WA Department Of Licensing Bundles Handicapped Parking Placard Requests With Red Tape, Then Breaks State Law

wa-compliant-handicapped-parking-signBy Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

The archetype of bureaucracy is often associated with the Departments of Licensing / Departments of Motor Vehicles in various states. Washington’s contribution for this year manifested in the issuance of handicapped parking placards–the cards that hang from mirrors. It most certainly adds insult to citizens’ injuries who need the placards due to restricted mobility when the Washington Department of Licensing changed rules to supposedly address alleged fraud (which I personally have a difficult time accepting is rampant).  But the DOL in doing so created a system that is easily circumvented and worse added another layer of delay for legitimate users by failing to announce changes to forms and procedures; thus requiring untold number of citizens to schedule new appointments with their doctors due to the agency’s bureaucratic rigidity and nonsensical new procedures.


I first became aware of the problem when my sister and I needed to obtain handicapped parking placards for our mother, who is disabled and also unable to drive. Due to her limited mobility, both of us needed a placard to hang on the mirror when we drive her around visiting various businesses. My sister completed the Department of Licensing (DOL) forms that the doctor had in her office, and her physician signed.

My sister then went to the DOL to receive the placard and was told by the employee that the form was invalid because it was the old form. Two or three weeks prior, the DOL changed the form (which differed by only a few sentences in the declaration) and they would no longer accept the old. They were unwilling to implement a transition period where both would be accepted. Of course few knew about the changed form because DOL failed to make sufficient effort to inform the public. The employee stated also they could not take the old form because the legal language had changed and said she would have to get Mom’s doctor to complete the form again with additional paperwork.

So this necessitated another visit to my mother’s doctor, which of course could lead to an office visit paid by Medicare and her Medicare Advantage plan, billed completely unnecessarily, as well as one patient time slot being denied to another patient needing to see the doctor. All this because a DOL bureaucrat and the department had to have the correct piece of paperwork to which in the end accomplished the exact same outcome my mother needed; a complete waste of time for certain.

Though we eventually received the two placards, we certainly were not alone. The problem began to spread to other, handicapped individuals in the state.

Seattle’s KOMO News published an article that brought more light to the red tape surrounding the DOL’s practices.

The article describes how a patient afflicted with cystic fibrosis needed to renew her handicapped parking placard. The process resulted in a month long delay with problems stemming from the DOL’s red tape blunders. The patient brought the DOL form to her doctor but did not notice in the fine print that a change now required a written prescription to receive the placard. The form otherwise looked like the standard form used the last time.  The new form lacked any easily discoverable text alerting patients and physicians of the new prescription requirement.

Of course, the DOL rejected her renewal application and this required the patient to make another appointment with her doctor.

Unfortunately for the patient, this would not be the only obstacle. On her second appointment her doctor informed her he was unable to print a paper prescription because their medical records system lacks a prescription code for a Handicapped Parking Placard. Lacking the ability to write a prescription acceptable to the DOL the doctor instead printed a list of her medications and their purpose to indicate the presence of cystic fibrosis. Again, the DOL rejected this information and stated they would need a signed letter bearing the clinic’s letterhead.

Unfortunately, there was an additional delay because her doctor would be out of the office on holiday. She feared if she did not receive a renewal on her handicapped parking placard, she could receive a $250.00 fine for using an expired placard while parking. Though it is in my opinion highly unlikely a law enforcement officer would write such a ticket for one being expired for a few weeks, she would be technically in legal jeopardy if she did so.

KOMO called the DOL’s spokesman David Bennett who claimed he had never heard of any complaints regarding the new prescription system, whether or not he was privy to the information remains to be discovered, but he stated an electronic prescription system was available at the time of the changeover. I believe however it is probable given how poorly DOL notified people of the change that not every health care provider knew of its existence at the time and the fact that the patient’s doctor worked at the University of Washington Medical Center and they were unaware of the changeover.

Since this experience the patient’s clinic updated procedures to provide this prescription.

The DOL’s new procedures are such that can be thwarted with relative ease.

