One thing that really pisses me off is people who misuse disabled parking permits. In my view, able-bodied people who exploit the few meagre, yet essential, benefits available to those with disabilities are cheats who should be prosecuted.
Cars with disabled parking stickers can park in dedicated disabled parking spots and are allowed to park in timed parking zones all day. Without these arrangements, people with disabilities and carers, who have cars, are significantly disadvantaged when it comes to finding parking for everyday things like work, shopping or keeping appointments. My mother was disabled, blind and in a wheel chair, and she had a disabled parking permit. When I drove her to the shops or the doctors we used the disabled parking permit, but still often found it hard to find a parking spot. When I wasn’t driving my mother, the disabled parking permit always stayed in the glove box.
Today, I had a meeting in Sydney’s CBD. At about 9.30am, I walked from the train station to the meeting venue, down a street lined with cars parked in a one hour metered zone. Most of the cars were expensive models and over two third displayed disabled parking permits. I have no doubt some of these cars belonged to people who are entitled to a permit and who were in the city for work or some other reason. But I am equally sure not all!
As I walked along, a new Audi sports car with a disabled parking sticker pulled in and a fit young man in a stylish brown suit bounded out of the car. “Hey mate,” I called out, pointing to his windscreen. “You’ve got a disabled parking sticker.”
“My wife is disabled. I am picking her up,” he replied and started walking away.
I said nothing and was willing to give the Audi driver the benefit of the doubt; maybe he was on his way to pick up a disabled wife, even though none of the major shops were open by then and there are no medical services in the immediate vicinity.
But, then he turned back and snarled at me, “What’s it got to do with you. Haven’t you got anything better to do?”
After this outburst, I revised my opinion. Most people who rely on disabled parking permits are extremely frustrated that the permits are often abused. The attitude of the Audi man was more one of guilt rather than empathy with the problems legitimate users of the permits often encounter.
I walked on, and another car, this time a BMW suburban tractor with a disabled parking sticker cruised past looking for a parking spot. A man in his mid-thirties who looked like a gym junkie was at the wheel. Maybe he was also off to pickup a disabled relative, but some how I don’t think so!
Later, I discussed this issue with a Parking Inspector, who also believed it was likely many disabled parking permits are used inappropriately. He equated this behaviour with that of tax-cheats, but felt that there was really nothing he could do.
Unfortunately, there will always be some people who are only interested in themselves and happy to rip-off anyone. As the saying goes, they’d even rob their own grandmother.
However, as a society I think there are a few things we could do which might help stop this low behaviour:
- Provide heavy penalties for the misuse of disabled parking permits, at least $1000 fine and disqualification of drivers licence for a month.
- Prosecute doctors who are found to have knowingly facilitated the acquisition of a disabled parking permit by someone who is not entitled to one.
- Give Parking Inspectors the power and authority to actively seek out parking permit cheats. For example, if an Inspector sees an obviously able-bodied person get out of a car with a disabled parking permit, they should ask why they are using the permit on that occasion. If the answer is they are going to pick up someone who is disabled, the parking inspector should be allowed to wait there until this person returns to check if this is accurate. If the person is a cheat, a $1000 fine will more than cover the costs of waiting.
Finally, I would like to make it clear that the last thing I would like to see is the removal of disabled parking facilities or permits.