Public urged against hasty diagnosis of those using disability spaces
A crackdown on parking infringements means people won't be able to use their record of "good behaviour" to avoid fines. Photo: Elesa Lee
The rorting of disability parking permits is rare, the government says, and disability advocates have warned Canberrans against making ''dangerous'' assumptions about the severity of a person's disability just because they appear to be mobile.
The Canberra Times reported this week that drivers would no longer be able to use past ''good behaviour'' as an excuse for the illegal use of a disabled parking space.
The reports sparked a discussion about the use of disabled parking spaces in the ACT, and spurred allegations that permits were being rorted by motorists who had no disability.
But the government says its statistics show that the misuse of mobility parking permits is rare.
There were 18,361 mobility parking labels issued in the ACT as at November 1.
The government cancelled 1668 permits in the year leading up to November 1, the ''vast majority'' because permits had been lost or stolen, deaths or changes from temporary to permanent classifications.
Office of Regulatory Service road transport senior director David Snowden said the government received only ''the odd'' public complaint about the misuse of permits.
Mr Snowden said there were a range of checks and balances to ensure disability permits were not used inappropriately.
Disability permits are issued only at the recommendation of a legally qualified doctor, and holders must provide up to date medical evidence every three years to demonstrate their continued need.
When a complaint from the public is received, the government must contact the holder to ensure he or she is entitled to a mobility parking permit.
''It's very difficult for a member of the public to be in a position to know with certainty the medical condition of an individual, which warrants the issuing of a mobility parking permit,'' Mr Snowden said.
''It's a difficult circumstance for someone to make a judgment on.''
People with Disabilities ACT executive officer Robert Altamore said it was dangerous for members of the public to judge someone's need for a disability parking permit from appearances only.
Mr Altamore said mobility parking permits were issued to those who might be suffering one or more of a range of problems, some of which were not immediately apparent.
''For example, a person might appear to be very mobile, but if they have a lung condition that prevents them walking more than 50 metres, that's not something that's really obvious,'' Mr Altamore said.
''But it's very obvious to that person when their lungs are hurting because they can't breathe.
''You don't put on a disability just to get a parking permit.
''It's really dangerous to make assumptions. A lot of disabilities aren't obvious. Just because someone gets out of the car and they don't appear to have a disability, does not mean they are not disabled.''
Mr Altamore said the biggest problems restricting access to disability parking spots were a shortage of spaces and illegal parking by those without any permit.
Mr Altamore repeated calls for a widespread public education campaign to help people understand the importance of leaving the disability parking spaces free for those who needed them.