When I was heavily pregnant with my first child, about 10 years ago now, I once accidentally parked in a disability parking spot.
I had to visit the bank which was located on a busy road. A driver who had just left a parking space signalled for me to take his place. Not wanting to hold up traffic, and there was plenty of it, I quickly parked in the vacant spot.
I did see a sign saying there was a disability space when I drove up but I thought it was the one just behind the spot I had parked in.
When I struggled out of the car (I looked and felt much like an elephant in the last trimester of my pregnancy), I didn't check.
It turned out to be a mobility parking spot after all. There were two on that stretch of road.
When I got back to my car, a warden was writing out a ticket.
It was a fine for about $250 and I remember crying my eyes out. Firstly because I was hormonal, secondly because there was no way I could afford that much money for a ticket just before the baby was due, but most of all because I had actually parked in a disability spot without realising it.
The warden was very sweet and said I could write in to object to the ticket, and that he would put in a recommendation so I didn't have to pay it.
It only took one look at me for him to decide that it was all right for me to park there for a few minutes, but I disagreed.
My father was in a wheelchair for half of his adult life so no matter how pregnant and uncomfortable, I would never purposely use a parking space meant for people who have a mobility card.
Unfortunately, I see people do it often, especially at the local shops. It makes my blood boil.
The Facebook page "You've got my Car Park, want my Disability too?" has received a lot of media attention lately.
It has been set up to help identify the issue of people abusing the use of mobility parking spaces nationally.
The administrators of the site encourage members of the public to take photos of offenders and their cars when they are abusing these parking spaces and post them on the Facebook page.
I was surprised to see that most of the photos posted were either of company cars with signwriting all over them or luxury sports cars.
The able-bodied driver of a Lamborghini who had parked outside an Auckland gym in a mobility spot apparently told a staff member he did it because he didn't want to get a scratch on his car door. He was shamed on the Facebook page and hopefully fined and towed.
The owner of this car has since publicly apologised for parking in a mobility space after he was publicly shamed on the internet.
The story we published about it last week so far attracted 14 comments. Biglad said: "Anyone parking in a disabled space who shouldn't be parking there, should have their vehicle disabled - at least wheel clamped along with a hefty release fee of say $500. Or how about removing the wheels - that'll "disable"the vehicle!"
Jeff Parks replied: "I agree that these lazy people need to be slapped, but to have them clamped would be futile as it doesn't open the space for proper use. Maybe we could use a pallet jack and shift the car to, oh, the nearest scrap yard?"
Bopsun mentioned: "Couldn't agree more but with supermarkets not policing this as well it hardly discourages illegal parking however I don't know how many times I've seen a person park in a disabled park, display the disabled sticker and then get out and walk into the supermarket without so much as a hint of a disability."
Observer1 was a little critical, too: "Always wonder at why a person struggles from the car park to a shopping centre and then can wander around said shopping centre freely. It always strikes me that the 'disabilities' are over played and that the genuine people that they would truly benefit are probably too ill to be out in the first place."
Now that's where things get tricky. Not every disability has to do with the legs, you see. There are people who have, and use, their cards because they live with a heart condition, head injury or another type of hidden disability or illness.
Feel free to post photos of cars that are unjustifiably parked in mobility spaces because naming and shaming is what these lazy bums need, but please don't be so quick to judge people who have, and use, such a permit.
There aren't many people who have a mobility parking card and abuse it.