DOL requires that a Tamper Evident paper be used for a written prescription, however if this type of format is not available to the health care provider they may sign a declaration on an official letterhead document from their organization stating that the written prescription is not available. These requirements are so easily thwarted it is almost laughable. A forger could easily claim that their fake doctor does not have such this type of paper prescription and concoct a letterhead document themselves. He must be sure to make it an original forgery complete with a signature as copies of documents are not accepted.  Assumingly, DOL can make a phone call to the number listed on the forged document’s letterhead, but I have to wonder how much of a genuine effort DOL employees will make on this given their caseload and waiting lines.

Since the DOL seems to prefer that rules must be followed with absolutely no exception, aligning with the bureaucrat’s automatous mindset, I was dismayed that in my research in compiling this article I discovered that the DOL broke state law in creating the new design of the handicapped placard.

Here is a picture of the former handicapped parking placard, courtesy of KOMO News:

Placard With International Symbol of Access

Now, the new placard design:

Placard with Modified International Symbol of Access

The most pertinent design change, obviously, is the replacement of the International Symbol of Access with a more kinetic illustration. The new design stems from the Accessible Icon project’s effort to redefine the image of the disabled and handicapped from a sedentary disposition to that fostering accomplishment and the will to go forth despite limitations. The symbol is recognized in the State of New York.

The recognized symbol, two images above, is the defined, internationally recognized symbol codified under ISO-7001. The bottom is the Modified International Symbol of Access. In May of 2015 the United States Federal Highway Administration rejected the “Modified ISA” symbol (used in New York) for display on signs in the United States. The International Standards Organization, which is responsible for maintaining ISO-7001, refused its recognition. The International Symbol of Access is also a codified symbol in Washington under RCW 70.92.120.

Where the DOL gets into trouble is when it approved the state handicapped parking placards having the Modified ISA in its design. State law mandates the DOL to use the recognized International Symbol of Access on the placard under RCW 46.19.030 which reads in pertinent part:

RCW 46.19.030
Display and design of placards, license plates, and year tabs. (Effective July 1, 2015.)

(1) The department shall design special license plates for persons with disabilities, parking placards, and year tabs displaying the international symbol of access.

So despite its insistence the public completely adhere to its red tape and bureaucratic lockstep, it failed to simply read and follow the only law codified in the Revised Code of Washington affecting design, and it violated state law by making a new, politically correct but non-compliant image of the disability symbol. This folks is government at its most stereotypical

For those Washingtonians who had to go through all the inconvenience, cost, runs-around, and frustration caused by your trusted Department of Licensing, you can now rest easy now that you have been granted the privilege of having a non-compliant handicapped placard for your parking needs.  Your tax dollars were certainly well invested.

By Darren Smith


Chapter 46.19 RCW
RCW 70.92.120
Washington Department of Licensing

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

36 thoughts on “WA Department Of Licensing Bundles Handicapped Parking Placard Requests With Red Tape, Then Breaks State Law”

  1. “obviously handicapped” ?

    I’m sorry I don’t appear as you want me to (in a wheel chair?); I’m glad I can still stand and walk, albeit not for very long times or distances. Why? Here’s the short list of some of my co-morbidities that you can’t see unless you’re Superman:

    – Arthritis (knees, pelvis)
    – Glaucoma with optic nerve damage and visual field reduction
    – Diabetic nerve damage
    – PTSD
    – Spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebrae)
    – UTI’s and kidney stones

    You’ll probably even imply I brought these on myself. You obviously didn’t give a shit to interview the perpetrators of the violent crimes that brought me to this point, and the inept physicians who caused or contributed to these problems.

    Just be glad you can breathe easily and have no mobility issues.

  2. “You don’t know that a person has handicaps just by looking at them.”

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s good to hear DBQ say this, hopefully it will resonate.

  3. “So the handicapped better appear handicapped or they will have the brown shirts descending on them?”

    Yep, I’ve seen this happen.

  4. No, Isaac

    Pointing out that not everything is black and white as it seems to be in your narrow world view. You seem to view everything through the lens of your own experiences and have not the ability to envision that not everyone is the same and not everyone has the same experiences.

    For instance in the other thread that also seems to be all about gun control you said

    When the 2nd amendment was written our societies were vastly different. In conditions where people preferred to live apart from others, they posed no threat to others. Apart meant miles apart. Now when someone prefers or perhaps needs to live apart they could be living in the apartment next to you, going to the same school, shopping at the same gun store.

