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The discussion paper entitled “Harmonisation of disability parking permit schemes in Australia”, recently released by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, has already come up for a fairly thorough take-down in Lauredhel’s previous post.
In some discussion with various people with disabilities from different states who currently held a permit, or had in the past, I began to wonder how the alleged ‘harmonisation’ of state-based schemes into a national one was taking place: was it simply a matter of selecting the most narrow existing scheme and applying it nation-wide, as the cynical part of me wondered. As it turns out, none of the existing schemes administered by the various states had eligibility criteria as narrow as the proposed scheme. My inner cynic, apparently, is not yet cynical enough.
Please compare the proposed new criteria to the eligibility criteria on existing schemes, excerpted below. It’s also worth noting that all states offer reciprocal recognition of other states’ permits (and some overseas permits), so while there are some small benefits to the idea of ‘harmonisation’, they mostly have to do with PWD (People With Disabilities) retaining access to permits if they move states, and the convenience of those administering the schemes.
These existing schemes usually have some kind of distance measure, which says something like ‘person’s impairment would be unduly affected by walking 50m/100m.’ When you compare the “harmonisation” proposal with that, something becomes clear: what they’re doing is mandating what kind of impairment you have, rather than assessing the effect of the combination of the impairment and the disabling context of distant or inaccessible parking. We’re moving away from an acknowledgement of the way that parking requirements can be disabling for particular people, whatever their type of impairment, and at reducing that disability by accommodations. We’re moving towards configuring particular people as ‘deserving’ based on an assessment of the type of their impairment or their dependency.
One of the major problems here is that it requires PWD to provide evidence of dependency. You have to prove that if you push yourself too hard, if you work beyond your known limits and ‘act’ like an able-bodied person, not only that you can’t do it but that you will need physical help from another person to walk. It makes dependence, again, the supposed essence of disability, and it attributes this to the individual, rather that seeing it as occurring at the intersection of ‘normal’ parking and impairment.
This new scheme would effectively shift us from regulations which deploy the social model of disability (by assessing the extent to which one is disabled by walking a distance which is involved in ‘normal’ parking) to regulations which deploy the medical model (by requiring that one’s impairment hit a certain physical standard, namely an inability to walk (at least sometimes) and a particular level of dependence). That shift is quite important for a couple of reasons, and it’s why I wouldn’t want anyone arguing that we can keep the proposed regs so long as they’re ‘generously’ interpreted. (And it’s worth noting that a ‘generous’ interpretation seems unlikely given the government’s agenda, outlined in their Q&A, which is to decrease the number of permit holders.)
First, the new regulation would focus on the individual as having the problem, rather than the way that we’ve set up parking. In other words, the shift from the social model to the medical model, which exonerates TAB and the exclusiveness of the world they’ve built.
Second, the more legislation that passes which involves a social model – namely the acknowledgement that we built the world in such a way as to disable those whose bodies don’t match a random standard – the more this way of thinking about disability actually has a chance. To wind back a system which is currently shaped by the social model of disability is a major problem in terms of the precedent it sets.
The other thing to keep in mind, of course, is that current regulations don’t have the same level of ‘questionable’ness or ‘arguable’ness, precisely because they test for how one is disabled by inaccessible parking, not for how dependent/unable to walk one is. In that respect, I think it’s pretty telling that we’re shifting to something ‘questionable’. Premising accessibility on how well one can argue the point privileges, of course, white, middle-class, educated people, without cognitive disabilities and with energy to spare, who tend to do better in the ‘persuasive’ stakes. And ‘questionable’ also places the decision-making power back into the hands of procedural institutions, shaped by the drive to ‘reduce numbers of permits’, who are unlikely to understand the social model, disability, or most importantly of all the extraordinary variation of impairments that term contains.
Here are the proposed and current eligibility criteria for accessible parking permits in Australia.
Proposed new requirements [Emphases are ours.]
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.
Temporary permits will be issued for a minimum of six months and a maximum of 12 months.
Current State-by-Territory requirements.
NSW: (taken from Mobility Parking Scheme Application (Individuals) form avail. from RTA)
Perm: anyone with a disability which will last longer than 6 months.
