Not your parking spot

Prepare yourself, for I am hot under the collar about something that really, really bothers me: People who park in mobility parks when they don’t have a permit to do so. I’m looking at you, dad at school pickup who hoons into the carpark one minute before the end-of-day bell rings and screeches to a halt in the mobility park you don’t hold a permit for. I’m also looking at you, teen driver at the mall who clearly decided that driving up one row to park in a regular parking spot was too hard. Oh, and woman at my local supermarket who parked in a mobility park right outside the entrance because you were “only popping in for a moment”? Yeah, I’ve got my eye on you, too. And I probably took a photo of your numberplate and reported it to Access Aware.

I used to sit behind the wheel of my car and shoot dagger glares at the people I saw abusing mobility parks. I even tried going into the office at my church to ask the secretary to tell a tradesperson to please shift his un-mobility-permitted vehicle out of the mobility park he was in while he fixed something inside the church. She told me it wasn’t her job to do that. Whose job is it, then? In fact, she had directed the tradie to park in that mobility park, because it was close to the door and he’d therefore have quicker access to his tools. Yeah, no. That’s not good enough.

We live in a society that’s built for the able-bodied, and those who are disabled are an afterthought — if they are thought of at all. Take the recent discussions about the new playground that’s opened at Parliament, which isn’t accessible to people with mobility issues. Emily Writes picked up on this when visiting with her child, and wrote about it. A number of disability awareness groups I follow also raised the topic, and that sparked many thought-provoking discussions about the shocking lack of accessible playgrounds in NZ. Were any disability representatives consulted when they were planning and designing for this playground? Are they ever?

One in four New Zealanders is disabled. But are a quarter of the parking spots in any given carpark mobility spaces? Of course not. At a school near where I live, I counted 74 parking spots, plus four mobility spots. Is four mobility spots enough?

11% of children under the age of 15 are disabled. Think of your local playground — how much of the equipment is suitable for a child (or parent) with mobility issues, low vision, sensory challenges, or needing any kind of equipment in order to get around or live their life? Wheelchair access seems like an obvious place to start, and there are other ways to make play spaces inclusive which the able-bodied may not even realise exist. We need to remember that not all disabilities are immediately evident or visible, and it’s important to talk to actual disabled people about what will help them and listen to their needs.

For all of you people who have parked in a mobility spot “just for a minute”, here’s some food for thought. Did you know that the people who hold mobility parking permits have to pay for them? They’re not “free parking”. You have to go to your GP or specialist, get them to fill in a form, and pay a fee. That’s a significant burden on someone who is already dealing with their own or their loved one’s disability.

This holiday season, when you’re at the crowded mall hunting for a parking spot and you see that mobility park surrounded by a halo of light right next to the entrance, please just move on — don’t even think about it. Because when you park there without a permit, you’re actively discriminating against someone who is already marginalised by society. You’re telling them that you are more important than them. You’re taking away their opportunity to participate in life. And you’re @#!%^&*$ me off.

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