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Can You Park for Free with a Handicap Placard?

Can You Park for Free with a Handicap Placard?

Washington handicap parking laws allow you to park for free in any government-owned parking zone or area. This includes most metered spaces. Of course, there are exceptions that you need to understand before you start using these privileges.


Who is eligible for a handicap placard in WA?

There are many different ways to qualify for a handicap plate or placard in Washington State. Their rules are actually very generous.

In order to qualify, at least ONE of the following statements must be true:

  • You use portable oxygen.
  • You are legally blind or have limited mobility.
  • You can’t walk 200 feet without stopping to rest.
  • Your ability to walk is severely limited due to arthritic, neurological or orthopedic condition(s).
  • You have an acute sensitivity to automobile emissions that affects your ability to walk.
  • You have severe lung disease that severely restricts your forced expiratory respiratory volume.
  • You cannot walk without the use of a brace, cane, assistant, prosthetic, wheelchair or other assistive device.
  • You have an acute sensitivity to light with a form of porphyria that requires you to decrease your exposure to light.
  • You have a cardiovascular or cardiac disease/condition that has resulted in Class III or Class IV limitations, according to the American Heart Association standards.

If you meet at least one of those requirements, you can apply for a permanent or temporary disability placard. Your doctor will need to provide documentation that validates your claims.

Can you park for free with a handicap placard?

The handicap placard allows the person who received it to park for free in many places. However, it is essential to understand that nobody else can use that placard to park for free.


Washington State law allows people with disabled parking permits to park in specific areas for free. These areas are government-owned parking zones or areas, including metered spaces. When you use your disabled parking privileges, you will not be limited by time restrictions.

However, there are some places that you cannot park for free with the placard, such as:

  • Private-owned parking lots
  • Parking garages
  • Prohibited zones, such as loading zones or fire lanes
  • After-hours in zones that do not allow parking during certain times

Please don’t cheat or abuse this system! Many cities/states are changing their laws due to excessive fraud. The loss of these programs can take a tremendous toll on the disabled people who struggle with accessibility and often live on small/fixed incomes.

Don’t forget that everyone gets free parking sometimes!

Obviously, you can’t coordinate all your trips around a city’s free parking days… but it always helps to know when the free days are! Although I’m not aware of any state law regarding free parking days, cities usually publish their own.

For example, Seattle’s website reveals that you can park free every Sunday and on special holidays. Parking is also free after 10pm, depending on what neighborhood you’re in, with no time limit after 5pm. Remember, Pioneer Square’s parking garages offer free parking between 5pm and 10pm on the first Thursdays of each month so you can check out the local free museums!

Please check out your local city’s regulations to find out when you can park your car for free!