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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?
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.
You can email your completed submission to email@example.com or post it to:
Australian Disability Parking Scheme submissions (East Wing)
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:
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, 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.
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, 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.
 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.