What would you do if you were prevented from being able to access the bank, post office, your child’s school, your workplace or even a public toilet? Then imagine it happening at least a few times a week.
This happens to me regularly because I am disabled. The problem is parking and the use of disability parking spaces by people who do not have a disability permit. And for me, the worst offenders are parents at schools and sporting clubs.
It is a battleground like no other. On one side you have a person with a disability who has been assessed as having a medical condition that severely restricts their mobility. On the other side you have an entitled or ignorant able-bodied person, who can often be aggressive.
There is no public space or private property in Australia that is immune to mobile people who steal the designated car parking spaces for disabled people. With today marking International Day of People with a Disability, I feel it is time I speak out.
When I lost my leg over five years ago, I knew that some people abused the system. I even had friends admit that they had used their elderly parent’s permit so that they could duck in and out of the shops as quickly as possible.
What I did not expect was the extent of the problem. It is a socially acceptable practice in many circles. I have lost count of the times I have watched a mother pull into a disability parking space and sit there, on her phone, flicking through Facebook while waiting for her child to arrive at her self-designated priority parking space. In the meantime, I am stuck in my car waiting for her to move.
I was also completely unprepared for the level of abuse I have received when I politely inform people that they are parking illegally.
Unbelievably, I have been told many times, “You don’t look disabled enough to have that space.”
“Bugger off and mind your own business,” said a big, burly tradesman when I explained that people like me needed those spaces. I showed him my leg was amputated above the knee and it was difficult at that time to walk at all. He told me I was a “sook” and I “should call the police”. I did call the police, in tears. It was humiliating.
Earlier this year, I poked my head into a business asking if anyone owned the car in the disability bay without a permit. The business owner said it was hers and that she was busy with clients and I should instead “park on the footpath”.
But nothing compares to the blatant abuse by parents at schools and sporting clubs who use these much needed parking spaces as a drop off or pick up zone. Walking an extra 20 metres to cricket or rugby training is too much for their little darling. They seem to much prefer a disabled parent or their disabled child struggle or just wait.