No Permit No Park Campaign Australia

What is the No Permit No Park Campaign?
We're glad you asked!

Disability Parking for Businesses

Information about your legal responsibilities and how you can uphold the moral responsibility legally with disability parking and enforcement

Read More

Access & Inclusion for Businesses & Building Owners

How to increase your patronage by up to 30% by making your business or building disability friendly

Read More

Access & Inclusion for Advocates

How to create positive change in your community following a few key guidelines

Read More

Download our Educational Flyer

Print your own educational flyers to leave on offending vehicles in disability parking

Read More

Building access is expensive? Try living with a disability!

While the federal government via the string of unsuccessful Social Services ministers, Kevin Andrews, Scott Morrison and now Christian Porter, continue to demonise people with disabilities as being the burdens of society, Disability Services in Australia are still rubbing their greedy little hands together knowing how expensive it is to live with a disability and seeing us as a commodity rather than a burden. From in home assistance services to providers of mobility aides to home and vehicle modification and technology assistance device developers they’ve all got their sights set on one thing. Our money. We’re necessity spenders. We spend on things we HAVE to have to spare any chance of a decent quality of life in a world that still begrudges having to cater to our needs.

$4000 laser light for people with Parkinson's to use when they have freezing gait. A laser light.

$4000 laser light for people with Parkinson’s to use when they have freezing gait. A laser light.

$200 Cushion to help someone stop rolling over in bed. Yes, $200.

$200 Cushion to help someone stop rolling over in bed. Yes, $200.

Recently on a bus trip back from a fabulous inclusive council event, I found myself in the company of a gentleman who saw fit to ask me what it is I do. Apparently in some circles who you are and what you do is still important. I was there as an invited guest for whatever reason council saw fit to invite me. I didn’t think what I did was important but I indulged his curiosity and told him, “I’m a disability access consultant and advocate for rights of people with disabilities.”

He didn’t really care what I did or who I was, what he was looking for was creating an opening to tell me all about himself and when I didn’t appear impressed, he took the opportunity to belittle what I do.

You see this very self important person was a builder. Apparently one of the biggest builders there is. I’d heard of some of the places he built but I didn’t know him by name which it seemed he expected I should. He asked more detail of what I do so I explained I gave FREE consultation and assessment of existing buildings’ disability access with solutions of how they can improve it or in the very least be more compliant. Yep. I’m that idiot. I’m the one who gives out my services for FREEEEEEEEEEEE. So I clearly cannot be as important as him.

The questions then came. “What are your qualifications?” – I’m self educated with assistance from relevant departments responsible for the relevant legislations.
“Can you read building plans?” – Basic plans yes. I really only need to know where the disability access is going to go and the dimensions.
“What about complex plans?” – Well it’s not really relevant to me to know where the power and water will be running so I don’t need to understand complex architectural diagrams, only the things relevant to access which I can identify.
“Have you ever built anything?” – actually, yes. Our family owned a landscaping business so I’ve built a few things, can you be more specific?

Then came the part I was NOT expecting but it made me realise what is wrong with the world and the obstructions to our battle for inclusive communities?

“Do you know how costly it is to do all that disability access stuff?”

Truth is in the scope of things it doesn’t have to be that costly if you get it right the first time and think about the practicality of it rather than how pretty it should look. Of course when you don’t need disability access it can seem like a complete waste right?

Wait…. what about parents with prams?????? Okay lets remove the controversial parking factor…. for years mothers and others complained about the need for wider entries and ramps and lifts and change areas for babies and seating areas that are NOT toilets because some people just can’t deal with boobs with a baby attached to them. And retailers heard and they saw the potential dollar signs of a return from a target market that wanted to be relieved of their boredom but struggled to find the means to do so. That’s right it had nothing at all to do with inclusion or equity. It was purely a marketing ploy but a very beneficial one to that target market.

Parents spend. Parents have children that need to be spent on. If you have kids, whether you’re getting it from employment or the government you’re getting money and who better to relieve you of that heavy cash but retailers, yaaaaaaay! Ice creams for everyone!

How do we translate this to disabilities? It seems society in general have a misconception people with disabilities have needs but not wants. Why would we want to go shopping? What could we possibly spend money on in a shopping centre. Shouldn’t we be at the mobility aides store? Where is your carer?

