For around 6 years now I have tirelessly campaigned for better community awareness, legislation, policy and management of disability accessible parking. Throughout the term of this campaign I have been grateful for many things. None more than what the reality is for people with disabilities in their fight for the right to access and inclusion in their community. I have learned so much about the importance of good policy being more than just words. Good policy must have action.
The policy on disability issues while development is driven by the disability community, it is reliant on our governments to implement. While there has been improvement over the past 6 years, it has been slow and lacking in action. As change only happens when need is demonstrated, that’s what I set out to do when I began this campaign. Demonstrate the need for change.
The climate of disability issues has evolved over the past few years since the introduction of access laws intended to uphold our rights. The disability community is fed up with being told we are the burden on society. The attitude that we are the burden is because we are treated like an inconvenience. The better access and inclusion is in a community, the less “inconvenience” people with disabilities are to the rest of society. When we aren’t forced to request your assistance continuously, we blend in and continue about our business just like everyone else.
Society can be slow on the understanding of these issues. Our governments may have the best of intentions when they give us our annual slogans for Disability Action Week but again we see lots of words and very little action. The action is left to the disability community who year after year keep saying the same thing. We just want access and inclusion.
Recent events have had me looking back at what led me to start this campaign and what my intention was. Lately day after day I am sent stories from people in the community who hold permits or assist people who hold permits, being abused by people without reason. It has simply stemmed from that person’s own judgement. One of the main educational points of this campaign was that you can’t judge a person’s situation or disability by looking at them. The motto was always check the permit not the person.
When I first shared photos of parking offenders, it was people whom I had initially approached and tried to have a conversation with to attempt to educate them. It was only when it was met with hostility, abuse or just flagrant lack of consideration for the inconvenience they were causing people with disabilities, that the photos were published. It wasn’t intended to be a policing activity on parking spaces. I’m disappointed that I myself allowed it to become that. It should always have been about opening the conversation for education and awareness.
I am aware I created this paradigm. I allowed it to get out of control. So it is up to me to take the action necessary to control it again.
Yesterday an innocent man was subjected to spurious attacks from strangers after a photo was posted accusing him of parking in a disability space without a permit. Despite evidence of his permit being provided, the accusations continued with further photos. It was at this point I realised the photos were not enough evidence to prove any wrong doing by this man. I had begun the campaign with a rule of three photos. The registration of the car, showing the car in the disability marked space and the dash. The reason for the dash was because at a distance from the front of the vehicle you cannot always see the permit.
This is why the photos being shared yesterday were inadequate evidence to back up the accusations made. The person in question does have a permit. Like many of us do, he had his permit on the dash. The casing and suction cups provided with the permits are not adequate to withstand the heat in a closed vehicle and often fall off. For many people the permit is more secure when placed flat on the dash in visibility of the window, where it can still be seen when standing directly in front or beside the vehicle. It may not be visible from 5 metres away as it was not in this case.
I’m deeply regretful that my advocacy may have resulted in any distress caused to Father Bill Kelly. He has been devoted to helping the community for many years and has been held in high respect by all. To see his reputation attacked the way it was yesterday was distressing. Even in my attempts to defend him the accusations continued. If that wasn’t enough distress, accusations were then pointed to me for “starting” this behaviour in the first place. That was never my intention, but it turned out that way. For that I apologise to Father Kelly and to the rest of the community.
Under any normal circumstances I don’t believe anyone would have looked twice at Father Kelly’s car while he did his shopping. It was only that he had a sign attached to his vehicle supporting his local state MP in the current election here in Queensland that it caught the attention of the LNP Qld.
The fact that this significant disability access issue was used purely as campaign propaganda has proven to me that I have failed in my objective to both educate and gain support from all political parties to work with us in improving policy on this matter.
I can no longer trust that any party forming a government would be effective to work with me on this and other disability issues giving it the respect it deserves.
It is for this reason, that today, with great disappointment, I am announcing my retirement from campaigning for the No Permit No Park cause.
As of today, photos will no longer be posted by the community on the website or it’s social media accounts.
The Facebook Page, Twitter account and website will continue to exist only as an information service. With my declining health, it’s probably all I can manage currently anyway.
I want to thank everyone for their support, especially those involved in the development of the campaign, getting it off the ground and those who helped to fund the costs. In particular;
Linda Wemyss my long time partner in crime and fellow admin assistant,
The late Amy Deguara, fellow admin and activist whom I miss dearly,
Bob Hartley who inspired me, motivated me and I’m sure he still regrets it to this day,
Constable Christie May of Queensland Police,
Assistant Commissioner Mike Keating of Queensland Police,
Spencer Howson who never sensationalised disability issues while I was on the air,
Most of all my family who have endured having to listen to me go on and on and on about disability parking and listen to me recall statistics and the discoveries when analysing data, thinking it would stop when I was not longer able to drive but it didn’t. I just added footpaths and public transport to my list of gripes about disabled life.
My final message to the community is don’t think for a minute no one is watching. Fines and penalties continue to increase as the demand for disability parking grows. Before you think it’s okay to park in a disability space just for a minute ask yourself, if you were disabled, and someone took away your only opportunity to do the one thing you wanted to do today…. How would you feel?
Thank you again for the support. Don’t give up hope. Change will come someday.