Accessible parking: a call for reform

Disabled motorist accessibility parking
Disabled motorist accessibility parking

In collaboration with Spinal Cord Injuries Australia, the NRMA has assessed the state of accessibility parking in New South Wales to produce the Where Do I Park? report.

We are calling for long overdue improvements to reduce barriers for people with a disability to access mobility parking spaces.

What's the issue?

Despite the number of mobility parking permits increasing by 60 per cent since 2007 to almost 400,000 licence holders, there have been no attempts to keep pace with the growth in accessible spaces in public and private car parks.

In NSW, 8 per cent of drivers either hold a mobility parking permit or travel with someone who does and that figure is expected to continue to rise. Shopping centres only require two per cent of parking spaces to be accessible, with residential zones requiring just once per cent.

Despite hefty penalties and demerit points for offending drivers the supply of accessible spaces is further strained by the misuse of accessible parking spaces. Where Do I Park? highlights that in 2020/21 12,992 people were fined for stopping in a disabled parking area without a current permit displayed.

Related: Fines and enforcement for disability parking, plus eligibility for Mobility Parking Permits

What is it like driving with a disability?

Susan Wood from Spinal Cord Injuries Australia has graciously shared her story on what life is like living in the Blue Mountains and her experience as a driver with disabilities.  

Susan Wood disabled motorists accessibility parking

"I grew up in the Blue Mountains just down the road from a train station, that wasn’t accessible by any means. The nearest accessible train station was a 20-minute drive up the highway to Katoomba.

As someone who had paraplegia from a stroke at birth, I’d grown up very aware of what kind of future I needed for myself and if I were to remain as independent as possible driving was a necessity.

At the time, it wasn’t possible to take public transport easily and I would drive everywhere. There are so many things to factor in when you’re a driver with a disability. It’s not as simple as finding any available space.

For me, my wheelchair pulls apart and I put it beside me in the passenger side. Doing this requires a space wide enough, as flat a surface as possible and most importantly somewhere safe.

I moved to the Inner West of Sydney at 23 and a part of me assumed that a denser population meant that it would be easier to drive around and find accessible parking, but it was almost like the issues I had were intensified.

Going out, no matter what disability the driver has, requires planning. You plan to circle block after block with an ever-increasing radius because all the accessible spaces are taken. You plan to give up available accessible places because they have been placed on an uphill slant or it’s too narrow.

You think about how much of your safety you are willing to risk to find a car park in an area that has a mix of cars, buses and cyclists, and sometimes you plan to give up your day and go home.

I’ve been driving for 20 years and am one of a wide pool of drivers with disabilities with a wide range of modified vehicles that needs to be planned for. It’s not easy to be a driver with a disability when the society around you hasn’t planned for you."

A call to action to reform accessible parking

The Where do I Park report is calling for:

  1. More accessible parking spaces and improved ratio of accessible parking spaces
  2. Real-time data for every private and council-held accessible parking space across NSW.
  3. An audit of the suitability of accessible parking spaces
  4. More enforcement of accessible parking laws and targeted education campaigns
  5. Harsher penalties for repeat accessible parking offenders.
  6. Signage displaying the demerit point penalty near accessible parking spaces to deter drivers from parking illegally.
  7. Encourage private car park operators to allow police or other authorised enforcement officers access to their property to enforce accessible parking laws.

Click here to view the full Where Do I Park? report.

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