CALL TO ACTIVISM – Many people with disabilities to be excluded from accessible parking under proposed scheme

accessibleparking

Join our Facebook group – “Against the Proposed Narrowing of Accessible Parking Permit Eligibility“!

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UPDATE 1 June 2009: Please see this new post about the current State and Territory eligibility criteria for accessible parking permits: “Harmonisation” of disabled parking schemes: What are the current State and Territory criteria?

Update 2 June 2009: Please co-sign our Open Letter to community organisations about this issue, and grab our Form Letter and send it yourself to the government feedback address (and your local MPs.)

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If you’re in Australia, we need your help! Please spread the word. Copy as much of this post as you like.

The government is proposing a national harmonisation of disabled parking schemes. Sounds great on the surface, doesn’t it? But they’re going to throw independent people with disabilities (PWD) who aren’t wheelchair or scooter users to the wolves. People who can walk without physical assistance from another person, with or without a cane, no matter how restricted their walking distance, will no longer have access to accessible parking.

Unless you intervene. Please, give your feedback to the government about this scheme, right now, and spread the word.

Harmonisation of Disability Parking Permit Schemes in Australia

You can email your completed submission to accessparking@fahcsia.gov.au or post it to:

Australian Disability Parking Scheme submissions (East Wing)
FaHCSIA
PO Box 7576
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610

Submissions must be received by 5pm AEST Friday 31 July 2009.

You can read the full discussion paper in PDF here: “Harmonisation of disability parking
permit schemes in Australia
“. Alternative versions of the discussion paper are available from the call centre in Easy English, on CD, in Braille or in another language: 1800 630 740, 1800 555 677 (TTY).


Read on to hear about how this will affect real people.

The proposed nationally consistent eligibility criteria are on page 10 of the discussions paper, and are as follows:

Permanent permit

Under the proposed scheme, you would be eligible for a permanent permit if:

* Criteria 1: You are unable to walk and always require the use of a manual wheelchair or powered mobility device, or

* Criteria 2: Your ability to walk is permanently and severely restricted and you sometimes require the use of a mobility or medical aid. This does not include a walking stick[1], shopping trolley or pram, or

* Criteria 3: You do not use a mobility or medical aid but your ability to walk is permanently restricted by a significant medical condition or disability, which sometimes requires the physical assistance of another person and limits your access to the community.

Temporary permit

Under the proposed scheme, you would be eligible for a temporary permit if:

* Criteria 1: Your ability to walk is significantly restricted on a temporary (rather than permanent) basis and you sometimes require use of a mobility or medical aid. This does not include a walking stick[1], shopping trolley or pram, or

* Criteria 2: You do not use a mobility or medical aid but your ability to walk is restricted by a significant medical condition or disability, which requires the physical assistance of another person and limits your access to the community for the temporary period.

[1] note to non-Australians: a “walking stick” is a cane, here.

Who does this exclude? Everyone who walks, with or without a cane, and who does not require the physical assistance of another person.

Every single independent person with an invisible disability.

What could this mean for me? Right now, I have a parking permit because my walking distance is severely limited, so I need proximity parking. Unless I buy a scooter – something that I’m thinking about, but haven’t yet (I’m not eligible for government assistance) – I’ll become much, much more dependent.

Could I argue that I “sometimes require physical assistance”, under the last criterion? Maybe. But “arguable” isn’t good enough. “Arguable” means people on the street will harass me if they see me getting out of the car without someone on my arm. “Arguable” means Today Tonight or A Current Affair will film me and ridicule me on national television if I go out. “Arguable” means if the next doctor can’t be bothered, I don’t get a permit. “Arguable” means that a government auditor can decide “no”.

** It is absolutely unacceptable to require PHYSICAL DEPENDENCE of people with disabilities, before they can access the community. **

This is the opposite of accessibility.

What could this mean for me?

I’ll only be able to go to my local library on a really, really good day, and I’ll have to use up all my spoons doing it. I’ll no longer be able to go shopping for clothes or shoes by myself, something I do very occasionally on a really good day. There will be medical appointments I won’t be able to go to, those in busy locations. I may not be able to accompany family members to medical procedures they require. I may not be able to visit friends in hospital.

I’ll no longer be able to take my kid to his beloved martial arts lessons; the gym carpark is always full to the back spaces at that time of day. He’ll have to quit his lessons, because my partner can’t get home from work in time to take him. Future sporting and community activities may be closed to my child if they’re inaccessible to me. Everything he does will be limited by where I can park.