Temp: Temp. permits are available for persons disabled for a period of up to 6 months
QLD: (taken from the Disability Parking Permit Scheme Application form, avail. from Qld Transport)
The applicant must:
* be unable to walk unaided or requires a wide parking bay to exit and enter their vehicle, and has total dependence on a wheelchair or on a large mobility device (for example, a walking frame). Note: This does not include splints, crutches or walking sticks.
* be a Queensland resident over three years of age.
To be eligible for a red permit, the applicant must satisfy both of the following conditions.
* The applicant’s ability to walk must be severely impaired as a result of permanent or temporary loss of the use of one or both legs, or whose physical condition is detrimentally affected as a result of walking 100 metres
* The applicant must be a Queensland resident over three years of age.
Temporary mobility impairment is defined as being a period of 12 months or more.
NT: All schemes are council-based. This example is taken from the Application for a Parking Permit for Disabled Persons with a Mobility Limitation as administered by Darwin City Council) However, this is “at the discretion of the council.” Not exactly a win for transparency.
Victoria: (taken from DCA Application Form from City of Melbourne)
(a) A person may hold only one disabled persons’ parking permit and be eligible for it: if a medical practitioner indicates that he/she has significant ambulatory disability such that he/she is required to use a complex walking aid* that prevents access to a vehicle in a standard size parking bay, or he/she cannot access a vehicle in a standard sized parking bay
(Code A or B)
* A complex walking aid is defined as an aid which has more than one contact point with the ground
if a medical practitioner indicates that he/she suffers from a condition which is critical or dangerous to their health, which may be either chronic or acute, and affects the applicant’s ambulatory ability to such an extent that walking distances is injurious (as opposed to inconvenient) (Code A or B)
A significant permanent ambulatory disability is a disability that is not likely to improve in the person’s lifespan (Code A or B)
A significant long-term ambulatory disability that is not likely to improve within six months (Code D);
if a specialist medical practitioner or a clinical psychologist indicates that he/she has a significant intellectual disability such that he/she is an extreme danger to himself/herself and others in a public place without the continuous attendance by a caregiver (Code B)
A person may hold only one disabled persons’ parking permit and be eligible for it: if a medical practitioner indicates that he/she has significant ambulatory disability or severe illness which does not affect their ability to walk distances but will require rest breaks when continuous walking is undertaken (Code A, B or D)
SA: (taken from the transportSA website)
(a) whose ability to use public transport is significantly impeded by the impairment, and
(b) whose speed of movement is severely restricted because of the impairment.
A Temporary Disabled Person’s Parking Permit may be issued to a person whose disability is likely to last for more than 6 months but is not permanent.
From the SA application for a disabled person’s parking permit:
“The following information is required in order to determine if the applicant meets the criteria (set out in the Motor Vehicles Act) by which a person with a disability may apply for a disabled person’s parking permit. The Motor Vehicles Act states ‘persons with a temporary or permanent physical disability a) whose speed of movement is severely restricted by the impairment; and b) whose ability to use public transport is significantly impeded by the impairment may apply to the Registrar for a disabled person’s parking permit. A temporary physical impairment is a physical impairment that, in the opinion of the Registrar, is likely to endure for more than six months but is not likely to be permanent.'”
ACT: (from Dept. of Territory and Municipal Services ACT Mobility Parking Scheme website)
* Be unable to walk and/or have pain or difficulty in walking 100 metres;
* Require the use of crutches, a walking frame, callipers, a scooter, a wheelchair or other mobility aid; or
* Be blind.
Types of MPS Permits
There are three categories of MPS permits available:
* Temporary permits require certification from a medical practitioner and automatically expire after the set period, which can be 3, 6, 9 or 12 months;
* Long term permits are issued if a condition may change and require medical certification every 3 years; and
* Permanent permits are issued where the person’s condition is permanent, and only requires an initial medical certification.
Permanent: Transport Access Scheme as administered by Dept. Infrastructure, Energy and Resources Passenger Transport Division (PT012-IGL)
Temporary parking permits are available on application from some local Councils (see above for an example).
Please tick the section/s below that apply to the applicant; complete the relevant section/s including the diagnosis; and sign the declaration at the back of this form. If the applicant has a permanent disability which affects their mobility and is not included in the categories listed below, a separate report can be attached indicating the diagnosis and expected duration of the disability. The degree to which the applicant’s mobility is affected, ie wheelchair reliance etc should also be indicated.
