Former New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O'Sullivan made headlines this week when he was charged with intentionally damaging a car. He threw a brick through a car window because it was parked in a disabled spot. While his actions are not condoned, there are many who understand his frustration. David Beck reports.
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Disability parking spots exist for an obvious reason and to abuse them is selfish, says Age Concern Tauranga general manager Tanya Smith.
Her comments come after former New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O'Sullivan made headlines this week when he was charged after throwing a brick through the window of a car parked in a disabled spot.
Smith said people needed to think more about how their actions affected others.
"It's really disappointing when people do use them and they don't have the mobility parking permit. The people who do have the permit have gone out of their way to go and get it because they need it.
"It's not like there's half a dozen or a dozen of these spaces allocated for people with the parking permits, they're situated in the appropriate places to give disabled people more independence.
"The ones with the permits have a desperate need for it, they're not just doing it for the fun of it all, they're not well."
CCS Disability Action midland region general manager Colene Herbert said people using disabled parking spots illegally was an issue all over New Zealand, including in the Bay of Plenty.
She did not condone O'Sullivan's actions, but she said she understood his frustration.
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"It's far too common and we really empathise with the frustration of those mobility card holders because they pay for them. They pay for the right to have those parks and some of the people who hold those permits, parking somewhere else is just not an option for them.
"They really need the access for getting from the vehicle, off the road and up on to the footpath. They need all the barriers to be free to do that."
Herbert said drivers who took the parks when they did not need them was "arrogant and very selfish".
Two years ago CCS Disability Action developed an app called Access Aware, which encourages people to report those who abuse disability parks.
The app also allows users to report abuse in private disability car parks, see the location of disability car parks in the area and report to the app when a disability car park cannot be found.
"It works extremely well and we're still chipping away, asking councils throughout the country to use it. It gives people who have paid to use the parks the ability to get help when there are obvious abuses of those car parks.
"We call it abuse because that's what it is.
"The app also stops people taking matters into their own hands. I can feel [O'Sullivan's] frustration but we never condone direct action, we encourage people to make note of the abuse."
Rotorua's Bruce Morrison was once knocked unconscious when he told a people they were not allowed to use the park.
Morrison is the caregiver for his wife Catherine Morrison, who uses a wheelchair, and said he can't count the number of times he has seen able-bodied people using disabled parking spots.
"When I brought it up with the people who were parked there without a permit, they knocked me out, left me on the ground and took off. It was outside the Fairy Springs medical centre."
While he was speaking to the driver, two teenagers got out of the car. One pushed Morrison before the other landed a punch from behind, knocking him to the ground.
"I was taken into the medical centre and they made sure I didn't have concussion, kept me there for an hour or so. There was massive bruising on the side of my face and a cut on the back of my head from where I hit the ground."
The Morrison's recorded the vehicle's number plate and called the police who dealt with the matter.
Morrison said it angered him to see people taking parks that others genuinely needed. He had even seen people who had borrowed a car with a permit from someone who was disabled.
"The big thing is, I need to get the wheelchair up to the passenger's door of the car. If I have to go to a normal park, there often isn't room to get the wheelchair between the two cars, open the door and get my wife out. The disability parks allow a bit more width for exactly that sort of thing. These people don't have any regard for those who do have disabilities."
For advice and support call CCS Disability Action on 0800 227 2255.