We’re viewed as being dependant therefore we couldn’t have an independently controlled income or the desire to want to spend it. But the government says they have to build access so they comply with what they have to and slip a few dollars to the inspector to approve what they think they can get away with.

When it comes to parking it’s no different. When compliance isn’t tough they’ll just slap in a space with a wheelchair symbol on it and call it accessible. It doesn’t work because you can barely see it, it’s not wide enough and it’s right down the very end of the strip way away from the entrance, but we called it accessible so deal with it.

disability parking fail

No. Just no.

Line marking and a bollard is all it takes right? How much does that actually cost? It’s going to vary and of course like any person wanting the best price you need to shop around but here’s a bit of an average…..

 

Line marking for two bays including the international symbol of access to the required dimensions in the required colouring using top quality material to last up to ten years, plus the shared access space in the middle cost including GST is around $160. A bollard for the shared space – using a standard yellow metal concreted fixture, $350 including installation. So for $510 you have accessible spaces for two cars for almost 10 years. 7 day trading. Average shopping time 2 hours. So that potentially attracts 8 spending customers per day. According to Inside Retail, Australian’s spend on average $141 per person in supermarkets alone. So just two disability accessible parking bays can potentially bring in $410 592 per year. $510 for ten years to gain $4 105 920?

I’d love to show this to that builder and ask how he’d feel about losing $4.1 million a year per double accessible parking bay. Sure you could put in a few more regular bays because they spend too right? But regular old parking doesn’t attract regular shoppers. You’re competing with every other retailer for that market. Besides, those of us who are brave enough to enter a shopping centre car park know there’s always (Christmas Crazies excepted) available regular parking when they are compliant to the building code but still we’re struggling to get proper disability accessible parking.

Make your premises the ultimate shopping experience in accessibility and you’re already winning over that target market that just want to be included. Not just them, but the people in their lives too.

The facts:

  • Almost 4 million Australians have a disability.
  • About 50 per cent of people aged over 55 have difficulty with their mobility, hearing or vision.
  • By 2050 more than 25 per cent of the population will be over 65.
  • If you add families, friends and colleagues the number of people affected by disability is even greater.
Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Building Inclusive Communities – Access to Premises Standards

What are the Access to Premises Standards?
The Premises Standards, which came into effect on 1 May 2011, aim to provide people with disability with dignified and equitable access to buildings, and provide certainty to industry that they are complying with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA).

First, the guiding principles of the Premises Standards are the objects of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA), which are:

• to eliminate, as far as possible, discrimination against persons on the basis of their disabilities in various areas, and in particular access to premises, work, accommodation and the provision of facilities, services and land;

• to ensure, as far as practicable, that persons with disabilities have the same rights to equality before the law as the rest of the community; and

• to promote recognition and acceptance within the community of the principle that persons with disabilities have the same fundamental rights as the rest of the community.

Second, the purpose of the Premises Standards is:

• to ensure that dignified, equitable, cost-effective and reasonably achievable access to buildings, and facilities and services within buildings, is provided for people with disability, and

• to give certainty to building certifiers, developers and managers that if the Standards are complied with they cannot be subject to a successful complaint under the DDA in relation to those matters covered by the Premises Standards.

Third, it is unlawful to contravene the Premises Standards.

Fourth, the Premises Standards specify how the objects of the DDA are to be achieved in the provision of accessible buildings.


 

One of the most commonly asked questions about the new car parking standards is
WHY IS THERE NO BOLLARD IN THE SHARED SPACE?

This is from the Access to Premises Standards Guidelines:

Note on AS/NZS 2890.6
AS 2890.6 requires a bollard be placed to prevent cars from blocking a shared area at an accessible carparking space. While the standard specifies the location of the bollard it does not include specifications on matters such as height, diameter or luminance contrast. Developers should consider these issues to ensure visibility and to ensure bollards do not encroach on space required by someone getting into or out of their car. Flexible bollards might be considered to reduce the chances of damage to cars.
As with all other areas of compliance achieving Deemed-to-Satisfy compliance with AS 2890.6 in existing buildings may on occasion be difficult because of the existing carpark layout. Suitable Alternative Solutions might be developed to meet the Performance Requirement.