    Again showing your lack of imagination and unwillingness to acknowledge that not everyone is living in the environment that YOU are or with which you are familiar. Trying to legislate a one size fits all type of society and assuming that all people live cheek to jowl and that all people are just like you.

    Apart for me and for others who comment here does mean miles apart. Miles and miles from services. The United States is a big big country and what works in Boston or itty bitty England is not workable in many places in the United States.

    Your totalitarian, big government mind set refuses to see this just as you refuse to acknowledge that a handicap might not meet your narrow view of having to be “obvious” or visible.

  5. There should be a law that if someone is obviously handicapped and they are availing themselves of the space then no fine. If someone with a sticker is using the space without the need then fine their cheating ass*s off. $500 and a instance specific decision would be enough deterrent.

    There are many handicaps that are not “obvious” yet impair the person and deserve the reserved parking. Vision impairment. Deafness. Artificial limbs. Nerve damage in the extremities. You don’t know that a person has handicaps just by looking at them. This is why the screening process is in place. Unfortunately, the mindless bureaucrats in Washington seem to have made the process MORE difficult than necessary.

    I am very glad I don’t live in Isaac’s narrow totalitarian world.

  6. “Obviously handicapped”?

    So the handicapped better appear handicapped or they will have the brown shirts descending on them? Again, the solution is to penalize the law-abiding citizen for an incompetent bureaucracy.

  7. Darren

    This is not unusual and it typically only gets resolved when tenacious citizens such as yourself bring it to the attention of those snoozing in the more comfortable chairs in the bigger offices.

    On another point, I constantly see people abusing the privilege of these handicapped spaces by using cars with the tags hanging from their mirrors or glued to their windscreen but with no handicapped persons involved in the parking. Young and completely mobile people drive up to and park in the handicapped space and go about their business. The privilege is most likely for someone at home, not there at the time, not needing the privilege.

    This business of private and public property should have nothing to do with it. There should be a law that if someone is obviously handicapped and they are availing themselves of the space then no fine. If someone with a sticker is using the space without the need then fine their cheating ass*s off. $500 and a instance specific decision would be enough deterrent.

    As far as the government goes, it is what it is and thanks to you it might get fixed.

  8. Davidm

    “And some people wonder why some of us do not want the federal government involved in our healthcare. This issue unfortunately represents typical government oversight.”

    How far can one stretch something to suit an almost completely remote and perhaps not even appropriate issue? Well Davidm wins the prize for this one. Yeah, and let’s give anyone and everyone guns, yup, yup.

  9. Good grief. What a convoluted system. Waste of time and money and seems to be intentionally devised to inconvenience as many people as possible.

    I thought California was bad!!!

  10. We have several private businesses in our town that will perform many DMV functions. There is competition and true effort to provide customer service. I’ll pay the extra fee but it shows me we can privatize the DMV services and minimize the bureaucracy…if not eliminate it.

  11. And the trouble with Bush and Rubio-type Republicans is that they actually think they can make Leviathan run more smoothly than Democrats can.

    That is, they are either stupid or liars, or both.

  12. Sorry about the red tape pain, but the process you described is the very essence of Statism: unfeeling Kafkaesque bureaucracy with inexplicably Byzantine rules that hurt most those it meant to help, requiring an endless loop of shuffling from clerk to clerk to “get the proper form” which often changes without reason or notice.

    I really don’t know what liberals thought “more government” would look like, but this is literally the pinnacle of ‘more government’.
    No point complaining.
    If you expected efficiency and understanding from the DMV, well, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
    Best to learn that the State doesn’t care, and more Statism cares even less, requiring negative exponents.

  13. Can’t argue with you there, Nick. But we do have Idaho next door, so we’re not the MOST screwed up state.

  14. Darren, Your state is more screwed up than California, just not as big.

  15. And some people wonder why some of us do not want the federal government involved in our healthcare. This issue unfortunately represents typical government oversight.

  16. Darren – they did use the international symbol, they just tweaked it. There is an interesting problem with handicap stickers in that most of the time in the West you are parking on private property.. The police won’t investigate an auto accident on private property unless there is a death. Soooooooo, where do they get the authority to issue tickets on private property?

  17. There are a lot of cheaters out there. If someone can drive then they can learn to make it from the parking lot to the front door without parking right in front of it. Usually these dumb ducks can not park straight. Most times they dont look “handicapped”. Users and abusers.

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