real life

'I was asked to prove I was disabled.' Rhiannon was given two tickets for parking in front of her home.

When Rhiannon Tracey found a parking ticket on her car on a Saturday morning, it didn't come as any surprise.

With no disabled parking on her street, Rhiannon, a quadriplegic woman from Geelong, Victoria, had no other option but to park in the no standing zone at her front door during a local AFL match.

"I was very very frustrated," the 32-year-old told Mamamia about the moment she saw the ticket.

"Every Saturday there's a game on [at Kardinia Park], the game attendees park in the surrounding neighbourhoods. And by the time I get home from work there's no cars spots anywhere... So the safest bet for me is to park in the no-standing zone so that I can access the ramp in front of my front door." 

For Rhiannon parking where she needs to, is not a matter of convenience but a matter of safety.

"I don't really have much choice when this happens."

Watch: Mamamia has a cup of tea with disability advocate, Stella Young. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia. 

Unfortunately, it's not the first time she's received a ticket for trying to access her own home on match days. 

In just over the past month, Rhiannon has received two parking fines. The first of which she contested and was told she would have to "prove" she was disabled.

"It's not just the fact that I've been given a parking ticket, but the first parking ticket I was given, I contested and I was asked to prove that I was disabled even though my disabled permit was on my windscreen. So I was asked to provide medical evidence that I was disabled, even though you need to have that to even qualify for a disabled permit."

"I went to my doctor and asked her for a doctor's report and she was just like, 'Are you kidding me? I cannot believe that you're going to provide this. This is an absolute joke'."

The same day she got her second ticket, she also attended an event that offered no disabled parking. It proved once again that "there's obviously an access and inclusion issue within our community". 

Fed up, Rhiannon, who works as motivational speaker and diversity advocate, shared a photo of her ticket with her 2,500 Instagram followers.


"Access to one's home is a human right... this is beyond a joke and incredibly unfair not to mention discrimination," she wrote in the caption. 

"If getting refused access to restaurants, events and public places due to lack of access wasn’t enough, we are now getting refused access to our own homes! Enough is enough."

After sharing the post, she received an overwhelming amount of support.

"It's opened up a lot of conversations, I've been contacted by people as far as Ireland and it's definitely caused an uproar within my own community, because everybody just cannot believe that this is even an issue."

Unfortunately, it's just one of the issues, that Rhiannon, who became a quadriplegic after a pool accident 12 years ago, regularly experiences. 

In fact, she says she come across at least three to five access issues a day. 

"We get refused entry into places because there're stairs, so we're not included. And it actually does make us feel worse, it makes us actually feel more disabled. Because we aren't being seen and we aren't being heard the majority of the time."

"And I think in the last couple of years, we've had so many different movements, which have been amazing. However, disability has still remained invisible."

Which is why Rhiannon wants to see some changes. 


In her community for instance, she told her local council, "It's as simple as just putting a few disabled spots in every street."

"Yeah sure, people will probably still park in them. But just to feel that inclusion would make our lives much better."

Unfortunately, a recent council meeting last week yielded no outcome. And Rhiannon was told she had to prove parking in the no-standing zone was an emergency situation. 

"All I kept hearing was, 'it's the law, it's the law, it's the law', and I would respond, 'Okay then we need to change the law'... these laws are being introduced because of able-bodied people, so where do we go to change this?"

In the meantime, there are things we can do to create change outside of council chambers, and it involves all of us being more mindful and showing disability etiquette.

"As someone who wasn't born with a disability, I do understand, to an extent, the ignorance around disability etiquette. And I guess for me, that's why I use my voice so that I can actually educate these people, and help them have a better understanding of, you know, disability access and inclusion as a whole."

Rhiannon says it's not just about asking questions but having conversations, something she's spent the last 10 years doing in schools, when she's not busy with her recovery centre, The Next Step. 

"Let's talk disability. We are still people, we still do people things. We still drive cars, we still travel, we still have sex, we do all the things."

"So why aren't we treating people like everyone else."

Feature Image: [email protected]/Mamamia. 

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