Disability Plates and Placards
Obtaining Disability Plates
Disability plates are issued to qualified Massachusetts residents who are primary owners of a registered passenger vehicle or a motorcycle. A holder of a passenger vehicle disability plate is entitled to a temporary disabled placard. Everyone else who qualifies for disability parking will be issued a placard. There are two types of placards: one for temporary disability or one for permanent disability. Veterans will need a letter from the Veteran’s Administration stating that your disability is at least 60% AND related to your military service (for disabled veteran plates only).
Obtaining Disability Placards
Placards are issued to qualified Massachusetts residents on a temporary or permanent basis. Persons who do not own vehicles may only apply for disability placards. For a temporary placard a medical professional must certify that the disability is predicted to last at least two months. Disability placards or plates allow you to park in designated disabled parking spaces. If you have more than one family member who meets the disability criteria for a placard, you will need a placard for each person. You can use the placard in any vehicle in which the person with a disability is being transported.
How to complete Disability Plate or Placard Application
Applications for Placards and Plates must be completed by the applicant and by the attending doctor.
Applications are available at all Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) offices, or you can have one mailed to you by calling the Phone Center at 857-368-8020 from 9AM to 5PM, Monday – Friday, except holidays.
How to get a Massachusetts Handicap Parking Placard
To apply for a disability placard or license plate in Massachusetts, you will need:
- The Application for Disabled Parking Placard/Plate (Form MAB100) (PDF), which must include medical certification by any of the following:
- Medical Doctor
- Physician Assistant
- Registered Nurse
- Optometrist (for legal blindness ONLY).
- A letter from the Veteran’s Administration stating that your disability is at least 60% AND related to your military service (for disabled veteran plates only).
- Payment for the appropriate fee:
- Placards are free.
- License plates:
- Passenger vehicle: $60 for 2 years.
- Motorcycle: $20 for 1 year.
- Disabled veteran license plates are free.
You can submit your completed application in person to your nearest full service RMV branch office or by mail to the address on the application form.
Once the Medical Affairs Branch processes your application, you will receive in the mail:
- Your disability placard or plate if your photo is on file with the MA RMV.
- An approval notice with instructions for getting your picture taken.
There is a standard $60 fee for a Disability Passenger Plate for two year registration. Motorcycle plate fee is $20 for one year.
Disability Veteran Plate and Disabled Parking Placard are free.
Allow at least thirty (30) days to process and review application.
Renew your Disability Placard or Plate
Instructions for renewing your plate or temporary disability placard.
Replacing Your Disability Placard
If your current placard has been lost or mutilated, you may apply for a duplicate or replacement. To apply for a duplicate placard, you must submit a letter stating the reason a duplicate is needed. In your request, please include your name, social security number, date of birth, address, and the placard number or the date the placard was first issued. Your request must be signed and dated. All placard holders must be photo-imaged on RMV computer system.
RMV Medical Affairs Address
Attn: Medical Affairs Branch
Registry of Motor Vehicles
PO Box 55889
Boston, MA 02205
Disability Plates and Placards Overview:
Traveling with Disabilities
If you are traveling to MA from another state, you can use your home state placard or plate for handicapped parking in Massachusetts. All U.S. states recognize disabled parking placards and license plates from all other states. If you are traveling to another state, you can use your Massachusetts placard.
Branch Locations including AAA locations and RMV Service Centers.
Fact Sheet last updated on: 3/29/2023
Disclaimer: INDEX is pleased to provide you this information. Please note, this information is not comprehensive, nor is it intended to take the place of professional advice. We encourage you to check other resources of such information. No endorsement by the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, DisabilityInfo.org, INDEX, or affiliates, should be inferred. We reserve the right to remove, to modify, or to add any information at any time, for any reason, and without notice.
Composed By: Sharon Wachsler
In Massachusetts the Registry of Motor Vehicles offers handicapped placards for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) who qualify as sufficiently disabled.
The placard allows for parking in designated handicapped parking areas. The placard also allows free parking at meters in Boston. (Check regulations for other cities and towns). These benefits can be quite important for those who are sufficiently disabled as to need the ability to park closer to supermarkets, places of business, etc.
To apply for a placard (the placard is mobile, so it can be used in different cars) or plate, a person with ME/CFS must have his or her physician complete a Registry form. The two most important criteria of eligibility as related to ME/CFS are as follows: (1) the doctor must state the diagnosis and nature of the impairment which would be to confirm the ME/CFS diagnosis. The doctor would also provide information on the prognosis of the illness (how long it is expected to last) and on its severity; (2) The doctor must confirm that the patient cannot move more than 200 feet. The Registry emphasizes that the mobility issue is of prime importance and must be documented by the physician. If the Registry gets only partial information, it will have to ask for a more complete evaluation. The essential focus for approval is for the physician to explain exactly how the patient is impaired: how easily, quickly, or unexpectedly the patient tires, and the extent of weakness and its direct effect on the lower extremities.
