News and opinions on disability
and inclusion

Tough talk on mobility parking

Sara Georgeson talks about the importance of mobility parking.

CCS Disability Action issued over 26,000 mobility parking permits in the last year, a significant chunk of our total population. Given the numbers it’s not surprising that abuse of mobility parking is an issue that attracts heated public debate. Regular surveys of local papers across New Zealand see frequent coverage on the subject, ranging from the views of disappointed users, frustrated by people blithely misusing these carparks, through to business owners and local body politicians calling for stricter punishments for those who abuse the system.

As a society it seems we have little sympathy for those who think that their convenience outweighs the needs of others with real access issues.

But if the bulk of the population believes that mobility parking is necessary to break down barriers to inclusion in community life that others take for granted, how do we influence the small minority of those that don’t?

We think starting at the top is the best way to address these attitudes, which is why we’re lobbying central government for legislative change that will allow a clear and consistent nationwide approach to implementing and policing mobility parking. This work is reinforced by the strong relationships our Disability Awareness and Community Development advisors have forged with local governments across the country.

Evidence clearly indicates that mobility parking signage with a clear message on who can use the parks, combined with painting the parks blue to increase their visibility, reduces their misuse. We’ve been at the forefront of calls to implement these simple steps, which are in line with international best practice standards.

We believe that these steps are very easily achievable but progress is hampered by the lack of clarity and consistency around the regulations. In fact the present legislation only applies to public, not private areas such as retail grounds.

Legislation states that vehicles can only park, stop or stand in a mobility park if the driver or a passenger is disabled and a current mobility parking permit is displayed. We believe that the rules should be extended to private areas and we’re pleased to see this view supported by the bulk of retailers and business owners surveyed in recently commissioned research.

While not bound by these rules, many retailers are doing a fantastic job of providing, monitoring and enforcing use of these carparks. With such high numbers of people effected by access issues, it’s not only a social but also an economic issue for them.

Business owners see the direct benefits to their business, one in five people in New Zealand has a disability or impairment, so this is an issue that is likely to directly effect us all at one point in our lives. We think it’s high time that local and central government worked together to support the rights of people with a disability to be able to easily access their local shops and services.

Perhaps people don’t realise the importance of mobility parking to people with reduced mobility.  It is always frustrating and disappointing to have to deal with the attitudes of a small minority of drivers who don’t respect mobility parks. Whatever the rationale, we’re keen to add our organisation’s voice into the debate and hope that our continued calls will influence those who have the ability to make these relatively simple changes. It seems like a basic issue of fairness to me.

Sara Georgeson is the Mobility Parking Permit Scheme Project Manager for CCS Disability Action.