The #AusOpen Miracle

l don’t mind watching a good game of tennis particularly when someone as skilled as Roger Federer plays.

If I were to go to the Australian Open l’d need assistance. Anywhere with crowds, lined seating & stairs are a dangerous risk of falling. My OT recommends I should be transported in and out by wheelchair.

I’m sure I’m not unique in this. Many with mobility impairment rely on wheelchairs for safety. How many of us though have been accused of faking it the moment we dare stand up from our chair in public?

This is why disability activists globally are pushing to change language used to describe people with disabilities.

Wheelchair bound.

Regardless of the degree of our incapacity no one is actually bound to a wheelchair. This term leads people to believe we can’t get out of our chairs ever. So the moment anyone does we are fakes, frauds or miracles.

This is exactly what happened to an unsuspecting gentleman last night at the Australian Open. He dared to stand from his wheelchair to applaud a fantastic shot by Federer. Plenty of other people who weren’t wheelchair users did too but they were not vilified like this man was.

If you’ve never understood before why language around disability is so important, I hope you never find yourself with a disability.

I did express my views to many of these tweeters but none responded.

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Media Gives Readers Bad Suggestion to Abuse Disability Parking

Today, Brisbane Times journalist, Nathanael Cooper, wrote about Nova presenter Mitch Lewis having his car towed after parking his car on private property at Westend. No big deal right? The towing company is authorised and the owner of the property has the right to have any unauthorised vehicles removed. Slow news day perhaps?

My issue with the article is when Cooper suggested to avoid hefty fees to retrieve your car, you’d be better off parking in a clearway or disability park on the street.

Image reads: RACQ confirmed that businesses were entitled to protect their parking spaces as long as there was clear signage posted, and that $550 was the standard rate for retrieving a car from a towing company. A quick check of Brisbane City Council's parking fines revealed drivers were better off parking illegally on the street than risking it on commercial premises. The highest parking fine, for parking in a clearway or in an area for disabled persons without a permit, costs less than half that of the going rate required by towing companies.

Image reads:
RACQ confirmed that businesses were entitled to protect their parking spaces as long as there was clear signage posted, and that $550 was the standard rate for retrieving a car from a towing company.
A quick check of Brisbane City Council’s parking fines revealed drivers were better off parking illegally on the street than risking it on commercial premises.
The highest parking fine, for parking in a clearway or in an area for disabled persons without a permit, costs less than half that of the going rate required by towing companies.

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/son-of-wally-lewis-cops-kingsize-parking-fee-20160128-gmfwaq.html

What Cooper missed entirely is that if you park in a clearway you absolutely WILL be towed (I know this, it’s happened to me when I forgot I’d parked my car on a street that became a clearway at 4pm). Plus you still cop the council fine on top. Council, while it’s not common practice, can also tow a vehicle from a disability bay if there is no permit on display. They absolutely WILL if that disability bay becomes a clearway at any time. Most importantly Cooper misses the whole morality of just parking in a disability accessible space without a permit because there’s no where else to park. So sad, keep driving. People with disabilities have even less options available to them especially for those whose access needs are specific (ie wheelchair access). Chances are if you’re driving around looking for somewhere to park, so are we. Difference is we don’t have the benefit of easy mobility to walk a few more blocks.

Aside from the absolute insult to the disability community for even suggesting the rest of the community would be better off doing this, it’s really irresponsible to encourage abuse of disability parking.

When less than two percent of parking areas are allocated to disability access while around four and a half percent of the Australian population holds a disability parking permit, we’re already facing a challenge to access our community. Why make life even harder for us?

I hope a retraction is printed or at least an addition to remind drivers they shouldn’t do this. Of course we know I’m more likely to be told to get a life right?

