How to Get a Massachusetts Handicap Placard (and Who’s Eligible)

You’ll need to fill out a form with a doctor’s help to qualify for a handicap placard or plate in Massachusetts.
Written by Cassandra Hamilton
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Mar 23, 2023
If you’re hoping to park in a handicap-accessible spot in Massachusetts, you’re going to need a handicap placard or license plate displaying the International Symbol of Access (ISA). 
Whether you’re temporarily or permanently disabled, driving can be challenging. Every state tries to ease the difficulty of driving with a handicap license plate or placard, which allows disabled drivers to park in accessible spots that are close to building entrances. The rules around placard/plate eligibility vary between states, so if you’re looking into getting a placard or plate, you’ll need to know your state’s rules.
If you’re one of the 11.5% of
residents with a disability, you might find yourself eligible for handicap parking. Here's a guide on the requirements and regulations around disabled plates and placards in Massachusetts. 
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How to get a disabled parking placard or plate in Massachusetts

In order to park in a handicap-accessible space in Massachusetts, you’ll need one of the following:
  • A red-font temporary disabled parking placard (valid for 2-24 months)
  • A black-font permanent disabled parking placard (valid for 5 years)
  • A disabled parking license plate (valid for 5 years)
Each of these passes displays the International Symbol of Access (ISA). You’ve probably seen this symbol even if you’re not familiar with the term—it’s the blue-and-white stick figure in a wheelchair. The symbol is a little misleading though—you don’t need to actually be in a wheelchair to be eligible for a disability placard. If you have one of the following conditions, you could get a disability placard in the Bay State. 

Who’s eligible for a disabled parking placard?

The state of Massachusetts has set forth certain criteria that you’ll have to meet to qualify for a disabled parking placard or plate. The legal criteria for disability in Massachusetts include:
  • You cannot walk more than 200 feet without stopping to rest, or you walk with the assistance of a person or device
  • You are restricted by lung disease to the point where your forced respiratory volume in one second is less than one liter
  • You use portable oxygen
  • You have a Class III or Class IV cardiac condition
  • You have Class III or Class IV functional arthritis
  • You have Stage III or Stage IV anatomic arthritis
  • You have been declared legally blind, which will also require you to surrender your license
  • You have lost one or more limbs, or the permanent use of one or more limbs
To receive your disabled parking placard or plate, your condition will need to be verified by a qualified medical professional. You can get one of the following to verify your condition:
  • Medical doctor
  • Chiropractor
  • Physician’s Assistant
  • Registered Nurse
  • Osteopath
  • Optometrist (for legal blindness only)
  • Podiatrist
If you are applying for a temporary disability placard, one of these medical professionals must verify that your condition will last for at least two months and that your condition doesn’t prohibit your ability to drive safely. You wouldn’t qualify for a parking placard if you sprained your ankle, but if you shattered your leg and were going to be out of commission for two months or longer, you could get a parking placard. 
For safety reasons, the state of Massachusetts only issues one parking placard to the disabled person. A person with a disabled plate may also be issued a placard if they can demonstrate need, but the placard will expire. It may be a better option to get a permanent placard so the disabled individual can move it between vehicles.

How to apply

You’ll need to follow these steps to get a permanent or temporary placard, or license plate:
  • Have your healthcare provider fill out the section verifying your disability status
  • Keep a copy of your two-sided placard or plate application
  • Include necessary documentation if applying for a Disabled Veteran plate
If you’re applying for a placard, whether temporary or permanent, there is no fee. If you are applying for a standard plate, the fee is $60 every two years, and $20 every two years for a motorcycle plate. 

Renewing a disabled parking placard

Your temporary disability placard will expire on the date printed on your placard. If you need to extend the duration of your placard, you will need to go through the application process again.
The RMV will automatically mail you a new permanent placard when yours is set to expire. For license plates, the RMV will mail a renewal reminder six to eight weeks before the expiration.
Key Takeaway You need a healthcare provider to verify your disability and need for a parking placard or plate to receive one in Massachusetts. 

Guidelines for veterans with disabilities

If you’re a veteran who wants to display a disabled veteran license plate, the application process is mostly the same. There is one additional step, which is that you must submit a DV plate letter (RMV35A).
To qualify for a DV plate you must meet the qualifying conditions stated earlier, and at least 60% of your qualifying conditions must be related to your service. This means you don’t automatically qualify for a DV license plate even if you are a disabled veteran. For example, if you became disabled after you left the service, you would not qualify for a DV plate.
Key Takeaway At least 60% of your qualifying disabilities must stem from your time in the service to qualify for a DV plate.

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