To find out more about how the standards are meant to be applied and other provisions visit:
https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/page/PremisesStandardsGuidelineV2.pdf

To view the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 visit:
https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2010L00668

To view the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (current version) visit:
https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2015C00252

While these are Commonwealth laws (applied nationally to the whole of Australia) it is important to remember these are minimum standards and may have variations applied by your state or council by-laws, above and beyond the minimum.

When the world tries to break you

We always knew it was a risk, that some idiot could assault a parking campaigner one day. Even though I’m always careful to assess the level of aggravation & not push my luck. What I didn’t expect was someone to be so furtive in their actions to make an assault look like an accident.

I’d only just returned from a meeting about access issues at a local library. l was excited about the opportunity to tell people how I had approached it to resolve it in hope of setting an example. When you advocate you are often acutely aware of the general lack of knowledge on how to initiate change and in a world of social media, good old slacktivism.

It was a win and I was glad to see the eagerness to make the improvements.

Sadly that was where the joy stopped.

Returning to my car I received a call that was disappointing but not unexpected on an issue involving the very spot I was parked. Whilst on the phone I watched the woman in her little Corolla reverse into the space next to my car and shook my head. It’s painted with white diagonal lines. This is called a painted island. It is there to allow people to access the vehicle in the disability bay, particularly as it has a footpath access ramp. There is also a parking restriction sign with an arrow showing that between the sign and the end of the curb, it is a parking zone for disability parking permit holders.

Apparently this is not clear enough for people. Today was no ordinary day though. Once or twice a week I help out a young mum, minding one of her two babies so she has a bit less hassle getting her school day done. I admit I do it more for me than her because despite how exhausting it is on me they really bring much needed brightness to my week.

So today just happened to be the day I had young master almost 2. I like taking the kids out with the pram. People don’t stare like they do when I have a walking stick or walker. I blend in. Getting them from the pram to the car is a challenge but together we manage. It’s almost like they know they need to help me.

I didn’t say a word to the woman, I just awkwardly hoisted him out of the pram but in the process, knocked it over. The handle of the pram hit the wheel of the illegally parked car. l lifted the pram and returned to trying to buckle the child seat harness.

Have you ever seen someone with Parkinson’s try to do up a seat belt? Try threading a needle. With silly string. Drunk.

It was 2.55pm. I take my next medication dose at 3. This was not going well.

When I accomplished that mission I stepped back and my foot got caught on the pram knocking it over again. As I picked it up, the driver got out of her car and told me, “stop hitting my car!”

It wouldn’t have been an issue if she wasn’t illegally parked and I told her so. So began the no I’m not yes you are argument and I’m growing very tired of having it.

If you don’t know simple parking rules then perhaps you shouldn’t be driving.

She informed me she was calling police and began taking photos of my car. I got out one of our new brochures but when I attempted to give it to her she got in her car and wound up the window. I put it on the windscreen and told her to get educated.

It’s what happened next that will shock you.  She opened her car door, not hard enough to hit me, but more in an action that once it made contact with me, gave me a little shove.

I HAVE BLOODY PARKINSON’S DISEASE!!

If a day goes by I don’t lose my balance and fall I celebrate. Yes that little shove that seemed so innocent was enough to push me off balance and I landed ass first in the garden.

That wasn’t the worst of it. No apology or offer to help me up. She yells out “Oh come on, you walked into my door.”

While I was on the ground do my best turtle on it’s back maneuvers to get up, she takes the brochure from the windscreen and goes and throws it in my pram. Icing on the cake was the teenage girl she was picking up from school yelling at me “It’s not a disabled space.”

I hope she isn’t getting her licence anytime soon.

I’ve been to police but as per the previous post with no liaison for people with disabilities I’m not expecting any miraculous change in the parking behaviour of the drivers around North Lakes anytime soon. It was also apparent police were aware of the problem in that specific area and also of this campaign.

Ten bucks says no one is patrolling the area tomorrow.

Not that I can be arsed going out again. Between this and my car being keyed last week, I’m just over it. I don’t want your damn inclusion. I’ve got internet. I will survive.

20151014_145859

 

  • might I add, its not the first conversation I’ve had with this driver about this space.

