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Further to Beppie’s form letter for you to send to government, Wildly Parenthetical and I have been collaborating on a letter to send to community organisations who deal with disability or disability-related issues, to encourage them to speak up and give feedback about the proposed new disabled parking rules.
For background on this issue, please see previous posts:
We’re publishing the letter here so that you can co-sign it, or send it yourself to your local and State organisations. Place here details, links, etc of an organisation you think should be added to our initial mailout. If you’d like to be co-signed on the group letter we’re sending out, please comment with the details you’d like to sign on with, or email to WP (wildly.parenthetical at gmail.com). We’ll give you, say, a couple of days for that? Please make it clear whether you’re sending to the org you nominate in-thread, or you’d like us to.
If you do send your own letter, adjust it as you like. We ask that you place a comment here saying exactly who you’ve sent it to, to save duplication; we don’t want to inundate people.
Dear Sir/Madam/Community Organiser’s Name,
RE: Proposed Disability Parking Permit Scheme to Negatively Affect Many Australians with Disabilities
We would like to draw your attention to the recent release of a discussion paper for the “Harmonisation of Disability Parking Permit Schemes in Australia”, which proposes a new national scheme for accessible parking for people with disabilties. The scheme is allegedly designed to harmonise the various state- and territory-based schemes currently in place. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is currently seeking responses to its proposed scheme, and we encourage you to submit a response.
The suggested criteria under the new scheme are substantially narrower than all of the current schemes, demonstrating that this is less a ‘harmonisation’ than an attempt to dramatically reduce the numbers of permit holders. These criteria for a permanent permit are as follows (and form the basis for the temporary permit criteria, which are detailed in the appendix):
* 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 these proposed criteria, a large number of people with disabilities who currently use accessible parking would no longer be able to access it. This would unfairly limit access to the community for a large proportion of those living with disabilities. Some examples include:
- those who walk with a cane, or need the assistance of a shopping trolley or pram, but do not require the physical assistance of another person;
- those who can only walk short distances due to heart or lung disorders, painful chronic conditions or injuries, autoimmune diseases, severe chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or other impairments to daily energy capacities, but do not require the physical assistance of another person;
- those who have other invisible disabilities, including severe mental illnesses, who can walk and do not require the physical assistance of another person, but variously otherwise negatively affected by regular, inaccessible or distant parking.
The new eligibility criteria are based on an assessment of the individual’s impairment, and specifically require mobility dependency. This lies in contrast to the majority of existing schemes which are designed to minimise the disabling effect that exclusion from accessible parking would have on the individual with the impairment. As such, the proposed scheme is dramatically less responsive to the variety of forms of impairments which can result in individuals being disabled by the walking distances involved in regular parking. See the attached appendix for details of current schemes, for comparison.
People with disabilities deserve, as much as they are able, to independently access workplaces, shops, educational institutions, healthcare and hospitals, events and functions, leisure activities such as cinemas and restaurants, and community gatherings. This so-called “harmonisation” scheme puts many Australians at risk of further social and political isolation, and puts their ability to care for themselves and their families at risk. Accessible parking is a necessity, not a convenience, for the activities of daily living.
Further, these criteria would seem to be responding to the public misperception that only those with visible mobility impairments require, or ought to have access to disabled parking spaces. Thus they function to entrench as legislative the existing social discrimination experienced by those who have ‘invisible’ disabilities.
This scheme will disable a large proportion of Australians living with impairments, if it becomes law. We would urge you not only to consider submitting a response to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, but to further participate in publicising this problematic attempt to narrow access to the disability parking permit scheme via your networks, newsletters and email lists.