last at least two months.
There is a standard $36 fee for a Disability Passenger Plate for two year registration.
There is no fee for a placard or Disability Veteran Plate.
Allow at least thirty (30) days to process and review application.
Applying for Duplicate Placards
If your current placard has been lost or mutilated, you may apply for a duplicate or replacement.
To apply for a duplicate placard, you must submit a letter stating the reason a duplicate is needed. In your request, please include your name, social security number, date of birth, address, and the placard number or the date the placard was first issued. Your request must be signed and dated. All placard holders must be photo-imaged on our computer system.
RMV Medical Affairs Address
Attn: Medical Affairs Branch
Registry of Motor Vehicles
PO Box 55889
Boston, MA 02205
Phone: (857) 368-8020
Branch Registry: http://www.massrmv.com/BranchMap.aspx
Fact Sheet last updated on: 7/30/2013
Response:CFIDS and Handicap Plates
Composed By: Sharon Wachsler
In recent years it has become increasingly difficult for people with CFIDS to acquire a 'handicapped' (HP) parking placard from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. However, with enough information and perseverance, it can be done.
The Registry defines an eligible applicant as such: "Has a diagnosed disease or disorder which substantially impairs or interferes with mobility and which is expected to do so for the foreseeable future. An applicant whose entitlement is based solely on this standard must submit with his application a written statement by a certifying professional explaining why the applicant is believed to so qualify." (There are other guidelines for people with cardiovascular or pulmonary disease, and those with arthritis, blindness, or limb amputations.) Note that the burden of proof is on the person with CFIDS and her/his doctor to convince the Registry that their illness significantly impairs her/his mobility.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS.
When the application arrives, follow all the directions and have your doctor write a letter, on his/her letterhead, answering all the questions. Make sure that your doctor includes the following information: how long you've been sick, whether you require any ambulatory aids (canes, wheelchairs, etc.), and why you have difficulty walking (muscle weakness and pain, joint pain, exhaustion, or whatever applies to your situation). Your doctor should use clear, straightforward non-medical terminology; there is evidence to suggest that the people who review your application will deny you a placard if they don't understand the medical jargon your doctor uses.
Note: it is best not to indicate symptoms like dizziness, fainting, or memory loss because these suggest that you are not capable of driving safely. Also, it is best not to include breathing difficulty, because then the Registry will think you have pulmonary disease, for which they have specific measures and standards.
When you have to indicate how far you can walk, remember that you will mostly need the placard on your bad days. Estimate your walking ability based on a bad day, not on a good day (because if you don't need it on a good day you won't use it anyway). Think about the days when you can barely stand or walk to the bathroom. Those are the days you will really need this placard. You can even ask your doctor to describe these day-to-day mobility issues. Also there is a section where you are asked how far you can walk without rest, and how far with intermittent rest. To the Registry, "rest" does not mean sitting down or lying down, it means standing!! Since standing is not rest for a person with CFIDS, I recommend either putting the same range for both sections, or describing in the doctor's letter what "resting" means for you. (One person to whom I spoke at the Medical Affairs Branch at the Registry indicated to me that the placards are not awarded to anyone who indicates that s/he can walk 200 feet or more, but this measure was not given to me in writing, nor is it indicated in the state guidelines governing eligibility for a placard; therefore, it is unclear whether this is the actual cut-off point that is used for all applicants).
The Registry has recently begun to issue temporary placards. Make sure to indicate whether you are seeking a permanent or temporary placard. If you have been sick for less than five years, you should request a temporary placard. A temporary placard is good for one year, and then must be reapplied for. If you have been sick five or more years, make sure that your doctor indicates that your disability is permanent.
Make sure that you keep copies of your application and your doctor's letter. Later, if you get denied, it will be important to refer to them.
IF YOUR APPLICATION IS DENIED
You should hear back from the Registry within a month. If you get denied after your first application, you have ten days to appeal. I strongly recommend appealing. To appeal, I recommend taking the following actions:
-- Call the Registry and ask why you were denied. Make them cite the specific reason(s). Ask what information they would need to have clarified in order for you to obtain a placard. Take notes on everything they tell you, including the date you called, and the name of the person with whom you spoke. If anything is unclear to you, ask the person to repeat of clarify the information.
-- Also, take this opportunity to tell this person a little bit about yourself: how CFIDS has affected your life, why you need the placard, how upsetting it is that people don't understand that CFIDS is a real disability, etc. The Medical Affairs Branch is staffed by people with disabilities (primarily people with visible disabilities). They need to be educated about CFIDS and what it means to have a hidden disability. They are trying to protect people with disabilities from fraudulent usage. Tell them that you support this goal, as you, too, are a person with a disability that needs a placard. (I did this, and it worked).
-- Call the MA CFIDS Association and tell them what is happening. The Association can help advocate with you and is compiling information on this issue.
-- Call your local representative's office and/or the Governor's office. Explain your situation to them. Ask for their help.
IF YOU APPLIED IN THE PAST, OR IF YOUR APPEAL IS DENIED
If you applied for a placard in the past, but were denied, you can still apply again. I would suggest calling the Registry and asking them why you were denied the last time (they should still have your file). In your new application, follow the same guidelines as above, but explain which part of the process you didn't understand before. Provide a clarification of that issue.
If your appeal is denied, there are further steps you can take. Although this process can be stressful, tiring, and frustrating (especially if you are very sick), it is not necessarily a hopeless case. Generally, the longer you persevere with state agencies, the more likely you will win in the end.
A copy of the state guidelines governing the issuance of Handicapped Parking Plates and Placards -- 540CMR (Code of Massachusetts Regulations), section 1700 -- can be obtained for free from your library. This document probably will be useful to you only after you have applied and been denied.
Last updated on: 7/30/2013
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