Disabled parking placard fee dropped MVA eliminates $5 cost 1 week after lawsuit filed

July 24, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

A week after the filing of a class-action lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court, Maryland's disabled citizens and the people who drive them will no longer have to pay for windshield parking placards.

The state Motor Vehicle Administration issued an order yesterday eliminating the $5 fee, said MVA public information director Marilyn Corbett. The blue placards, which must be renewed every two years, permit the disabled and any vehicle transporting them to park in designated spaces.

But the suit, filed last Wednesday, alleged that the charge was illegal under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which says that "a public entity may not place a surcharge" on the disabled to cover the cost of accommodating their disabilities. A 1993 opinion by state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. held that "a charge for a parking permit is a surcharge prohibited" by the disabilities act.

"Yes, it's a small charge, but it's obviously illegal," said the suit's lead plaintiff, Harold Snider, a former Bush administration and Republican National Committee official who worked to pass the act. "And it reflects a condescending attitude" by the MVA.

Snider, 48, runs a consulting company that gives advice to businesses on how to provide access to the disabled. The Silver Spring resident, who is blind, said he "happily" joined the suit after officials at the Gaithersburg MVA office ignored him and talked only to his wife during visits to renew his placard -- because, he says, of his disability.

"It doesn't take a lot for the state to comply with this law," he said. "It's not rocket science."

The suit lists four other Maryland residents and Baltimore-based Eatman's Transportation Co., which provides transportation to the disabled, as plaintiffs.

The suit also asks that the state refund all fees paid since the Americans With Disabilities Act became law six years ago. Corbett would not address that request, but she said the MVA would try to reach a quick settlement.

Maryland is the second state among Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and New Jersey in which this kind of lawsuit has been filed, said Lakeland, Fla., attorney J. Davis Connor.

His firm, Peterson & Myers, filed the first case in Florida a month ago after a disabled lawyer in that state studied the issue.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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