Friday Wright
Campaign Founder & Curator

Ten Things Disability Parking Activists Wish You Would Stop Saying

I’m scraping in closer to the three year anniversary of the campaign and there are some things aside from the actual offences themselves, I just grow really weary of hearing. I can only imagine those who have been doing this longer than me, and living with their disabilities longer than me, must be even more over it than I am, but here is a list of a few things I really wish people would stop saying or doing when it comes to disability parking.

booked

1. Disabled people get the best parking

Newsflash, it’s 2016 and still engineers, builders and architects can’t relate design to practicality. No we don’t get the best parking. It’s not always right in front of the door, quite often it’s waaaaay down the other end of the parking aisle. Or shoved into an alcove somewhere out of the way. It’s rarely ever undercover, because hey, what does it matter if you get wet, you’re already dying anyway right? Our disability parking permits are not a “perk” we get for the “benefit” of being disabled. It’s to allow us equal access to the community.

2. But I’m Only Going To Be A Minute

Oh please rub it in our faces just a little harder. Screw you. It takes majority of us longer than that just to get out of the car. You can walk freely and still be a minute, park elsewhere and use your damn privilege of being able to walk.

3. There are bigger crimes happening than someone parking in a disabled space

No kidding! I mean our lives are so sheltered, what would we know about crime? People with disabilities are only 3 times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes or sexual abuse. Let’s get down to reality here, disability parking is a traffic offence that carries and infringement penalty. Disability Discrimination is a crime and preventing people with disabilities from access to premises is disability discrimination. Of course, it’s no big deal to you until you’re the one who can’t get out of their car or up the stairs right?

4. It’s Not Illegal It’s Just Immoral

WRONG! It’s an offence under the traffic act in each state of Australia to stop in an area marked for people with disabilities without displaying a current valid disability parking permit. The offences carries penalties depending on the state or council that is issuing the infringement and it’s also discrimination. Of course it’s quite acceptable to just be immoral when you walk on past with your perfectly working body while we try to lug our sad sorry and sore bodies who don’t want to play nice with us just to do the shit we have to do.

5. You Can’t Get A Fine In A Shopping Centre Car Park

Ugh. Please don’t start me on the legislation of private property versus privately owned property accessible to the public. There are about a dozen sections of legislation all relevant to this point that say you CAN and you WILL if you break the law. I could list them all for you, but you’d die of boredom. If there wasn’t legislation that said you can get a fine, I’d be the one lobbying to create it! Thankfully I don’t have to because it already exists and there are plenty of people out there who have the infringement notices to prove it. You’re just going to have to trust me.

6. I’m Not Parked

Just waiting for a mate? No, you can’t wait in the disability parking space without a permit and the owner of the permit. The legislation states you must not STOP in an area blah blah you know the rest. Keyword here being STOP. Don’t care if the vehicle is not in park, if the engine is still running, if those wheels have stopped and you’re in the space you’ve committed an offence (unless you immediately reverse out).

7. You’re breaching someone’s privacy showing their number plate in photos

No. We don’t have those kinds of privacy laws in Australia. Commercial media may have to or CHOOSE to for their own legal reasons but no, we can post all the pretty pictures of disability parking space thieves we like and we don’t need to hide the registration number of the car. Registration numbers do not identify a person unless 1. they’re so vain as to have a personalised plate that is easily recognisable to identify that person OR an authorised person has access to the system that provides that information and even then, privacy policies in those relevant departments apply. That said, plenty of people do stupid things in branded vehicles making the whole registration number argument irrelevant.

8. You don’t know what that person’s circumstances were

Really? You want to validate a traffic offence? Well we don’t know what the circumstances were of the speeding driver or the drunk driver but we don’t run around validating their despicable acts. The privileged person who thought their circumstances so mightily entitled them to use the accessible parking that we, the permit holders ARE entitled to use doesn’t know our circumstances that led us to the NEED to depend on accessible spaces, nor do they ever seem to give a shit. Of course if someone were to say (and it has happened), “I’m really sorry, but in my circumstances XYZ it was what I did at the time but it’s not something I normally do or would do again” we say hey, we get that. These things happen. Thanks for respecting the space and your support in the campaign to educate the community. Hope things improve for you. It rarely happens though. Usually they’re just jerks.
9. Get A Life

Oh how ironic. When we’re faced with the very thing that is preventing us from trying to have a life outside of our homes and we dare to complain about it we get told to get a life. Come on you can do better than that surely? I mean isn’t it bad enough you’re wasting all your privileged life away using the accessible facilities designed for people who are not so privileged as to have the benefit of easy mobility, that you feel so obliged to tell them to get a life? Maybe you do need the space after all. I can’t imagine anything more pathetic than you.

