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Q&A on new disabled parking law

A new law taking effect this New Year’s Day requires disabled drivers to hang a new kind of disabled-parking placard to park free in metered zones throughout Illinois. In Chicago, there will be a 15-day grace period in which the city will honor the blue or red placards that previously entitled drivers to all-day free metered parking. A closer look at the change:

Q. Who exactly can park for free?

A. The new law allows free metered parking for drivers who have their doctors attest they can’t do one of the following:

◆ Feed parking payboxes or meters “due to the lack of fine motor control of both hands.”

◆ Feed payboxes or meters because they need to use a wheelchair.

◆ Reach above their heads “to a height of 42 inches above the ground.”

◆ “Walk more than 20 feet due to an orthopedic, neurological, cardiovascular or lung condition.”

Q. How do drivers get the new yellow-gray meter-exempt placards?

A. Applications were mailed to nearly 700,000 existing placard holders. They’re also available through the Illinois secretary of state’s website:

Q. What happens to disabled drivers who don’t qualify for a meter-exempt placard?

A. Their regular blue or red disabled-parking tags — or handicapped license plates — still entitle them to park in handicapped-only spots near the entrances of stores, theaters and other businesses.

Q. Can drivers with out-of-state placards get free metered parking?

A. No. But they too can park in handicapped-only spots in parking lots.

Q. Is there any free street parking in downtown Chicago for blue or red placard holders, out-of-state placard holders or drivers with handicapped license plates?

A. Yes. The city has a limited number
of street spots — including a handful
on La Salle Street near City Hall — in which drivers with such placards or plates can park free. Look for the “Reserved Parking” signs with a blue disability insignia.

Q. When will the city of Chicago begin writing tickets to people who hang blue or red placards and then park without feeding meter kiosks?

A. Jan. 16, 2014

Q. How much will those tickets cost?

A. Downtown, each “expired meter” ticket costs $65. Outside downtown, $50.

Q. What if able-bodied drivers get caught using another person’s placard, or a fake, to park illegally.

A. The minimum fine is $600.

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