I’ll no longer be able to take my kid to the bigger playgrounds on weekends or school holidays, something we enjoy occasionally. I’ll no longer be able to attend large events or functions, unless my partner comes, drops me to wait by myself at the door, and parks the car.

Future postgraduate study will be closed to me; the university will be off limits. This is all off the top of my head – there will no doubt be many other parts of my life that this will affect.

Every time I go out, there’s a strong chance I’ll have to turn around and drive right back home.

I took ages to write this, because as soon as I read those criteria, I started shaking and crying.

I go out infrequently right now, because even with accessible parking, it’s a massive chore. If this scheme comes in as written, I could become almost completely housebound. My world contracts. I’m not welcome.

These rules will disable me, and many thousands of Australians like me.

These rules will create physical dependence.

Way to go, Disability Office. “Improving the lives of Australians” by making them more dependent and limiting their opportunities to participate in community life? No thanks.

If anyone can help with drawing up a form letter, please do – but meanwhile, you can print out the feedback form and fill it in, describing these concerns with the eligibility criteria. Give them your feedback. Right now. Please. If you have the time and spoons, please attend a public information session (RSVP required) and give your feedback.

Independent people with invisible disabilities need to be able to remain independent. We need to fix this.



Categories: Miscellaneous

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27 replies

  1. Not 30 minutes ago, I used my disabled parking permit to park in the handicapped parking at Wal*Mart.(*)
    I could have parked in regular parking — if it had been available. I could have handled maybe half a dozen spots in. But I would have had to park at least 20 spots back if I didn’t use that permit. And there’s no way I’d’ve made it through that trip if I had to do that.
    I am 23 years old, slim, white, long hair, wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top and guy shorts, no mobility aid, nobody with me. Damn straight I got “looks.”
    But that’s the thing. Even I, who can go w/o disabled parking spots 90-95% of the time, NEED that permit certain times. When parking is full — including on weekends, during the holiday season, and other times. When it is cold out — significantly reduces my mobility and increases my pain tenfold — especially if you add any wind or precipitation. When I’m having a bad day. When I’m alone and can’t have my husband fetch what I need while I wait (in the car, on a bench at the front of the store, at home, whatever).
    I’d never make it to my own doctor if I didn’t have that permit.
    People just don’t understand.
    Now, you’re going to have to spend considerable $$ to buy a very expensive mobility device — which will undoubtedly help — but just to be able to go anywhere on your own? And you’d need the vehicle to accommodate it… and…
    this is not HELPING pwd, it is refusing them access to society!
    *Yeah, I know. Only place with the product I needed to relieve the pain from a whole-body immune reaction I’ve been suffering for weeks now. Welcome to my life.

  2. I will certainly write in support of the scheme being considerably expanded. This is terrible. Users of disability parking I know have had disabilities resulting in such things as extremely slow walking pace, pain caused or exacerbated by walking car park or city block distances, and upper body problems resulting in difficulty, pain and danger in entering and exiting vehicles together with difficulty or pain pushing, lifting or carrying grocery type loads.
    All of them were or are ‘independent’ in this sense of being often or always able to walk unassisted by another person or a non-cane mobility device, some of them had invisible disabilities (at least to observers in car parks), all of them had their independence considerably assisted or made possible at all by parking accommodations.

  3. We email to accessparking@fahcsia.gov.au. but I suspect writing Dear douchebags isn’t quite cutting it. Dear Disability Office, you fail epically. kthnxbai?
    I’m attempting to write a good letter (trying to point out in reasonable language that not only are they screwing over people, this will probably have a negative impact on the healthcare system, the economy and the number of people who will make it to a polling booth to vote for them). Do you want us to use your experience or would you prefer us not to?
    *Hugs* I’m sorry this sucks so much.

  4. Thanks Lauredhel. I have forwarded this link to my BIL because while their Angelmans syndrome boy does need someone to walk with him, my SIL, who is ABI after a stroke, may have a permit in her own right which she would lose.