10. But you don’t look disabled.

Oh For FARK SAKE! Am I right? Step out of your sheltered world for a moment and learn something about the people in your community. What you think disability LOOKS like and what it actually is are so very far apart that you are an alien to me right now. No, you don’t have the right to ask me what my disability is. I am happy to prove the permit is mine, my name is on the back but no I DO NOT have to tell you what my disability is. No one does. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there and no it’s not “invisible” you just don’t know what the signs and symptoms are. Stop the expectation that all people with disabilities have to look sad, poor, abnormal, deformed, sick, need to be cured, tragic, unable to be independent, unattractive, unlovable and pitiful people sitting in wheelchairs being pushed around by magic carer fairies your “taxes” pay for. If that is the most you expect of someone with a disability I truly hope you never find yourself with one and lets face  facts, we’re all only an accident or illness away from life with a disability. We’re not all born like that.

I don’t look disabled? You didn’t look stupid but you opened your mouth and proved me wrong.

elisha flip the bird

Disability Parking & the Complex Enforcement Battle

 

Each year since the campaign began I receive hundreds of messages from the community asking what their rights are and what the responsibilities are of police and councils when it comes to disability parking and reporting it. It is very difficult to answer the question nationally as the issue is covered by all three levels of government and legislations vary state to state, by-laws vary council to council. What is consistent is the fact that ableism continues to hamper our quality of life while this particular facet of disability access is perceived as an unimportant “perk” for the disabled by the community and the only way we can change that is through education.

Meanwhile we have the ongoing battle between Police and Councils over whose responsibility it is and all we want is someone to stand up with us and say No, This is NOT OK. It needs to be an authority because society still treats us like we don’t have the right to speak for ourselves. My biggest obstacle to educating people on the rights, wrongs and responsibilities of it all are keyboard lawyers and the fact that while a website, even from a government department, may say one thing, legislation says another.

So when it comes to reporting an offence of misuse of a disability parking space, who do you call? What a shame we don’t have Ableist Busters right?

Police are the standard go to for majority of cases when it comes to parking under the traffic act as they cover both street parking and off street parking. Off street parking is covered by police – and this is nationally under the Australian National Road Rules legislation that is then adopted and added to by each state – Off street parking is covered when it fits the definition of a road related area. Generally speaking that is a car parking area that even though it may be situated on privately owned land, is generally open to and accessible by the public. For example shopping centre car parks. The exclusion of this is when in a residential building there is a private car parking area of multiple spaces that is within a gate or is clearly signed that the public are not permitted to park there without the authorisation of the owner.

Police may issue infringements in these areas. They are also allowed, under police powers, to enter the area without having to seek permission first. And therein lies the first key difference between Police and Council.

Now this is where it gets really difficult. Each state has varying legislations that cover the same things but written in different ways. I haven’t yet perused all the states legislation to be able to specifically tell you where to find them all but as a study case, I’m using my home state of Queensland.

Police powers and relevant legislation allows them to enter the area, patrol the area, respond to complaints and investigate in the area and issue infringements if deemed necessary. The Transport Operations Road Use Management (Road Rules) Act 1995 specifies that stopping in a parking area marked for people with disabilities without a valid permit is a traffic infringement and can be enforced by police. The Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 specifies their limits of power to be able to enforce this law, where and how it must be done.