Section A Permanent and severe loss of spinal function
Section B Permanent and severe loss of function in lower limbs
Section C Permanent and severe loss of function in upper limbs
Section D Permanent and severe loss of cardiac or respiratory function
Section E Permanent and severe visual impairment
Section F Permanent and severe intellectual/neurological impairment
Section G Permanent and severe psychiatric impairment
Other Other impairment as indicated in attached report
“Does the applicant have a reduction in personal mobility whereby he/she cannot manage steps or uneven ground without the use of a complex walking aid (a complex walking aid does not refer to a walking or quad stick) or cannot walk a distance of 50 metres without having to rest due to pain? Yes/No” is the question asked for section A & B & D.
“Does the applicant have a reduction in personal mobility whereby he/she frequently needs assistance in travelling from home to their destination? Yes/No ” is the question asked for section C& E & F & G
“Is the applicant totally dependent on others for mobility” is the question asked for all sections.
Short term parking permit scheme from Hobart City Council (as an example for the temporary arrangements offered by other Tasmanian cities) :
* Unable to walk or;
*Able only to walk very short distances without the assistance of another person, or the use of complex walking aids. (ie up to 50 metres within 5 minutes)
People whose sole disability is intellectual or vision related will not be eligible for a permit.
The short term permit is only available where the applicant will be disabled for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of application, or 3 months where the applicant is reliant on a wheelchair.
WA: (taken from ACROD Parking Program WA)
* 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.
A two-year renewable permit may be issued if the mobility restrictions will:
* remain the same; or
A temporary permit may be issued for minimum 3 months to a maximum 23 month period if:
* the physical restrictions will improve;
* future surgery is planned to alleviate or improve the mobility problem; or
* it is too early to predict if the mobility restriction is permanent.
Categories: Politics, social justice
hexy’s last blog post.."I do not believe that standing up for the rights of a sister to speak without being attacked, is an attack"
An excellent analysis. I’m having trouble coming up with a response to the wrongheadedness of the whole idea of dependency being proposed as the measure of one’s disability.
I don’t know how a walking stick is not a mobility aid, either. Perhaps it’s not medical-enough-looking or something. Or it’s thought anyone could just pick up a stick and pretend to be disabled!
I wonder if my TENS counts as a mobility device. Because there are certain places I cannot go without it. But it has zero contact points with the ground. :p
If you’re claiming your TENS, amandaw, I might claim my iPod. It distracts me from the pain.
lol. No way I could handle public transportation without something-with-visible-earphones.
I mean, I have all kinds of mobility aids: the TENS; my shoes; the comfortable clothing I wear; my medication; the sleep I got last night. It’s just that, with a few exceptions, you don’t *see* those things. You just see a “healthy” person (maybe with wires hanging out back of her jeans to her pocket).
I love WP’s perspective on it — and rejoiced inside when I saw her comment on Feministe to the same extent — that we have fought so hard for policy based in the social model of disability; to roll that back to a medical model is a huge step back. It defines disability as deviance from an accepted norm — rather than the conflict resulting from how society sets itself up centered around the needs of the dominant group.
The social model recognizes that my access to society is restricted when there are no seats available on the T because everyone automatically fills them up. The medical model says: “Well, you have an objective ability to stand there for the twenty minutes” and ignores the consequences I suffer for weeks afterward. It defines disability as my particular, individual, immediate condition: not as the restrictions of the environment around me.
Aww, thanks, you lot 🙂 Most of my work against ableism has been less practically oriented, so I appreciate the opportunity to get a bit more concrete, though of course I wish the public service were not so awful and stupid and retrograde as to give it to me.
That Feministe thread has made me sigh a lot, Amandaw, but your responses have been great. I sighed right alongside your most recent comment… and wanted to respond, again, but to be honest, I can’t work out how to respond now without affirming the derail further, or coming in over the top of others with TAB privilege. Maybe inspiration will strike post-coffee…
Oh, Maude. Michael Small, a senior policy officer with the Disability Rights Unit of the Australian Human Rights Commission has today posted to the pdca mailing list talking about how the scheme will provide “improved rules”.
I’m guessing he didn’t consult with people with invisible disabilities before dropping that. (And yes, he’s been informed of the gap in his knowledge.)
Thank you for this! I had wondered the same thing about what the different criteria was in different states but gave up fairly early on. I included a fair bit of info/analysis from your post in my email to politicians. Well done.