Illustration by Mark Adams

Supply and demand is a straightforward concept until it’s applied to the use of disabled parking permits.  That’s when you step through the looking glass into a nightmare scenario where demand for parking permits is rapidly increasing (mostly from people who don’t really need them), while the supply of accessible parking spaces is quickly running out. When you factor in all the fakes, phonies and frauds who take advantage of a deeply flawed system, along with an aging baby-boomer generation and the rising number of disabled Iraq-war veterans, you’ve got a genuine crisis that is rapidly approaching critical mass.

For those who genuinely qualify for disabled parking, the problem is guaranteed to get worse before it gets better. Fraudulent abuse of disabled parking will continue until sweeping, nationwide solutions are devised. The need for education, outreach and cooperation between the disabled and nondisabled populations has never been greater. Anyone who is skeptical about this looming crisis should consider the following:

• According to a recent report in The New York Times, at least 227 workers at Miami International Airport were caught parking near airport terminals with illegally obtained disabled parking permits. Many were seen walking from their cars, unassisted and frequently with heavy baggage in hand.

• In Boston, a recent crime spree involved a group of thieves who used sledge hammers to smash windshields and steal disabled parking permits from their legitimate owners. An unrelated study in 2007 found that out of 1,000 parking permits that were inspected in downtown Boston, fully one third were being used by nondisabled drivers, including 49 permits issued to people who had died.

• When residents and commuters in Austin, Texas, discovered that disabled parking permits allowed all-day free parking in the downtown area, fraudulent use of permits