Handicapped Parking Permits Come With A Long Wait In Western Massachusetts

Jul 19, 2018

In his Pelham, Massachusetts, home, Peter Acker tried to maneuver down his basement stairs. He's on crutches after injuring his knee this spring -- and hurting it again recently.

"I have one crutch and I'm holding on to the banister on my left side, which gives me some stability," he said.

The journey down the stairs was a necessary one for Acker. He works from an audio studio there.

Since he's having trouble moving around, he got the necessary paperwork signed by his doctor to get a placard that would allow him to park his vehicle in handicapped spaces while he recovers. He took the forms to the Registry of Motor Vehicles branch in Greenfield.

"They called my [number]. I went up to the window -- hobbled up to the window -- and handed them the forms," Acker said. "The attendant said, 'Thank you very much. You should have your placard in about a month.'"

Acker said he was shocked by the delay. But a recording on the RMV's medical affairs hotline indicates some people may be waiting even longer.

"We have processed all applications for temporary disabled parking placards received as of May 26," the recording said.

So that means some people are still waiting after six weeks. And the wait is even longer for applicants with permanent disabilities.

NEPR asked to interview someone from the Registry for this story, but we were told nobody was available this week.

In an e-mail, a spokeswoman said they try to expedite requests for temporary parking passes good for four months or less. An in recent months, she said, they've been training more staff members to handle placard applications.

But this is not a new problem.

"There's absolutely no excuse for it," said Longmeadow state Senator Eric Lesser.

Lesser pointed out there is a way around all of this waiting, for those willing to go to Boston. They can go directly to the RMV's Medical Affairs office to submit their paperwork. If it's approved, then they can get their placard that day.

"Residents who live in the Boston area can take public transportation to pick up their RMV placards right at the RMV headquarters in Boston," Lesser said. "It's obviously unrealistic for people in western Mass. to make a 150-mile round trip."

So they have to go to a registry branch instead, which sends all that paperwork to Boston, to wait for approval.

Lesser was one of of two dozen western Massachusetts lawmakers who wrote to transportation officials in 2016, looking to create a more convenient option for their constituents. Two years later, he said, there's no change.

"When we had conversations with MassDOT about this issue and they responded in writing to those concerns, they had assured us that these issues were going to be addressed," Lesser said. "That's clearly not been the case."

The senator, who is a vice chair of the legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation, said the next step might be to pursue legislation to force a solution.

In the meantime, Acker, who is still waiting for his placard, said he will not use a handicapped parking spot without one.

"Sometimes I have to drive around, especially at the supermarket, to find a space that I can get into, and then crutch my way in," Acker said. He called the whole situation "a very sorry state of affairs."