Research from data over the past 5 years since the access to premises standards were introduced in Australia has revealed some disappointing facts about disability accessible parking that needs to be addressed. Data from Councils and State authorities has revealed that fines for illegal use of disability parking are contested at an extremely high rate.
The top three reasons these fines are waived are:
- Medical Reasons
- Permit holder with reason for permit not being displayed
- Space did not comply to MUTCD or was not easily identified as a disability accessible parking zone.
The MUTCD or Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides the standards under which parking should be allocated and identified. Each state has their own manual but they are fairly consistent on two things. The space must display the International Symbol of Access and it must be clear and visible from a distance of at least 3m. When signage doesn’t meet the MUTCD standards and it can be deemed not clearly a disability accessible parking zone the recipient of the infringement will often have it waived.
This make enforcement difficult for authorities. Contesting in court can be a costly process particularly when the offender is awarded the fine be overturned and costs paid by the state (or council) prosecution.
Another interesting fact from the Queensland MUTCD is Clause 7.4 that specifies as well as spaces needing to conform to the relevant Australian Standards, the Building Code and The Access to Premises Standards, installation should also take into account the demand for available spaces, proximity of the spaces to the activity to be accessed and ease of access from spaces by a wheelchair. Five years into the legislation we are still seeing too often spaces that are not only non compliant but also non practical. Perhaps if there was more input sought from people with actual lived experience of mobility with a disability rather than engineers and architects this problem could be eliminated.
Back to fines being waived though, the costly process and time wasted in the court system due to the high levels of non compliance in building, we have the issue of deterrence for our authorities to actually issue infringements. Vicious cycle that brings us back to square one leaving us stuck in a society of tokenism where needs aren’t understood or met.