Bill fights proliferation of handicap placards

(AP) - For most people, not finding a good parking spot is an inconvenience. For wheelchair-bound people like Ed Gobel, it can mean the difference between living independently and suffering depression at home alone.

Gobel, who uses a motorized wheelchair after complications from Agent Orange in the Vietnam War left him unable to walk, is fighting to curb a proliferation of handicap placards that often ousts the most seriously disabled from their special parking spots.

"You can't go anywhere if you can't find a spot," said Gobel, who needs van-accessible parking spots that can accommodate his wheelchair lift. "How would you feel if you could never get out of the house?"

Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, is sponsoring SB303, which would take aim at the problem by requiring doctors to include medical evidence of a person's permanent disability along with a DMV application for a placard.

State law has strict and specific eligibility requirements: Placard recipients must be unable to walk 200 feet without stopping to rest, or must be unable to exhale one liter of air in one second, or must be confined to a wheelchair.

But proponents say doctors can simply check a box that says "lung condition" to authorize the placard.

"The laws are great," Gobel said. "But we need to hold doctors accountable."

A report indicates Nevada - with a population of 2.6 million - has 434,000 active handicap placards as of March. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires one handicap parking space for every 25 standard spaces, which often leaves disabled people circling the parking lot with no spot.

SB303 would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to inform the appropriate medical board if a doctor did not provide sufficient medical evidence along with a complaint, and sets a fine for violating the law. The intent is to discourage doctors from authorizing placards liberally, or charging patients fees and letting them "buy" permission for a handicap placard.

No action was taken Monday on SB303.


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