4 minute read

The Ugly, the Bad and the Good of accessible parking

In my opinion there really are only two reasons for accessible parking. Simply people who use mobility aids that need to be assembled or unloaded from the side or rear, that requires more space free from obstruction. And those with mobility impairments, illnesses or injuries, who need to be close to an entry or seating due to assisted mobility, fatigue, or limitation of movement, be they sensory or the like. Both sets of users benefit from being away from passing traffic.

I have had three interesting experiences: vigilantism, mobility aid excursion and parking location.

Firstly, as a young good looking guy (self-assessed on both fronts, I might add) I have been questioned and interrogated by people as I park in a space, that I should not be using the accessible parking space.

My response of 'wait a moment' gives me time to see the blood drain from their face, when they see me pulling out a wheelchair from my back seat. Thanks for your concern, but who made you the boss?!

Yes, I was concerned when an elderly gentleman got out of his car with a gym bag, obviously about to do some rehab on the dodgy hip, only to see him suit up for 3 sets of squash. Or the lady who said she was shopping for her mum even though her Mum was at home drinking tea. But by far the best was the antenna installation van occupying a space with a permit clearly displayed. I am sure there are many other stories.

Moral of the story: invisible disability, impairment or illness are sometimes truly invisible.

Not long after my accident I parked in a parallel parking space and assembled my chair, turning to get my backpack only to see it take off down the hill amongst the traffic. Over its 50 metre journey, I don’t know what was funnier: seeing people’s faces of a light weight chair with no one in it, moving at speed down a hill? Or the two good Samaritans hearing my yells of 'get the chair!', then look at me, look at the chair, look at me again and twig that the pursuit was on!

Moral of the story: put your brakes on after you put the wheels on.

The last experience was having a misguided lawyer, with personalised plates, park in the shared zone between two legitimate parkers, myself and an elderly gentleman. I am sure many people who use chairs or mobility aids have had to ask a stranger to get in their car to reverse it out of a space, because the shared space or the parking space next to you no longer has the same gap when you arrived. After getting my car out and taking a picture, I duly posted to Facebook the situation. Within 2 hours I had the lawyer (who, I might add, specialises in representing people in personal injury), plead with me to take it down. He had clients ring and cancel, and various attacks from people saying he was a serial offender. Moral of the story: make sure you insist on a bollard in the shared zone and don’t park in the shared zone with personalised plates.

Lastly here are some recommendations from my experience:

Natural surfaces are ok for parking, just make sure you add a 10% concrete stabiliser to the decomposed granite. Car stackers should not negate provision of accessible parking, particularly out the front of a retail premises. Where parking is not required for a development, contact the Council to provide street parking. Ensure the wheel blocks are far enough into the parking space, so that when a twin cab ute with a tow bar (tradies ute) reverses into a space, it leaves more than 600mm. Parallel parking on main or busy roads should never be designed or installed. The duty of care or safety in design, to ensure safe movement is our responsibility.

As I write this, my life has changed. I have been in a rehabilitation hospital for three weeks (with a further two to go), due to rupturing my bicep while playing with my daughter. I have gone from a very independent wheelchair user, to a person who needs a hoist to get into and out of bed, as well as on and off a commode with staff assistance. My mobility is via an electric wheelchair. I have firsthand knowledge now of why Changing Places facilities and drop offs for rear loading vehicles are so vital in our community.

All the best, especially to those in lock down or front line medical or care staff.

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