Note: With many patients, there are some days a person might be able to walk the 200 feet, but then suffer substantial after-effects—including relapse of substantial symptoms—so walking the distance is medically too risky. Again, the person might be able to walk the distance on some days and not on others, so the person should have the placard; or the distance might be walked but only under conditions of suffering. All these points should be taken up with the persons physician before submitting the Registry form.
Nothing should be submitted to the Registry which might be construed as a medical reason for questioning the persons ability to drive safely.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS.
When the application arrives, follow all the directions and have your doctor write a letter, on his/her letterhead, answering all the questions. Make sure that your doctor includes the following information: how long you’ve been sick, whether you require any ambulatory aids (canes, wheelchairs, etc.), and why you have difficulty walking (muscle weakness and pain, joint pain, exhaustion, or whatever applies to your situation). Your doctor should use clear, straightforward non-medical terminology; there is evidence to suggest that the people who review your application will deny you a placard if they don’t understand the medical jargon your doctor uses.
Note: it is best not to indicate symptoms like dizziness, fainting, or memory loss because these suggest that you are not capable of driving safely. Also, it is best not to include breathing difficulty, because then the Registry will think you have pulmonary disease, for which they have specific measures and standards.
When you have to indicate how far you can walk, remember that you will mostly need the placard on your bad days. Estimate your walking ability based on a bad day, not on a good day (because if you don’t need it on a good day you won’t use it anyway). Think about the days when you can barely stand or walk to the bathroom. Those are the days you will really need this placard. You can even ask your doctor to describe these day-to-day mobility issues. Also there is a section where you are asked how far you can walk without rest, and how far with intermittent rest. To the Registry, “rest” does not mean sitting down or lying down, it means standing!! Since standing is not rest for a person with CFIDS, I recommend either putting the same range for both sections, or describing in the doctor’s letter what “resting” means for you. (One person to whom I spoke at the Medical Affairs Branch at the Registry indicated to me that the placards are not awarded to anyone who indicates that s/he can walk 200 feet or more, but this measure was not given to me in writing, nor is it indicated in the state guidelines governing eligibility for a placard; therefore, it is unclear whether this is the actual cut-off point that is used for all applicants).
The Registry has recently begun to issue temporary placards. Make sure to indicate whether you are seeking a permanent or temporary placard. If you have been sick for less than five years, you should request a temporary placard. A temporary placard is good for one year, and then must be reapplied for. If you have been sick five or more years, make sure that your doctor indicates that your disability is permanent.
Make sure that you keep copies of your application and your doctor’s letter. Later, if you get denied, it will be important to refer to them.
IF YOUR APPLICATION IS DENIED
You should hear back from the Registry within a month. If you get denied after your first application, you have ten days to appeal. I strongly recommend appealing. To appeal, I recommend taking the following actions:
— Call the Registry and ask why you were denied. Make them cite the specific reason(s). Ask what information they would need to have clarified in order for you to obtain a placard. Take notes on everything they tell you, including the date you called, and the name of the person with whom you spoke. If anything is unclear to you, ask the person to repeat of clarify the information.
— Also, take this opportunity to tell this person a little bit about yourself: how ME/CFS has affected your life, why you need the placard, how upsetting it is that people don’t understand that CFIDS is a real disability, etc. The Medical Affairs Branch is staffed by people with disabilities (primarily people with visible disabilities). They need to be educated about CFIDS and what it means to have a hidden disability. They are trying to protect people with disabilities from fraudulent usage. Tell them that you support this goal, as you, too, are a person with a disability that needs a placard. (I did this, and it worked).
— Call the MA MAE/CFS Association and tell them what is happening. The Association can help advocate with you and is compiling information on this issue.
— Call your local representative’s office and/or the Governor’s office. Explain your situation to them. Ask for their help.
IF YOU APPLIED IN THE PAST, OR IF YOUR APPEAL IS DENIED
If you applied for a placard in the past, but were denied, you can still apply again. I would suggest calling the Registry and asking them why you were denied the last time (they should still have your file). In your new application, follow the same guidelines as above, but explain which part of the process you didn’t understand before. Provide a clarification of that issue.
If your appeal is denied, there are further steps you can take. Although this process can be stressful, tiring, and frustrating (especially if you are very sick), it is not necessarily a hopeless case. Generally, the longer you persevere with state agencies, the more likely you will win in the end.
A copy of the state guidelines governing the issuance of Handicapped Parking Plates and Placards — 540CMR (Code of Massachusetts Regulations), section 1700 — can be obtained for free from your library. This document probably will be useful to you only after you have applied and been denied.
Last updated on: 6/1/2020