 

 

Why we need Police Liaisons for the Disability Community

Police liaison officers are an important roll to both the service and to the community. Particularly for specific community groups who can often feel isolated or segregated from the general community. When we have community groups like this, they become less likely to report crimes against them.

Police Liaison Officers are employed by the Queensland Police Service to establish and maintain a positive rapport between culturally specific communities and the Queensland Police Service. The role of Police Liaison Officers is to promote trust and understanding through their liaison role by assisting the community and police to:

  • reduce and prevent crime;

  • divert people from the criminal justice system;

  • advise and educate police officers on culture and cultural issues; and

  • improve community knowledge of  law and order issues and policing services.Source: QPS Website

 

Throughout this campaign despite our continuous efforts to engage and work with law enforcement agencies, the general feedback we’ve had from the community is that Police don’t take our issues seriously enough. They’re overloaded with bigger issues to deal with and things like disability parking are way down the list of priorities unless you come across extraordinary officers such as Senior Constable Christie May of Queensland Police who has been our strongest advocate.

Fear of being able to communicate with police effectively is also another concern that has been raised amongst the disability community which needs to be addressed.

It’s certainly not that the disability community feels any crime committed against them is more important than the same happening to anyone else, but that they are less likely to report it for a number of reasons. By having liaisons who have been trained in communicating with people with disabilities and understanding the issues they face, it makes that community of people trust the person they speak to more without fear of judgement or being treated less significantly.

The statistics of crimes where people with disabilities are the victim are outrageous when the unreported incidences are included. Some examples are:

There is growing evidence that women with a disability are more likely to experience violence. For example, 90% of Australian women with an intellectual disability have been subjected to sexual abuse. (Source:  Woman With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), 2004)

Disabled people are more likely than non-disabled people to experience hate crimes. And perpetrators are more likely to receive leniency in sentencing if the victim is a disabled person. (Source: http://wwda.org.au/issues/viol/viol1995/hate/)

People with disabilities are being routinely denied the basic human right of access to justice. (Source: http://apo.org.au/research/beyond-doubt-experiences-people-disabilities-reporting-crime)

People with an intellectual disability are almost three times more likely than those without a disability to be victims of physical assault, sexual assault and robbery. (Source: http://www.aic.gov.au/media_library/publications/tandi_pdf/tandi060.pdf)

It is well documented that people with disability, especially girls and women with disability, are over-represented as victims of crime. People with disability are more likely to be victims of violence, fraud and sexual assault. They are also more likely to experience multiple episodes of all forms of abuse and neglect. (Source: http://www.pwd.org.au/issues/preventing-violence.html)

 

So it’s about time. Lets start asking the Police Minister in every state to appoint

Police Liaison officers for people with disabilities in Australia.*

Share the link to this post with your State MP, the Minister for Police/Emergency Services

and the Police Commissioner.

 

*Victoria recently began an inquiry into the handling of disabled victims of crime after a report identified high number of cases being mismanaged and as a result Disability Liaison officers are being trained.

What if I told you there was no need for disability parking infringements?

NO WAY! you say? Of course there’ll never be a time when infringements are removed. Without a consequence there’s nothing to stop people taking advantage of selfish opportunity. BUT! There really is no need for people to get an infringement for abusing disability accessible parking. There are two simple things that can be done to prevent it. Education and Attitude. Education is easy, attitude not so much.

So we’re working on the education part first. With an educated community no one can use the excuse “I didn’t know”. Our mission is to ensure every driver understands the laws they’re obligated to follow around disability parking.

Throughout this campaign I’ve learned from fellow campaigners, advocates, activists, law makers, law enforcers and the community to continue developing our educational flyers. It’s updated over the past two and a half years from passive aggressive, to directly honest to our now general educational fact brochure. We’re sure you are going to love it. It does require double sided printing but I am hoping to gain some government endorsement which would allow government departments and agencies to distribute the flyers. Councils and police can use them to do regional driver campaigns similar to what they currently do with vehicle security in shopping centres etc (Lock Up Your Cars campaign). Shopping centres and other property owners that have road related areas can also use them as “warning” types of notices while keeping a record of repeat offenders for future reference.