    (too many acronyms in that comment)

  5. I think the original idea was well intentioned – i.e. let’s have some consistency across the country. Unfortunately in policy terms ‘consistency’ often means either the lowest common denominator in terms of the policies that exist in the most populous states so that states that have at times had a more progressive approach (such as Western Australia) across a broad range of disability issues are dragged back in line with the policy of one of the larger states, which may have the unintended, but still very real, effect of dis-improving the quality of services to people with disabilities.
    Actually the reform agenda under the National Disability Agreement has a few examples where this effect may occur.
    grendel’s last blog post..Friday Night Music

  6. Current eligibility criteria in Western Australia:
    To be eligible for a permit, applicants must:
    have a severe mobility impairment where walking more than 50m causes the physical condition to deteriorate; and/or
    require the use of a mobility/medical aid such as a wheelchair, crutches, walking frame or oxygen and therefore require a wide bay to transfer in/out of a vehicle.
    (Source: < href=”ACROD”=”http://www.app.org.au/pages/individuals.htm#eligible”
    grendel’s last blog post..Friday Night Music

  7. bah! bad html skills. . .

  8. This disappoints and will affect my family directly – my grandfather (a holocaust survivor) who is quite old (he won’t tell us!) can not walk long distances/for long periods because of an existing heart condition, other than that, he is fairly active for someone who I assume is probably in his late eighties, early nineties. However, I suspect he would not be covered under this because he doesn’t need a walking stick or a wheelchair. That and even if he did, he’d probably refuse to get one.
    This is absolute fucking bullshit.
    Thanks for the heads up – I’ll be letting EVERYONE I can think of know about this.

  9. Sounds similar to Illinois’ criteria. I’m not 100% certain but I’d have to ask my maman. I do know that when she first tried to get a handicapped license plate here, there was a clause stating that a person on a cane had to specifically be on a four-footed cane or else they weren’t disabled enough. How ridiculous is that?

  10. hellonhairylegs : you’re welcome to allude to my experience; and there are plenty of other people with a variety of conditions who’ll be seriously affected by this.
    I was thinking it could be useful to involve seniors’ lobbies – does anyone know if they’re onto this?

  11. I’ve also sent it to the people who run the Touching Base thingummies… they’re connected to a fair few disability networks and can probably get the word out a bit further.
    hexy’s last blog post..Call to activism: Disability parking permit criteria to change

  12. Reposted.
    If I didn’t have my husband to help me get around on the worst days I wouldn’t get out. I have that (military employed) doctor who, since no one will put on paper what they are treating me for, will not consider giving me a handicapped pass. Like amandaw, 90-95% of the time I do fine. Occasionally I can walk the ten minutes to the grocery store w/ The Kid (as long as we don’t get much and she helps me carry most of it back). I can manage short trips to take her to the bus, but it usually means that my spoons are spent for most of the day, and if I am already having a high pain day or a high fatigue day, forget it. Luckily we use mostly public trans for most things in Korea which drops me off at the door of where we are going, but when I go back to the States and have to drive myself I find that I am extremely restricted. My ability to get out on my own is severely hampered. I even refrain b/c I don’t like people honking at me when I have to walk very very slowly across a parking lot or to cross a street. This scheme is a terrible idea. It further separates people just getting by from being able to be independent.

  13. Lauredhel already knows this of course, but I’m working on a form letter for people to send directly to the people in charge of this scheme. I’ll post it to HAT when I’ve got it all nice and shiny.

  14. Please help me understand this matter from two points of view:
    1. The proposed permanent criteria #3
    How do you wish “which sometimes requires the physical assistance of another person” to be made explicit?
    I’m aware of one activist who visited his nation’s capitol under motor-wheel chair power. His Mobilize March shows both the absence of institutional support from his government and his independence via a battery-powered chair. But that independence was furnished through community support. Alone, it doesn’t seem possible (hence fund raising, etc.). Grendel’s reply #6 mentions a 50m test criteria. Would you like a distance requirement to be established? Why? (And if yes, then how should it be set?)
    Reading your stories, and knowing about that one adventurous battery-powered chair user, I’m inclined to believe people such as berryblade’s grandfather (with or without the support of a shopping trolley/pram) need closer access than someone who has the assisted means to travel a greater distance. Perhaps there ought to be two distance ranges to aid persons who need: (1) proximity, or (2) priority but not necessarily optimal proximity.
    2. ” ‘consistency’ often means […] the lowest common denominator” (Grendel post #5)
    I feel any national program should raise the bar, not lower it, when it comes to helping citizens. Is there currently a lowest common denominator below which provinces may not fall? Or is this initiative going to set one for the first time?

  15. How do you wish “which sometimes requires the physical assistance of another person” to be made explicit?

    I don’t want it to be made explicit, I want it to not be a requirement at all. I’m not sure how I can make that any clearer that it already is.
    I don’t know what your wheelchair-user anecdote is getting at, sorry.
    There will be another post detailing the current State and Territory criteria. Soon.

