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A spot of bother

Opinion

A spot of bother

Non-eligible drivers taking up disability parking spots is a problem for those who need them, but Jane Stephens thinks she has a solution.

There are few lower acts than parking in spots reserved for those with disabilities, and even though I don’t generally like conflict, the community policing of the spaces makes my heart swell a little. It was a situation I observed last week at Kawana.

Like seagulls on a chip, one, then two able-bodied people jumped in and raised their voices in defence of the disability space. It was not pretty. The would-be parker reversed out and slunk off, rightly cowed and henpecked. The defenders of the space did little fist pumps.

Disability spaces are necessary because without them, people with mobility problems would be excluded from libraries, sports grounds, educational institutions and community spaces, and denying them access violates anti-discrimination legislation.

Under Queensland law, a driver who slots into a designated spot without a permit can be slugged with a $533 fine.

The permits are hard to get: applicants pay $18.65 to the Australian Disability Parking Scheme with a satchel of paperwork, and only some are successful in getting their hands on the purple prize.

A person must be deemed by a medico to always need a wheelchair; or have their ability to walk severely restricted by a permanent medical condition; or be severely visually impaired; or to have their ability to walk severely restricted by a temporary condition they will have for six months or more. The permits are for mobility issues, and apparently our population’s mobility is so poor that the number of people who now qualify for permits is outstripping available spots.

Advocates say the abuse of disability parks is increasing and I have a solution to the shortage of spaces: give the ‘parents with prams’ spots to those with disabilities and take the seniors’ ones as well.

The seniors who really need a special park would qualify for the disability permit anyway and even when my three kids were little, I did not understand why parents had special parks.

Parks for parents and seniors are a courtesy, not a legal requirement.

Disability parks are needed for people to give them equal access to facilities and include them in the community. Parents and oldies should step back for those who can’t step out at all.

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Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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