Private and Public Policy Reviews for the Disabled

California Travel Advice

By Stephen Rex Goode, BSW

If you are disabled and rely on a parking permit or placard in your state, I have some advice for you on traveling to California. Simply stated, it is: Don’t go! Well, that’s probably a little harsh, but I’m a little annoyed right now.

A few months ago, right in the middle of her pregnancy, my daughter’s husband was transferred to California. We knew that we would be making the trip from Oregon when the time came. That happened yesterday.

Mother and child are doing well. He’s beautiful and we’re enjoying being here with the family. When we came to the hospital, I tried parking in regular parking spaces. They were all very narrow and required a bit of walking to get into the hospital.

So, I spied an open disabled space that was big enough for my vehicle and fairly close to the door. I parked there and hung my permit from the rearview mirror. I got lucky, because I didn’t get cited. I think that is probably because enforcement in California is probably no better than in Oregon.

So if I didn’t get a ticket, why am I so disgruntled? This morning, I wanted to make sure that I could use a disabled space in California. I went online and looked at the California Department of Motor Vehicles web site and discovered that there is no reciprocity in California when it comes to out-of-state disabled parking permits.

In order to park in designated spaces in here, I would need to plan ahead and apply for a travel permit by mail. It isn’t necessary to apply in advance if I want to make an on-line or telephone appointment. I would need to have a form completed by my doctor detailing my disability.

I don’t object to the necessity of a doctor’s verification of my need for a permit. I had to go through that to get my Oregon permit. I think it’s important that people aren’t able to get a permit for anything less than a verifiable disability that represents a need for accommodation in parking a vehicle.

I do object to having to go through it any time I want to travel to California. Since my daughter, her husband, and three of my grandchildren live here, I hope I’ll come here often. A travel placard in California is free, but is only good for 90 days.

I live in the Portland metropolitan area. Across the river from us is Washington state, where my disabled parking permit is honored. Oregon has the following policy regarding reciprocity.

Oregon recognizes disabled person parking permits that are issued by other states or countries for the purpose of identifying vehicles permitted to utilize parking spaces reserved for persons with disabilities.

So, for a Californian to visit Oregon, he only needs to bring his California placard. For anyone to use a space in California, he must get a doctor’s verification, fill out a form, then take it or mail it to the California DMV.

Today, we went back to the hospital to see our new grandchild. I parked a long way from the door in a space that would have been too narrow for my vehicle if it hadn’t been on the end.

After the hospital, we went to a grocery store. I tried to park in a normal space, but the driver’s-side door and passenger door were so close to the other cars that I had to move.

When it comes to disabled visitors, California has it wrong.

2 people like this post.

7 Responses to “California Travel Advice”

  1. Ace said:

    This is not correct – under federal law all states are required to recognize other states’ and countries’ placards.


  2. Rex Goode said:


    Thanks for your response. I read the federal law you cite and it seems you are right.

    How does that fit with this statement from California’s website?

    Travel parking placard for nonresidents who plan to travel in California and are a disabled person or disabled veteran. Valid for up to 90 days or the date noted by your licensed medical professional on the application, whichever is less.

  3. Disability Reviews » Home of the $12.99 Soda said:

    […] Of course, using it was risking a ticket. See California Travel Advice. […]

  4. Michael said:

    My family and I are planning a trip to California in July so I called California DMV and cited both:
    V C Section 22511.5 (3) (B):
    “A disabled person or disabled veteran is allowed to park a motor vehicle displaying a special disabled person license plate or placard issued by a foreign jurisdiction with the same parking privileges authorized in this code for any motor vehicle displaying a special license plate or a distinguishing placard issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
    FAPG 23 CFR 12 1235.8 Reciprocity:
    The State system shall recognize removable windshield placards, temporary removable windshield placards and special license plates which have been issued by issuing authorities of other States and countries, for the purpose of identifying vehicles permitted to utilize parking spaces reserved for persons with disabilities which limit or impair the ability to walk.

    I spoke to Tanya (Operator 615) on March 22, 2012 at 2:28pm PST. She first told me that I would need a travel permit from California in order to use my Oregon placard, however when I cited the two above laws she stated that she would need to talk to her supervisor. When she came back she told me that she had already found her answer but needed to confirm it and as long as my trip would be a short stay I could use my placard. They would prefer me to come into a local California DMV with my Oregon placard and they would issue me a travel placard if my trip would allow. My trip is only 3 days and mostly over the weekend so I wouldn’t be able to come into a California DMV so she said that would be ok and that I could use my Oregon DMV disabled parking placard.

    Just thought I would put that information out there in case anyone got into trouble and received a ticket then they could cite my call with Tanya and the information she provided me and confirmed with her supervisor.

  5. Rex Goode said:

    Michael, a thousand thanks for that!

  6. Michael said:

    Not a problem… I really hope this helps you the next time you travel down to California.

  7. Robert Penten said:

    I found the advice excellent it made a big difference to my holiday touring CA and Navada. Thank you very much.
    Bob in UK

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