If you are unable to print them yourself please ask your local MP if they’d be kind enough to print a dozen for you from their community printing fund.

Looking forward, as always, to your ever critical feedback 😉

Click on the link below to download and view the PDF

NPNP Education Brochure v2.1

No Permit No Park
Campaign founder and manager

Victimisation and Disability

Recently a campaigner posted some photos on our Facebook wall of cars parked in the disability access bays.

It was no different to any other situation of photos shared to demonstrate the frustrating and sometimes dangerous situations people with disabilities are often placed in when they’re just trying to access their community. Under Australian Privacy laws it is not illegal for us to publish photographs of vehicles (or even people) in open public spaces.

There are occasions the offending driver identifies their car and responds with an apology. It opens up opportunities for them to hear from those affected by it first hand and they’re more likely to stop the behaviour.

Unfortunately this time, that didn’t happen. Instead we got a barrage of excuses, abuse and insults. Ironically we were accused of being the bullies. Whilst most of it was played out in the public arena, for the campaigner who shared the photos it was private, direct and very ugly.

FB_IMG_1440850173593

FB_IMG_1440849915331

2015-09-01 05.56.102015-09-01 05.57.51

It’s not bad enough that we are forced to have to endure people like this who discriminate against people with disabilities by blocking access, but they also think it’s appropriate to victimise the people who call out this kind of behaviour in pathetic attempts to try and vindicate themselves rather than apologise and admit it was wrong to do.

Both preventing access and victimisation are offences under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 but these offences are so obscure to the general community they’ve got no idea. Which makes it even worse that they’re guided by their moral compass to do these things rather than the law. Unfortunately several campaigners other than myself were sent harassing and victimising messages in private by people too gutless to say what they had to say in the public arena. Yet, I’m the one accused of hiding behind a computer screen. Yeah, cos I’m never out there dealing with this face to face. I’m not the one whose identity is attached to this campaign all through the media. Please, don’t be so Johnny Come Lately and abuse me for standing up for people’s rights. How privileged of you.

I’m really tired of the age old come back “I have friends with disabilities” or “I’m very active in the disability community”. Big whooping deal. You don’t live our lives. You don’t walk in our shoes. You don’t sit in our wheelchairs. You don’t suffer our agony, frustration and often at times, humiliation. If you did, you’d treat people with disabilities and their rights, with more respect than displayed here and you sure as hell wouldn’t walk on by and allow it to happen. Remember, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept and we’re all just one accident or illness away from a disability.

So you can complain to Facebook all you like about the pictures my campaigners post on there but here, on this website… this is my domain. I choose what gets displayed. You’re welcome.

Oh and one more thing…. threatening to go to the police about a photograph that incriminates you committing an offence (which might I add is acceptable as evidence for an infringement in many cases), is not exactly the smartest thing to do.

 

National Transport Road Rules
S203 Stopping in a parking area for people with disabilities

(1) A driver must not stop in a parking area for people with disabilities unless—

(a) the driver’s vehicle displays a current parking permit for people with disabilities; and

(b) the driver complies with the conditions of use of the permit.

Maximum penalty—20 penalty units.

(2) A parking area for people with disabilities is a length or area of a road—

(a) to which a permissive parking sign displaying a people with disabilities symbol applies; or

(b) to which a people with disabilities parking sign applies; or

(c) indicated by a road marking (a people with disabilities road marking) that consists of, or includes, a people with disabilities symbol.

painted island

Help us Guide Politicians – Take our survey

We’re trying to gather views of the public to guide what we should be lobbying our politicians to do.

We’ve posed a few questions that take less than 2 minutes of your time to answer about how disability rights and access are perceived in the community. If you haven’t taken the survey yet please give a few minutes of your time today to have your say.

Click here to take the survey, it’s completely anonymous!

 

 

Building Inclusive Communities?

ISAWhen we see this symbol, it is generally a sign that people with disabilities can access the area or facility. It’s a “People With Disabilities Welcome” symbol.

