Disability parking permits: everything you need to know

Disabled parking space sign
Disabled parking space sign

The NSW Mobility Parking Scheme (MPS) scheme originated nearly 50 years ago to give people with disabilities improved access to high population areas such as the Sydney CBD. 

Since then, the introduction and implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2013 gave people with disabilities the opportunity to drive independently with the right supports and vehicle modifications.

The MPS permit allows people with disabilities (both drivers and passengers) and older Australians to park in a reasonably safe place with adequate room to consider their mobility aids, such as a manual wheelchair or a car hoist. Without an MPS permit, people with disabilities and older Australians would face significant barriers accessing their community, employment and even their homes.

How to help people with disabilities find safe parking

It goes without saying, but motorists without MPS permits should not park in disability parking spaces. Taking or interfering with a spot, even for a short amount of time, has real world consequences for those who really need them. 

Disabled spaces are generally longer than regular spaces to allow for loading and unloading of passengers with automated wheelchair lifts, so be mindful not to leave any portion of the nose or tail end of your car overhanging into a disabled space.

Car parked across two disabled parking spaces

Be mindful not to leave any portion of the nose or tail end of your car overhanging into a disabled space. Image credit: Getty

Catching  disability parking cheats - enforcement and fines

Enforcement of accessible parking is conducted by NSW Police and authorised council parking officers for both on-street and council-operated car parks. The scheme is not generally enforced in private car parks. 

The on-the-spot fine is $581, but courts may impose fines of up to $2,200. From 1 December 2014, anyone caught parking in a disabled spot without the proper permit loses one demerit point, following a successful advocacy campaign by the NRMA based on Member feedback.

During the 2021 financial year, there were 12,992 fines issued to drivers for this offence.  This figure shows that many people are still not getting the message. 

How to report misuse of disability parking spaces

In 2007, the 1300 884 899 Mobility Parking Scheme Hotline was launched to report suspected misuse of disability parking permits, report medical practitioners suspected of incorrectly issuing permits, and report persons suspected of not being mobility impaired.

Apps such as Snap Send Solve are also being used to report illegal disabled parking to the appropriate authorities.

When a MPS permit is not displayed or misuse is obvious:

  • Report it directly to the relevant enforcement officers such as local councils.
  • For privately operated car parks or shopping centres, report the issue to centre management. 

However, determining if someone is fraudulently misusing a disabled parking permit is not easy and should not be assumed. Someone’s disability may not be visible, so always give the benefit of the doubt.

“I have a permit, but to look at me you wouldn’t think there was much wrong with me. I get accusing stares all the time and one of these days I’m going to ask if they’d like to see the scars from all my ops, back, both knees etc. I shouldn’t have to feel this way. I’m in constant pain but try not to show it, am I now going to be harassed by some official about parking?”

NRMA Member

What does a mobility parking permit allow?

Motorists with a valid MPS permit can access designated disability spaces reserved solely for permit holders. These spaces are generally designed to provide additional space, safety and convenience for people who may have trouble entering or exiting a vehicle.

Permit holders are also exempted from charges at metered spaces and their allowed time in time-limited spaces is increased to: 30 minutes in spaces with a time limit of less than 30 minutes; two hours in 30-minute spaces; and no limit in spaces with time limits exceeding 30 minutes.

There is also an allowance of five minutes in No Parking areas to drop off and pick up passengers or goods.

What types of mobility parking permits are there?

There are three types of mobility parking permits available in NSW:

  • Individual (blue card): Issued on a five-year basis to those with a permanent disability.
  • Temporary (red card): Issued for up to six months for those with a temporary disability such as a leg injury.
  • Organisation (green card): Available to organisations that provide transport for those with disabilities.

Can a mobility parking permit be used interstate?

Yes. In 2010, the Australian Government introduced the Australian Disability Parking Scheme, an initiative aimed at streamlining parking entitlements offered to those with eligible disabilities.

The Australian Disability Parking Scheme saw the introduction of the Australian Disability Parking Permit, standardising more than 100 different permits across the country.

Who is eligible for a mobility parking permit?

To qualify for a mobility parking permit in NSW, you must be a resident of the state and have a disability defined by legislation or considered a Clinically Recognisable Disability.

Paraplegia, quadriplegia, leg amputations, motor neurone disease, Cerebral Palsy, chromosomal or syndromic conditions, neurodegenerative disorders and neuromuscular conditions and blindness are all considered Clinically Recognisable Disabilities.

Legislation-defined disabilities also include being:

  • Unable to walk due to permanent or temporary loss or use of one or both legs;
  • Unable to walk because of another permanent medical or physical condition;
  • Detrimentally affected as a result of walking 100 metres, and;
  • In need of crutches, a walking frame, calipers, scooter, wheelchair or other similar mobility aid.

How to properly display a mobility parking permit

Motorists are required to display both their Mobility Parking Scheme and Australian Disability Parking permits to receive parking concessions.

The Mobility Parking Scheme permit is to be inserted into the clear sleeve of the Australian Disability Parking Permit with the rear of the card facing outwards.

Permits are to be clearly displayed on the left hand side of the car, able to be viewed from outside the vehicle, and not obstruct the driver’s vision.

Have you witnessed drivers misusing disabled parking spots?

We're calling on government to improve access for those with mobility difficulties and want your feedback!