Why’s that person parking in a handicapped spot?

Dear Johnnie: Why do doctors give out handicapped permits to people who don’t need them?

Though I certainly appreciate the efforts the volunteers at the Longmont Police Department make in keeping people without handicapped permits from parking in those designated spots, I question doctors’ criteria to assign these permits.

I see people all the time drive up and put the permit on the window and then get out of the vehicle and walk without any noticeable problem into a store. On the other hand, I see people with walking difficulties hobbling from a parking spot farther back trying to get to the store.

It just doesn’t seem right to me — if you are disabled and have need of a closer parking space, then a pass should be assigned. If you are lazy and want to abuse the system, then you should park like everybody else and not take up valuable space for those who need it. — Peeved

Dear Peeved: First, allow me to list the eligibility requirements for a permit, per the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles.

“To be considered ‘disabled’ and eligible for persons with disabilities license plates and/or placards, the applicant must meet one of the criteria below and have it verified in writing by a medical professional.”

1. Mobility: Persons who cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest.

2. Assisted Mobility: Persons who cannot walk without the use of, or assistance from, a brace, cane, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair or other assistive device.

3. Respiratory: Persons who are restricted by lung disease to such an extent that the person’s forced (respiratory) expiratory volume for one second when measured by spirometry is less than one liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than 60 mm/hg on room air or at rest.

4. Oxygen: Persons who use portable oxygen.

5. Cardiac: Persons who have a cardiac condition to the extent that the person’s functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or IV according to the standards of the American Heart Association.

6. Other: Persons who are severely limited in their ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological or orthopedic condition.

A Class III cardiac condition is one with “marked limitation of any physical activity” and in which “the patient is comfortable only at rest. A Class IV condition is one in which “any physical activity brings on discomfort and symptoms occur at rest.”

Some permits are permanent — for chronic conditions — but others are limited to 90 days. Those are handed out, often, in case of injury and have the expiration date written on them.

I spoke with Dr. Peter Wood, an orthopedic specialist at Longmont Clinic, about your concerns. He led me to the above list.

“It’s very subjective,” he said, speaking of measuring some of the requirements. “Can this person walk 200 feet?

“If you take some of these conditions, there’s nothing visible on the outside for these people,” he continued. “It’s not like your heart causes you to limp. That’s probably what you’re seeing. A lot of permits are for people with internal organ dysfunction as opposed to visible extremity dysfunction.”

That said, Wood acknowledged that “we are hoping that people are not using them unlawfully.”

I hope people aren’t using them unlawfully, either. But you and I know that some people will try to take advantage of even a handicapped-parking permit. So, I can understand your anger when you see an apparently able-bodied person use restricted parking.

But remember that what you are observing simply could be people whose limiting conditions aren’t obvious.

And for those with walking difficulties who park far away? As Wood said, “Many people who have these problems don’t even ask for (permits).”

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