Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

Hail of abuse for mobility park mother

Elderly man waves walking stick in face of woman and her brain-damaged son.

Mobility parking permit.
Mobility parking permit.

An Auckland mother says she is subjected to abuse and insults by elderly strangers for using mobility parks because her brain-damaged son "doesn't look disabled".

Other parents with disabled children, those suffering from disabilities themselves and disability advocates say it is a common problem.

The North Shore woman has a permit to use the parks due to the needs of her 3-year-old son who cannot walk or control his upper body following the removal of a brain tumour when he was 3 months old. She does not want to be named for fear of further abuse and said the level of aggression she is subjected to means she will now abandon her errands if the only option is to use one of the parks.

"Elderly people have come up to me and made it clear that I shouldn't be parking there because I don't look disabled and my child doesn't look disabled," she said.

Last week an elderly man blocked her into a mobility park she was using at Westfield Glenfield, yelled at her and threatened her with his walking stick.

"He parked his car behind my car and jumped out like he was ... in his 20s with his walking stick and came up and said, 'You need to move your car because you're not disabled'.

"I said that I wasn't but my son was, and he looked at my son and said, 'What? This boy? He's not disabled'. He got his stick and waved it around at me and shouted at me and I just stood there and said, 'I am sorry but I won't be moving, I am entitled to park here just like you are'. And he threatened to call the police so I pulled my phone out and offered to do it for him because he was the one waving a stick in my face."

Her son is permanently brain damaged and as he gets older is harder to transport, she said.

"He had a brain tumour which he had removed, but in the process lost half of his brain so it's caused a lot of problems ... he's very much like a small baby.

"He's not light, he's getting heavy."

The problem was common with people she knew who also had disabled children, she said.

"It happens all the time, it's a big issue.

"I would hate to think how many people it happens to every single day because it is not a nice thing to happen."

Another Aucklander, Bonnie Robinson, suffers from multiple sclerosis and said she was often questioned about her use of the parks despite displaying her permit.

"I have had people come up to me," she said. "They have just queried and I can understand why as long as people are polite, respectful and sensitive about how they do it.

"Not everyone who parks in a disabled car park actually wants to tell people why they can because it can be quite private."

CCS Disability Action chief executive David Matthews said the issue arose quite often, and people needed to be reminded to tread carefully before accusing anyone of misusing the parks.

"Some people's disabilities are not obvious and, secondly, that person might be the legitimate driver for the disabled person and that is a legitimate use."

Mobility parking

* The mobility parking permit scheme provides permits for more than 100,000 Kiwis
* CCS Disability Action - manages and issues permits, and advocates to improve the scheme
* Doctors or GPs - assess people to determine their eligibility
* Local councils - provide and monitor on-road parking spaces
* New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) - legislation for parking requirements and fines

- NZ Herald

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