So when we see this symbol… it’s quite confronting.
disability not welcome symbol

People with disabilities not welcome? It actually means it’s not an accessible area. Which in reality means you’re not welcome. It says, we’re not going to make the effort to make this area accessible for you. No big deal you say? Many areas are not accessible right! Right! This is actually on a foot path. True story.

paisley park close up map

In a little wooded area on a main road in Lawnton is a disability accessible toilet… wait.. is that toilet block even accessible? Anyway, there’s a toilet block and a little park with a creek running through it. As you can see, there’s also a footpath.

paisley path2 20150622_154034

 

This symbol actually exists. When a campaign follower posted it to our Facebook page I had to go see it for myself. Some time ago, my friend Russell told me there was a footpath he couldn’t use but I wasn’t sure what he meant. He had to ask his local councillor to have the footpath on the other side of the road to be fixed to accommodate wheelchair access. So until that was done there was no realistic way for him to safely travel the route on which this path takes.

There’s a very logical reason why this symbol is here. I walked the path. I couldn’t make it back up the steep slope. I had to diagonal walk along the grass to get back to the top. No it is not wheelchair friendly. It’s not even person with mobility impairment friendly. Naturally you can appreciate a warning to tell you not to use the foot path right? Council is just trying to keep us safe. So what do you do from there?

 

 

paisley park distance map

The two red diamond points on the map are where the nearest pedestrian lights crossings are. That’s a bit of a hike back to cross the road.

 

The nearest lights suitable to cross the road are indicated on the map at the end of the red lines. In between is where the footpath warning signs are. There is no other notice or warning that the path ahead is not disability accessible. There is no accessibility map available for Moreton Bay Regional Council let alone this specific area. If you’re off on an adventure in your wheelchair or mobility scooter for the first time here the only way to learn is to find out the hard way. When I went to take these photos it started raining. I imagined myself having to make the trip all the way back in the rain just to cross the road.

This is life with a mobility impairment. No one thinks about the logistics involved for us. Particularly here in my local area. Why? Because they defunded the disability access advisory committee quite some time ago. I’ve even offered to form a voluntary committee that doesn’t require funding. I would volunteer just for the sake of building an inclusive community in my region! So far there’s no sign of my offer being accepted.

#MBRCFail

Hotspots are starting to appear!

Thanks to everyone who has downloaded the TowIt app and started reporting disability parking offences. I’ve already been able to identify two hotspots in Queensland and potentially more beginning to develop in other areas.

Why TowIt over reporting apps like Snap Send Solve?
Towit logs the data onto a map. This data we can then use to identify ‘hotspots’. Areas where offences are occurring at a high rate. We can then use this data to discuss with local councils and police in that area options to reduce the offences and keep the spaces open for those who need them. Reporting apps are mostly used by councils to gain information on things that need to be fixed or maintained in the area from it’s residents. Unfortunately it’s not feasible for them to use the information provided on offences to issue infringements. The main reason being, when a person receives an infringement notice, they are entitled to the option of taking it to court. This would then require the person who provided the evidence to appear as a witness. This becomes a very long, arduous and expensive process and thus, not one that our law enforcement agencies like to spend taxpayers money on.

The Right to Access – The Loo

Originally published under

Does that accessible toilet have your name on it?

Disabled Access, Information
Friday Wright

I get asked several times a week about accessible toilets. There is no law enforcement on toilets like there is parking. There’s a very good reason for that. So I’m going to explore the ins and outs (oh dear this is only going to go down hill from here) of access to public toilet facilities.

Example of a disability accessible toilet set up

 

 

 

International symbols for toilets Man – black image of person Woman black image of person with skirt Disability – white image of person in wheelchair on blue square the word Toilet Braille underneath

The Access to Premises Standards state the requirements of buildings to provide toilet facilities that are accessible to people of all abilities. This is governed by the Disability Discrimination Act. Various other Acts and Codes of Practice are incorporated in the access standards including the Building Code of Australia and Local Government by laws.

The purpose of the Disability Discrimination Act in Access to Premises is to ensure that people are not excluded from the equivalent access that the rest of the community enjoy due to their disability.

 

So lets look at it in perspective. Public toilets. When you gotta go, you gotta go. We all know how much we’ve loved the blessing of being able to find a toilet when you’re out at one time or another in our lives. We also all know the joy of finding said toilet only to discover people have lined up out the door and down the Pacific Highway to use said toilet. It happens. To all of us. Not just those with disabilities.

