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Public urged against hasty diagnosis of those using disability spaces

Date

Christopher Knaus

A crackdown on parking infringements means people won't be able to use their record of "good behaviour" to avoid fines.

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.

75 comments

  • I saw three older teenaged males, laughing, skylarking and without any obvious disability park and leave a vehicle with a disability sticker in a disability space at Cooleman Court yesterday evening, although plenty of other spaces were available.
    Is there a minor trade in these stickers, are they prone to theft or are family members and their friends at liberty to use them?

    Commenter
    Puzzled
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    November 28, 2012, 7:52AM
    • As the article says, it's not always obvious if a person has a disability or not. It's quite possible one of these teenagers was disabled. It's also possible that none were disabled but they parked in a disabled spot and used a disability permit because they were going to pick up the holder of the disability permit, which would be completely legal.

      Commenter
      Judy
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 11:09AM
    • So because all the occupants were Male, teenagers, and laughing, you're qualified to make a medical diagnosis that not one of them suffered from a disability? Right..

      Commenter
      Mick
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 1:36PM
    • Apparently you cant understand a word written in this article. Im not having a go at you because of your intellectual disability, i am just "puzzled" how your investigation of three teenage youths determined they were not disabled?? I dont know, maybe you didnt actually read the article....you just needed to say something stupid.

      Commenter
      Dan
      Location
      Melton
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 5:48PM
    • I have a disabled parking permit and I must say it is a life saver. The permit is attached to me though, not my vehicle. Therefore, wherever I go the permit goes with me so a friend can drive me to a shopping centre and we can park in the disability spot to help me remain mobile.
      To give you an idea of the help these parking places provide let me fill you in on my situation. I injured my back at work 4 years ago. Three surgeries later I have what is called 'Failed Back Syndrome' which is a medical term for "we don't know what is wrong!" I can stand for up to 10 minutes, I can walk with a walking stick for about 1000m then I need to stop or I will faint as I get dizzy from the effort (I am of normal weight for my height), I can only walk at speeds of up to 2km/h at most on a treadmill (that is very very slow) and I am not getting better despite physio 4 time per week, acupuncture etc and of course the three massive operations (one to fix the problem of a ruptured disc, one to clean out the massive infection and one to remove the metalware that was housing bacteria that wouldn't die despite 20 months of antibiotics).
      Now, given the above info I can tell you it is disturbing when I am looking for a place to park and the disabled spots are all taken only to see that there is a person without a permit parking in the disabled spot. To hear of people using them without permission is simply disgraceful. Please people, have some consideration.

      Commenter
      Shaden Freudian
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 6:10PM
  • My comments from earlier in the week still stand. How can someone who apparently needs to park directly outside their place of work due to "disability", then walk to the local shopping centre and back every lunchtime (a round trip of over a kilometre) with ease and still be considered disbaled enough to require a permit? I'm seen a number of people in my workplace to whom this applies, and a co-worker, who feels a lot more passionate about te issue than I do, reported this to TAMS. To my knowledge, nothing has changed since the report.

    I am also still to have someone explain why the permit should provide a user to complete exemption from parking fees that apply to everyone else. I completely understand and agree with the need for the provision of designated disabled parking spots for genuine cases, but DON'T understand why they are exempt from charges. Particularly when they are used by disabled people for the purpose of attending fully paid jobs. It's simply inequitable. As stated previously, if someone has a significant disability which prevents them from working, then that may be a different matter.

    Commenter
    It's not right
    Date and time
    November 28, 2012, 7:57AM
    • Sometimes it's not easy to spot somebody's disability. Mate of mine was standing next to his car in a disabled carpark talking on the phone. A security guard/parking attendant looked at him, approached him to ask what his disability was. So my mate detached his artificial leg (his was amputated from knee down) and waved it in the security guard's face. The horrified guy slunked off. Personally I'd commend the security guy for his diligence.

      Commenter
      Amused
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 11:02AM
    • First world problem people! How does this affect you and your daily life? Sounds more like sour grapes about having to pay to park you car than anything else to me. Personally it doesn't effect me and nor should it given I have no idea what disability a person may have so quite rightly I don't feel the to jump to a conclusion, pass judgement and mouth off at a complete stranger who may or may not have a legitimate right to park wherever they like for free! Sad world we live in when people feel the need to take down a vulnerable minority within our community.

      Commenter
      Shane
      Location
      Belconnen
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 12:49PM
    • well, amused - i shouldn't think the security chappie had any such right as to demand to know the confidential details of a medical condition. asking for the disabled parking permit is one thing. demanding the details of the condition is entirely another. i'm not as amused as you seem to be (nothwithstanding the amputee's response).

      Commenter
      samuel coleridge
      Location
      xanadu
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 1:32PM
    • I don't think you understand for what it's like for disabled people trying to manage pain/energy levels.

      As an example: because I'm lucky enough to enjoy good health, I can plan my day in advance. I can get up and walk to the train station, leaving my car at home, because I know that nine hours later I'm still going to have enough energy to walk back again.

      But for a lot of disabled people, it's impossible to make that sort of call nine hours in advance. Some days they'll be fine, and even have enough energy to go to the shops at lunchtime. But other days, by the time five pm rolls around, they'll be exhausted or in pain, and not in any state to walk long distances.

      So what do you do? Do you park away from work and gamble that you'll still be able to walk that distance when you need to get home? Or do you take a disabled spot nearby as insurance against the times when your body isn't cooperating?

      And then there are the disabled folk who can gauge roughly how much they can manage in a day, but have to budget that energy - which is also a legitimate reason for using a disabled spot, no matter how much it offends people who've been lucky enough never to have to deal with that sort of problem.

      Commenter
      cephalopod
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 4:53PM

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