CINCINNATI - An aging population in Ohio is believed to be one factor in why applications for handicapped parking placards have skyrocketed over the last decade.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles last year issued more than 320,000 placards for accessible parking. That amount is more than the number issued in 2001 and 2002 combined. The tags allow vehicles to park in designated spaces closer to businesses.
Nearly 1.2 million Ohio residents, or 10 percent of the state's population, had handicapped parking permits in 2010.
Advocates say they see more people with disabilities going to work and getting out of the house than ever before. That means increased competition for handicapped or accessible parking spaces from those who need them, and from some people who don't.
Sometimes it is bad enough that advocates like Kat Lyons carry around their own warning notices. She puts warning flyers under the windshield wipers of "able-bodied people" who park in handicapped spaces with or without a placard.
Lyons works at the Center for Independent Living Options in Mount Auburn. "Even though there is a placard in the window, it's not unusual to see someone who doesn't need it parking in a marked parking area. Possibly, a relative or family member is handicapped and needs the placard. But the handicapped person is not with them and they think, I'll only be going in for a minute."
Parking without a handicapped parking placard is punishable by up to a $250 fine in some areas.
Cincinnati police have handed out about 300 tickets a year the past several years for illegal parking in handicapped or accessible parking spaces.
Advocates say keeping more of these parking spaces open can make a big difference for people who really need them.