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Great ways to abuse mobility parking, and why you shouldn’t7 min read

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You’re late coming home, but you know there’s nothing for dinner.

The supermarket car park is pretty full but, thankfully, there’s a lovely big space free – and right next to the entrance! You ignore the mobility parking sign – after all – you’ll only be a minute, and what are the chances a disabled person will actually need it?

Abuse of mobility parking is common in New Zealand. In fact, research conducted here at CCS Disability Action suggests that nearly one-third of users of these designated spaces don’t have a permit to do so legally.

We put together this how-to guide so non-disabled people who haven’t paid for a legal permit, and have no moral code, can make the most of these handy parking options. Here you’ll learn ways to avoid getting caught, useful excuses and how to react if you’re challenged.

You’ll also gain an understanding of why you shouldn’t do any of this. Ever.

Mobility parking offences in New Zealand have remained at a constant rate over recent years.Mobility parking offences like this are far too common in New Zealand.

1. Where to look

If it’s only the fear of getting caught that stops you using mobility parks, then you need to realise that avoiding parking enforcement officers isn’t that hard. These guys could slap you with a $150 fine if you park in a mobility space without a permit, but they have to catch you first. A fine does not seem to be much of a deterrent, however, as the average number of people fined per day in Auckland for parking in mobility spots remained the same in 2015, 2016 and 2017, according to Stuff.

Private carparks, such as those attached to supermarkets and shopping malls, give you a much better chance to get away with illegal parking. Enforcement of mobility parking on private land is voluntary, and so it’s up to the owner. Even on public land, depending when you park and where in New Zealand you live, you might still be able to pull it off. Parking patrols only occur during business hours, and there’s no standardization across the country.

This is supported by our own research which found that only 3 per cent of those occupying a mobility parking space without a valid permit had been ticketed, and that levels of parking misuse haven’t improved in over a decade.

At CCS Disability Action, we’re making it harder to abuse mobility parking using a simple app.

Something needs to change. The government can put fines as high as they like, but the lack of appetite for enforcement means that in many instances they may as well not exist. Without this, and nation-wide regularity for punishing offenders, the problems will persist.

You do, however, have to watch out for those supermarkets that are now naming and shaming mobility park offenders. Some will even read out your licence plate over the intercom, and ask you to move. But if you’ve got the hide of a rhinoceros, and absolutely no concern for your fellow Kiwis, no problem!

And sorry to say that here at CCS Disability Action, we’re starting to make it as hard as possible for you to get away with mobility parking abuse through our Access Aware app. This allows users to report illegal activity in real time. So in reality, although it might look easy to abuse mobility parking, break the law and mess up disabled peoples’ days, soon there will be nowhere to hide. (Check out point four for more info).

Mobility parking permits show who is allowed to park in designated car parks.Mobility parking is vital for allowing people to live their lives with ease.

2. Excuses too good not to use

And then there are the do-gooders. Those pesky New Zealanders who do recognise right from wrong, and tend to defend the rights of permit holders to use the parking spots they paid for. If they come along, here are some classic excuses to have up your sleeve:

  • “I’ll just be a minute” – Surely no one is that desperate to get food, or medicine, or get to an appointment, or live their lives that they can’t wait for you to grab a pie and an energy drink – after all, you’ve had a long day too.
  • “It’s a quiet time of day” – You’re trying to be considerate so you’ve chosen a less busy time to park illegally. Don’t be put off by the idea that those who have mobility issues might also prefer to shop when crowds are smaller.
  • “Only in an emergency” – The uncomfortable fact is that, even in an emergency, there are still other people on this planet. People who might also be experiencing emergency situations of their own, and people who are likely a lot less mobile than you are.

The serious takeaway here is that a severe lack of knowledge and understanding exists regarding the importance of mobility parking for those who actually need it. In general, Kiwis do follow the Road Code, but when it comes to mobility parking, we seem to lack any kind of moral code.

Our survey found that one in five New Zealanders could think of a scenario where it’s okay for them to park in a mobility spot. One in five! They fail to realise that those with permits pay for the right to use mobility parks and have to pass a strict process of medical approval, and that mobility parking exists because people depend on it to live their lives. It’s as simple as that.

Without mobility parking in New Zealand disabled people would struggle to access community facilities. Without mobility parking, disabled people would find it difficult to access community facilities, and go out to social events.

3. How (not) to react if you’re challenged

Even if you’ve been clever and avoided parking enforcement patrols, ignored calls to move your vehicle over supermarket PA systems and not been caught by Access Aware users, there’s always a chance that a snarky member of the public might have something to say.

If they’re clearly disabled, now’s your chance to try out one of the above excuses, but all too often people with mobility parking permits don’t even look impaired. Surely it’s acceptable to challenge this?

Wrong.

A simple Google search will show just how often disabled people are abused, sometimes physically, for exercising their right to use mobility parking places in New Zealand.

A recent high profile case in Auckland has seen a lady with spinal injuries forced to argue her case with hotel employees after a VIP car parked in the mobility spot, and a second was cordoned off. Similarly, a ‘shaming’ note was left on the car windscreen of a family in Christchurch who’s 9-year-old son lives with cerebral palsy, but who doesn’t appear disabled to the untrained eye.

4. Reporting mobility parking abuse

These are just two of many examples which highlight the severity of the problems surrounding mobility parking in New Zealand. It goes far beyond mere inconvenience -using a mobility parking spot, even for ‘just a minute’, blocks a disabled person’s opportunity to live life freely.

Issues surrounding mobility parking in New Zealand are more serious than simply causing inconvenience.

CCS Disability Action was integral in the campaign that saw the increase of fines from $40 to $150 in 2009, but the lack of enforcement means that this isn’t enough. In addition, conflict between two legal standards, the Building Code, and the Access Standard 4121:2001 means there are grey areas surrounding the number of mobility car parks that must be provided. To fully supply the necessary mobility parking, clarification and enforcement is needed.

Continuing our work in this area we’ve partnered with ThunderMaps to create the Access Aware App. This is the app mentioned earlier which enables you to report cars without permits that are parked in mobility spots in real time to enforcement officers. It also allows you to discover marked mobility park locations to help find the nearest one to you.

Access Aware has been successfully trialled in Wellington and Christchurch, but can be downloaded and used throughout New Zealand to find parking spots and inform government decisions on mobility parking. For more information on the Access Aware App, or the issue of mobility parking in general, the team at CCS Disability Action is here to help.

Our Access Aware App enables the public to report parking abuse in real time.Our Access Aware app has picked up many instances of mobility parking abuse such as this.

5. What does this all mean?

The message is simple – there is NEVER an excuse to park in a mobility park without a valid permit. By doing so you rob a disabled person of their paid right to access shops, doctors, workplaces and community. New Zealand has one of the highest incidences of mobility parking abuse in the world – surely that’s not what we’re about as a culture? We’re supposed to be about giving everyone a fair go.

It’s time for New Zealanders to wake up to this behaviour, and the damage it does, and to stamp it out once and for all. Download Access Aware today and help support disabled people to live their lives freely.