The Facebook group "You've got my Car Park, want my Disability too?", which aims "to make the New Zealand public aware of the abuse of Mobility Parking Spaces", has certainly raised our collective awareness about some of the challenges people with disabilities face. This page, which invites supporters to post photographs showing vehicles inappropriately parked in mobility spaces, seems to have triggered a discourse on how exactly people with disabilities get around.
As these stories illustrate, transportation - whether by car or by plane - is not always straightforward for disabled people.
Parking in a mobility space without displaying your mobility parking permit is just plain rude yet this is precisely what some thoughtless able-bodied drivers have become accustomed to doing. I guess if you were born without a conscience and have no concern for the welfare of others this may seem a reasonable thing to do.
Little do they know it, but these people are now likely to be exposed on "You've got my Car Park, want my Disability too?" which at last count had over 9,300 "likes". Judging by the descriptions on the photographs, it seems there are ignoramuses nearly everywhere - including Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Cambridge, Tauranga, Whakatane, Wanganui, Masterton, Wellington, Christchurch and Arrowtown.
These photographs of vehicles parked in a mobility space without the appropriate permits are revealing. There are a lot of vans. Courier vans, especially, seem to think the rules don't apply to them. In fact, it's surprising how many people driving vehicles painted with company logos and telephone numbers are so cavalier about where they park. Do they not realise how easy it is to track down their bosses?
I give ten points for effort (but zero points for empathy) to the woman who left this note on her windscreen: "I sprained my ankle! Please let me park here today!! Love you longtime! Tiana xx". And goodness knows what the drivers who straddle two mobility parks with a single vehicle are thinking. Are they, in fact, thinking at all?
Mobility parks can be used only if you display the appropriate pass which is issued after you've completed the application, had your eligibility confirmed by a doctor and paid the relevant fee. It's a well patronised service. Evidently, the "mobility parking permit scheme makes getting around our local communities a bit easier for over 100,000 New Zealanders."
Despite this well organised system, there remain some able-bodied people who seem to feel entitled to use these enticingly wide and conveniently positioned parks. So let's clarify a few misconceptions. Courier vans, taxis, trucks, rental vans and utes (with or without trailers) may not park in mobility spaces - and nor may people who are just "popping in" for "five minutes" to grab a coffee or a pie.
In short, it's a sure sign of ignorance and arrogance to park unlawfully in a mobility space. But if, despite all advice, you can't resist then please make sure your car is clean and polished - because it's likely to be photographed and displayed on the You've-got-my-Car-Park,-want-my-Disability-too? page where your motives may be dissected, your character flaws discussed and your level of intelligence debated.
What makes someone without a permit park in a mobility space? Is there ever an acceptable reason for doing so? Have you ever taken a park reserved for a disabled person?