So far, Queensland Police, NSW Police and Victoria Police have all confirmed with me that they can and will accept complaints from the public, preferably with evidence, of a disability parking law being broken. However there are some important factors for you to remember when making these reports. You will need to be willing to appear in court as a witness to the event should the offender be issued an infringement and choose to appeal it in the courts. You also need to make the complaint as a non priority complaint unless there is an emergency involved. Please don’t expect to call police and have them come right there and then to write out a parking ticket. There is no guarantee there is a car available in the area at the time and on the list of priorities in respect to the calls police deal with a parking offence is not high up there and nor should we expect it to be. In any event, taking photos, recording any conversations you have with the offender or taking video of the event can all be provided as evidence for the police to investigate. Which they can do under the Police Powers Act.

This is the difference between Police and Council.

All sworn in members of the Police Service are “authorised persons” to issue infringements. They also have the power to investigate and gather evidence which can be provided by the community but they also need to ensure they are able to present a strong enough case to Police Prosecutions should the matter end up in court. So your photos or video need to show the car, having no permit on display and the positioning of the parking.

Councils in Queensland have their power to create by-laws under the Local Government Act 2009. This Act also specifies what an “authorised person” is for the purpose of issuing infringements. These are called Rangers or Compliance Officers. They have the power to issue infringements of council’s by-laws. Council authorised persons must seek permission from the building owner or manager before they are able to carry out checks of compliance to council by-laws before issuing infringements. Council authorised persons can act on reports from the public to inspect or investigate claims of breaches however they must be able to provide the evidence as seen by them to issue an infringement.

What this means is that you can call council to complain about a parking by-law breach and give them the information, but a council authorised person will need to attend to collect the evidence before an infringement can be issued. These can be given on the spot or sent in the post. Council authorised persons do not have the same powers as police when it comes to entering property, investigating a committed offence or other types of enforcement powers. The Authorised Person is the one who will be called to testify their evidence if the person in receipt of the infringement chooses to have the matter heard in court. Council are not represented by Police Prosecutions. They have to foot their own costs in court and if the matter goes in favour of the defendant, they may have to cover their costs too. Councils will rarely let matters of small amounts go to court unless they are absolutely certain the offence occurred within the defence of the law which is why they send out an officer rather than accept third party information.

How infringements are issued and enforced is covered by the State Penalties Enforcement Act 1999 and the State Penalties Enforcement Regulation 2014.

In relation to the controversially promoted Snap Send Solve App used by many councils across Australia, I’ve been doing some research into it’s effectiveness for disability parking offences. I called and spoke with several councils listed as using the app and not one of them stated that they would issue an infringement from the information supplied in a report. They do however state that an authorised officer would be sent to the location where the offence has been reported and investigate. If the vehicle is still there they will take the required evidence and either issue an on the spot infringement or it will be sent in the post.

Snap Send Solve is an app already designed that these councils subscribe to for a fee. Other councils have spent the money to have their own similar apps designed more specifically for their purposes. The apps are intended only for the purpose of collecting information in a faster, easier, more convenient manner than having operators man phones. It allows them to collect enough information to follow up a report that a by-law offence has been committed or to respond to commonly reported issues like pot holes and dumped rubbish without having to keep people tied up on the phone. It was never intended to be used as a sole basis of issuing infringements. A spokesperson for one of the councils said that the legal department would “stop the practice” if they were to find that happening as it would contravene council policy.

None of the councils I spoke to could confirm if any data of any nature was kept in relation to monitoring locations by offence type to see if there was a particular high occurrence area.

Clear as mud? Yep. This is why we get passed from one side to the other continuously.

Who do you call? Unless you spot an officer nearby or it’s an emergency, you don’t. You help us collect data so that we can notify police and councils where they need to patrol by reporting it through the Towit App on your phone or you pass the info on to us via our Facebook page or you collect the required evidence and take it directly to the local police station so that they can investigate. You can also help your local authorities by letting them know where you see the offences occur the most and asking if they can include that area in their patrols. That makes you an activist rather than a slacktivist.

 

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