  16. I’m inclined to believe people such as berryblade’s grandfather (with or without the support of a shopping trolley/pram) need closer access than someone who has the assisted means to travel a greater distance.
    This ignores the incredible variation in disability. You can’t shunt us off into just two or three categories of ability. It’s not that easy. Some people have more mobility than others — the fact that they have assistance doesn’t mean they automatically can go farther than those w/o assistance. Everybody’s body/mind is different. Without understanding that, a person really cannot have the framework necessary to approach disability.

  17. There’s a giant elephant in the room, here.
    And that is: anyone who goes on the record, real-name, as being potentially a borderline case under the proposed new scheme has to fear being singled out for rejection when they do apply, if the scheme gets up. “You yourself assessed yourself as being of borderline eligibility – off you go, no permit for you!”
    This is a fabulous way to suppress dissent, isn’t it? We HAVE to rely on the activism and testimony of able-bodied people and/or of people who are inarguably eligible under the proposed criteria (eg wheelchair users), or we risk our own community access and independence permanently by speaking out. This is why we need your help. It’s not just a matter of sheer numbers; it’s a matter of you being the people with nothing to lose, nothing to fear.

  18. With you on this one, Lauredhel. *hug* I’ll do some letter-writing and put the word out on my journal.

  19. Oh fucking fuck. I was just blogging about disability stickers and invisibility the other day (here).

  20. I just want to make sure that I have understood this – for temporary access criteria 2, if you don’t need someone physically supporting you all the time, you aren’t eligible?
    I can’t understand why they think this is a good thing to do. I wonder how many people with disabilities and reduced mobility they actually consulted before putting this scheme together.
    I am very happy to send in a submission and put my name to it. I just want to make sure that I get the words right, so that I say what needs to be said. Any help most appreciated.

  21. Reading the proposed eligibility criteria it would actually only require some slight changes to the wording to open the criteria up to catch all who may need to use a permit.
    Permanent permit
    Under the proposed scheme, you would be eligible for a permanent permit if:
    * Criteria 1: You are unable to walk and always require the use of a manual wheelchair or powered mobility device, or
    * Criteria 2: Your ability to walk is permanently and severely restricted and you sometimes require the use of a mobility or medical aid. This does not include a walking stick[1], shopping trolley or pram, or
    * Criteria 3: You do not use a mobility or medical aid but your ability to walk is permanently restricted by a significant medical condition or disability, which sometimes requires the physical assistance of another person and limits your access to the community.
    Temporary permit
    Under the proposed scheme, you would be eligible for a temporary permit if:
    * Criteria 1: Your ability to walk is significantly restricted on a temporary (rather than permanent) basis and you sometimes require use of a mobility or medical aid. This does not include a walking stick[1], shopping trolley or pram, or
    * Criteria 2: You do not use a mobility or medical aid but your ability to walk is restricted by a significant medical condition or disability which requires the physical assistance of another person and limits your access to the community for the temporary period.
    grendel’s last blog post..The Bees of June

  22. Doh! told you I am no good at html!
    If a kind and gentle editor can close my tag in permanent criteria 2. . .
    (after severely)
    grendel’s last blog post..The Bees of June

  23. Update 2 June 2009: Please co-sign our Open Letter to community organisations about this issue, and grab our Form Letter and send it yourself to the government feedback address (and your local MPs.)

  24. Post amended to add a new logo, and Join our Facebook group – “Against the Proposed Narrowing of Accessible Parking Permit Eligibility”!

  25. http://www.smh.com.au/national/fresh-rules-likely-for-disability-parking-permits-20090611-c502.html
    SMH has an article in today’s paper but completely misses the point. Got to love how the only people quoted are Bill Shorten and his Opposition counterpart Mitch Fifield. Heaven forbid actual journalism occurs where they ask people with disability what they think of the proposed scheme instead of just publishing political sound bytes.

  26. curiousities: Thanks for the link. I find that article to be rather sterling news reporting, as news reporting goes – it actually gets the facts pretty much right! (Yes, there’s a low bar, a low low bar.) And the tiny opposition soundbite identifies the main problem fairly precisely, if in terms that don’t recognise the more complicated issues about medical model/social model.
    Wonder how the public reaction will go after this article makes it clear that people who use walking sticks (or no device) won’t necessarily qualify? Now might be a good time for Letters to the Editor, folks. Speak up while the iron is hot.

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