Private and Public Policy Reviews for the Disabled

Systemic Discrimination

Oregon’s Broken Disabled Parking System

By Stephen Rex Goode, BSW


The Problems

Oregon, a state that prides itself on its generosity towards protected classes, such as disabled people, has a system for disabled parking that is flawed, unfair, and largely unenforced. There are different kinds of permits, but I’m going to focus on the common, renewable parking permit that is obtainable with a doctor’s signature, and, of course, a fee. I will also be mentioning the newer Wheelchair User permit.

The problems begin with fraud. It is pretty easy, if a person has a good relationship with a physician, to get a signature on the form for obtaining a permit. An IRS employee, go figure, recently admitted to having a permit simply because she didn’t want to pay $150 per month for parking in downtown Portland.

Anyone who uses a disabled parking permit has seen it. Someone parks in one of our spaces, gets out of the vehicle and bounds off like a fully-abled athlete. If you stay long enough, you’ll see them return no worse for the wear, get in, and drive off. I’ve made the effort many times to go look at their rear-view mirror to see if there’s a valid permit hanging from it. There usually is.

I don’t often go into downtown Portland, but when I do, I have a need to get as close to my destination as I can. I suffer from severe osteoarthritis in my knees and back. Walking on hard concrete is excruciating. I can bear it if I must, but I’ll end up laid up for hours later. Parking spaces filled up with unneeded parking-permitted cars forces me to park farther away and further damage my joints.

Oregon Revised Statutes allows for free parking in metered spaces where the time limit is over fifteen minutes(see ORS 811.265(1)) but also for local city and county governments to disallow it for everyone but people with Wheelchair permits.

In addition, what takes an able-bodied person 30 minutes to do probably takes me between 60 and 90 minutes. I have to walk slower, and I have to take frequent breaks. The lack of places to sit in downtown Portland is a whole ‘nother complaint.

The result of this is that if I must pay for a meter, I pay 2-3 times more than someone who is not disabled. That’s a point of discrimination I find reprehensible. In places like Portland, where you can still park in a metered space for free, it isn’t the local government that is punishing me. The people who are taking up spaces that don’t need them are doing this.

The second problem is that of enforcement. Oregon Revised Statutes allows for local governments to create a volunteer enforcement task group to patrol parking lots and write citations. The regular police do not do this. According to the law, a citation written by a volunteer has the full force of one written by a police officer. A great idea!

A law enforcement agency authorized to enforce parking laws may appoint volunteers to issue citations for violations of ORS 811.615…and 811.630…, or of ordinances dealing with parking privileges for persons with disabilities (ORS 811.865).

What is wrong with it is that some local governments don’t do this or do it poorly. I spoke with one of the volunteers in my own city of Gresham, Oregon’s 4th largest, and he told me that the city only allows three such volunteers for the whole city. These are part-time, volunteer positions without a regular schedule. The man I spoke with feels there should be many more and I agree. Gresham disabled parking is regularly abused.

Not all of Oregon is as useless. Washington County, a fairly large metropolitan area near Portland, has an enforcement program that allows citizens to take pictures of violators and has a small force of volunteers who patrol parking lots and write citations. They set an example every county in Oregon should follow.


As much of a hassle as it is to go see a doctor and get an application signed, it needs to happen more often and physicians need to take it more seriously. Tags expire on the same date as your driver’s license, which in Oregon is 8 years after you receive it. At that time, if you want to renew your disabled parking tag, you have to submit a new doctor-authorized application. In my opinion, 8 years is too long for the disabled parking privileges without a review by a physician.

Even though my condition is mostly permanent, with significant weight loss and a couple of knee replacements, I could be good to go without a tag. There are probably a lot of people who qualified for a tag a few years ago that don’t really need one now, but they keep it and use it for their own convenience, resulting in more than mere inconvenience for the rest of us.

I’m generally not in favor of changing laws to create more work for citizens. Heaven knows we are overburdened with filling out applications for various services, but something needs to be done to take disabled parking tags away from people who don’t have a legitimate need for them.

I’m more in favor of public education. I think the government or some nonprofit organization should invest in a public awareness ad campaign about the problems created by people abusing the disabled parking system.

We also need more enforcement. Those local jurisdictions that have a trained volunteer force are to be commended as long as they allow enough volunteers. In a city the size of Gresham, there should be many more than three. Multnomah county, which includes Gresham, Portland, and Troutdale  should create, train, and manage a sizable force of volunteers.


Here is how it stands in certain Oregon governments:

City Free Meters Volunteer Force
City of Portland ?
City of Eugene ?
City of Oregon City  ≠ ?
City of Gresham
City of Medford ?
City of Bend ? ?
City of Salem ?
Washington County (Beaverton, Hillsboro, etc.)
City of Newport

If you can report on your city or county’s policies or programs, please respond and I will include it in this list.

Be the first to like.

Leave a Reply

If your comment is a support question, please post it at the forums.