Drive up and down any street in downtown Toronto and you’ll find lines of parked cars displaying accessible parking permits. Most of those permits are used by those who need them. But many are misused. Nearly 800 permits were taken away from Toronto drivers last year because they were using someone else’s permit, likely a family member's.

Toronto is the only major city in the country where using an accessible parking permit — formerly called a  disabled person parking permit — means you can park almost anywhere, for as long as you want, for free. And there are a lot of permits out there. CBC News has learned the number of permits issued by the Ontario government has jumped 64 per cent in the last five years.  

Our senior investigative reporter Diana Swain recently rode along with Kirsten Edgerton of the Toronto Police's disabled liaison unit. Edgerton tries to keep the permits in the hands of those who need them. Note: Getting a ticket for misusing a permit doesn't necessarily mean a driver did anything wrong; the ticket can be challenged in court.

Car eludes parking officer
Parking officer grills driver

Having a permit seized means you need to apply to get it back, which can take up to a year. There are also fines for misuse, ranging from $300 to $5,000.

It’s unclear why the number of accessible parking permits issued in Ontario has jumped so dramatically. Service Ontario said it doesn’t know why there has been a spike because it doesn’t make the decisions about the permits; doctors, chiropractors and nurse practitioners do. Once a health care professional signs off on a person's permit, the province issues it, and in recent years the range of medical professionals who can certify that someone needs an accessible permit has increased. Service Ontario also points to an aging population and more drivers on the road as possible factors in the increased number of permits being issued.

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