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Cars With Disability Placards Will Pay To Park Under New City Policy

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- There are changes ahead for people who rely on wheelchair placards for free parking on city streets.

Pat Warren explains why, as of Thursday, they will be feeding the meters just like everyone else.

The city says it's a way to fight theft and free up space at the same time.

Because old crank parking meters made it difficult for the disabled to pay to park, those who had disability placards or tags have been allowed to park free. Spaces are still reserved for the disabled.

But now with handi-capable metered technology, the city is making them pay, using theft as its incentive, saying 2,000 placards are lost or stolen each year.

"Thieves who want to steal placards and sell them to others so they can park free," said Nollie Wood, Mayor's Disabilities Commission.

"I looked and said, 'Did I leave that window open? No.' Well, the passenger-side window had been broken and the handicap placard had been stolen," said Dr. Sarah Begus.

Begus was a victim of theft. Adrianne Johnson had a similar experience.

"My car window had been busted and the handicapped placard was removed," she said.

Starting Thursday, 200 disability-compliant parking meters will be activated for people displaying disability placards and tags. Everybody pays, whether in a reserved place or not.

The city expects to remove the motive for theft and also prevent drivers from taking up spaces all day for free.

"Which unfairly limits options for citizens living with or without disabilities," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Not everyone believes this makes things better.

"If we had to pay the parking fees, it's unfair. It really penalizes the handicapped," Begus said.

The city parking authority says some city blocks have cars with disability placards taking up 100 percent of the parking all day.

The first target area is downtown, but will expand to Fells Point, Harbor East, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon and beyond.

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