I saw a tweet a while ago on Twitter  from a person of some significant prominence in the disability community. The person is a wheelchair user. It said “The person in this disability toilet had better be in a wheelchair.”

I used a great deal of restraint that day to not reply. Lets get something sorted right here right now, using a wheelchair is not the only need for access to a toilet.

There are many types of mobility devices that would restrict a person attempting to use a standard type toilet. Those people have just as much right as wheelchair users to access. Including, the accessible toilet.

I’m prepared for the condemnation I’ll receive for saying this but seriously, unless that toilet has your name on it, you’ll just have to wait like the rest of us. Now, before you go all hell hath no fury on me, remember I have used and still on occasions use a wheelchair and there are times my mobility is so restricted I cannot control my movement enough to even speak clearly. So the “you don’t know what it’s like” argument just went out the window.

This is how we need to perceive accessible toilets.
1. Are they provided?
2. Are there enough to cover the equivalent use of standard toilets? That means considering up to 10% of the population NEEDS an accessible toilet is there 1 to every 10 standard toilets (both male and female) provided.
3. Are they being used reasonably? That is that the people using them have a NEED to use them because they can’t use a standard toilet in their situation and there are no other facilities provided to suit their needs AND are they using them for the purpose of sanitary hygiene needs?

The reason I point out the specifics in point 3 is that prior to writing this I have actually done a bit of research. I’ve spoken with shopping centre security and managers, and I’ve had a real eye opening education about what goes on in public toilets. One shopping centre staff told a story of a couple who regularly meet and use the disability accessible toilet for a ‘romantic encounter’. One of these people uses a wheelchair and the other person has other disabilities. True story. There were other stories about people who fall asleep in toilets, use them as change rooms and unload their shoplifted stash into bags to look like purchases.

The most shocking part of this is that every one of these stories featured a person with a mobility disability. So they had every right and need to use the toilet however they weren’t using it reasonably.

We really need to stop ableism but just as much I think we need to stop able-hate. The assumption that access facility abuse is only by able bodied people is clearly wrong. We already know the amount of abuse of parking permits by permit holders that goes on. No it’s not appropriate if you are the permit holder to use the disability parking to pick up your able bodied child from school while you sit in your car and wait.

So the question posed so often to me “Are disability accessible toilets for the exclusive use of people with disabilities?” has the answer of NO.

What does the Disability Discrimination Act say about accessible toilets?
Do accessible toilets have to be reserved exclusively for people with disabilities?

No. There is nothing in the DDA to mandate accessible toilet facilities being exclusively for use by people with disabilities – so long as in high use areas there are sufficient numbers of accessible facilities to give users with disabilities equivalent convenience of access.

Where there are multiple toilet facilities, venues may well make their own decisions to reserve accessible facilities for use by people with disabilities only, or to implement a priority system. That is however a matter for management decision in the circumstances of each venue, rather than for the DDA. Other users without disabilities may likewise decide voluntarily as a matter of courtesy not to use an accessible toilet if possible where another toilet is provided, to avoid delaying a person who does not have a choice. Again, however, that is not a matter for the DDA.

Of course, the only way to ensure absolutely equal access would be to require that each and every toilet be accessible – but no one has argued that the DDA or other laws require that, in recognition of the additional space that an accessible toilet facility requires.

The position where parking spots are reserved for use by people with disabilities is different. A parked car typically remains in place much longer than a person using a toilet does, so that parking in “disabled” spaces by drivers without a disability can effectively deny people with a disability access at all, rather than only requiring a short delay.

So in a nutshell…. if the building has provided the required access for people with disabilities their job is done. No discrimination has occurred.

It then comes down to the person using the facility. Have they caused discrimination against a person with a disability? Have they used the toilet instead of using standard toilets that were available at the time? Have they used the toilet reasonably?

It’s tough to control the use of toilets. It relies heavily on people being considerate and having morals. Perhaps we need to have signs on all the accessible toilets where standard toilets are also provided that say “Do you really need to use this facility?” If you gotta go, you gotta go and all things considered, we’re damn lucky to live in a country where we have the right to fight for equal access. Let’s enjoy that. Even if we have to wait our turn.

 

%d bloggers like this: