A Canberra woman with paraplegia was fined $228 for parking in a disabled space at a Woden shopping centre because of a loophole in the disability parking scheme, despite displaying a mobility parking permit in the windscreen of her specially-modified car.
The woman, who declined to be named, has held a licence to drive her registered hand-controlled vehicle for 12 years and has always permanently displayed a valid ACT government-issued mobility parking permit on the bottom left-hand side of her windscreen as required.
On Thursday, after a regular visit to Westfield Woden, she returned to the underground carpark just after 3.30pm to find a fine on her windscreen for "stop in parking area for disabled".
"I thought someone was playing a joke," she said.
"I almost threw it away… but then I opened the envelope and it was for my car… I thought 'Are they kidding me?'.
"I thought they'd obviously made an error."
The woman contacted Access Canberra Parking Operations and was told she had been fined for failing to display her ACT permit inside the clear plastic sleeve of the Australian disability parking permit.
But the woman said in the 12 years she has held her permit she has never been issued with the white plastic sleeve or been fined for failing to use one despite parking in disabled parking spaces all over Australia.
"I never wanted one… it would totally block my vision on the left-hand side of the windscreen," she said.
"I've never received a parking fine because I don't have an issue with following the law, it's more than bizarre, it's bloody-mindedness.
"I believe the sticker [inside the sleeve] is the legal document, that's the one that identifies me with my number and the expiry date, the cardboard frame is just generic.
"If it's of such significance why isn't the fixed label combined with the frame?"
To dispute the fine, the woman was told she would need to fill in a form at Canberra Connect, which would require her to pay for a carer.
But on Friday afternoon, after inquiries by the Canberra Times, a representative of Access Canberra called the woman to say the fine would be cancelled.
An Access Canberra spokesman said the woman should have been given a plastic holder when her permit was issued and she would be provided with a new one to comply with Australian Standards.
But he did not say if the woman would risk an additional fine if she continued to display her ACT permit without the plastic sleeve.
The woman said the incident was another example of the mistreatment of people with disabilities in the ACT after a "woeful" 2015.
"People with disabilities are vulnerable in the community and the government is not addressing issues of concern to people," she said.
"To me having a licence, car and permit is freedom and I'd never abuse freedom."