Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – 891ABC Interview on the Misuse of Disability Parking Permits

Clarke: The number of drivers eligible for disabled parking permits has soared in three years and its prompted complaints that genuinely disabled motorists are missing out because of the rising abuse of a new system … Kelly Vincent … from what I understand the system changed back in 2012. What happened?

Kelly Vincent: Essentially what happened was that it was just quite a small change and it enabled people who are transporting a person with a disability to also have a permit. Unfortunately it would seem like what might have happened is that this has led to some abuse and we do hear stories where people might claim that they’re going to transport their grandma or grandpa for example. Any system is open to rorting, it’s not unique to disability permits but we do need to find a way to reign this in because there are many people who genuinely need permit parking spaces who do seem to be missing out.

Clarke: How many disabled parks are there in and around metro Adelaide and also then how many permits have been released?

Kelly Vincent: Sure so the general rule for how many disability parking spaces there has to be is generally one in 50, out of every 50 car parking spaces one has to be an accessible spot. It does differ a bit depending on the nature of the car park and that also doesn’t include on-street parking. Given that there are one in five people who has a disability of some kind, it certainly doesn’t seem to have kept up with the need and not everyone in that will have a disability that means they need a car parking space but it doesn’t seem that we have enough and that’s why Dignity for Disability is moving forward with a demerit point proposal where people who park in a car parking space without a permit will lose a demerit point to try and deter people from doing this.

Clarke: The figures that I also have shown the number of eligible disabled drivers in South Australia has ballooned from that 60,000 to 75,549 in only three years. So if you’re suggesting a demerit system how would that be policed, Kelly?

Kelly Vincent: Well this is exactly what we’re in the middle of figuring out with the State Government who are very supportive of this proposal. Dignity for Disability originally had a bill before the Parliament to introduce this and the Government basically said that it was their view that it would be easiest to do this through regulation rather than a separate piece of legislation and that’s what we’re looking at doing. We do have to figure out how this would work in practice but it has been done in New South Wales But New South Wales which has a more centralised fines system so there’s not so much differentiation between what is State Government responsibility and what is Local Government, as is the case here in South Australia, we do need to figure out how it would work in practice and that’s why I understand the Government is looking at identifying a particular council area to begin with so we can work out the kinks before rolling it out state-wide.

Clarke: Could there be an argument for having an identification photo or something along those lines on these permits if the swapping around of these permits are an issue?

Look, that is a suggestion that does get made from time to time and something that I think is worth further investigation … off the top of my head after a bit of investigation, I have two concerns … one is that that would increase the cost of printing the permit which would obviously be passed down onto the permit holder and that may be a concern for people … the second is that if there are genuinely people who are picking someone up who’s the permit holder who isn’t with them at the moment … they might get caught out because they’re not the person on the photo, but the person on the photo might be waiting for them inside the shop or wherever it might be. So there are some issues … we need to work out but it may well be a situation … it’s something that needs to be looked at further.

Clarke: You were supportive of the system changing to enable people who are going to help transport someone with a disability when those changes were back in 2012 that’s an important part of determination, isn’t it?

Kelly Vincent: It is because not everyone who has a disability is able to drive, I myself am one of them so we do often rely on people to pick us up and might need assistance with that so this might be an important change for people who do need it and don’t want to worry about remembering to bring the permit with them every time they go out and it does seem that maybe it has been misused and that not maybe used for its original intent so we do need to look at how we tackle this. There are many layers to this and the first thing we have to do is deter people who don’t have a permit at all from parking in these parking spaces because there does seem to be a sense of entitlement and a sense of not really caring that they might in fact be taking away someone’s access to that particular shopping centre or venue that day by taking away that parking space if they don’t genuinely need it. I think that’s why a demerit point is suitable. This is very much related to safety as well, it’s not just about convenience, if you can’t get a permanent park because they’re all taken up, let’s say they’re taken up by people without permits and that means you have to park further away and let’s say you’re a wheelchair user and you then have to go through a busy car park to get to the venue where it might be dark and you’re less visible because you’re in a seated position, there are obvious safety concerns with that so this is very much a safety thing and we need to send that message and that’s why I think a demerit point on type of the fine is a good place to start and then we can look at figuring out how we get the people with the permits who might be using them without genuine need, we’ve got to start somewhere and I’m pleased to be moving forward with this proposal.

Clarke: Because the last thing you want is for anyone’s level of ability to be questioned because there was quite a well-publicised case that I think happened earlier this year interstate when someone actually challenged someone about their disability after they parked in a disabled car spot.

Kelly Vincent: Yes, this is something we see happen quite a lot. Often I’ll see a Facebook post where someone might have written an aggressive note and left it on the windscreen of someone’s car and they might have assumed that they don’t need the disability parking space because they’re driving a sports car for example that’s quite an insulting assumption to make about all people with disabilities there are people with disabilities who can do quite well for themselves and might choose to drive a sports car. We do need to remember to check the permit, not the person and not make assumptions because as many as 90% of disabilities have no visible indicators and we need to also be careful to assume that just because someone doesn’t have a wheelchair that also doesn’t mean that they don’t need the permit because they might have a chronic illness or a respiratory condition or a heart condition that means they’re not able to walk very far so they need to park closer to the venue wherever they’re going. We do need to be careful but we also need to be not naïve and assume that everyone who has a permit is using it genuinely.

Clarke: Dave says, “I work in town as a trader/shopkeeper near us obviously uses a disability permit. I see him swap it from car to car to extend his parking around his business. I suspect he isn’t even entitled to it, it might actually belong to a relative”. Jane called through, she had a friend who uses a disability pass that was issued a couple of years ago when her husband had a knee operation. He has since recovered and got his mobility back but they still use the pass and another text says, “Permits need dates. People use those of dead relatives of friends…” are there dates and do you have to re-sit or reapply for disability parking permits?

Kelly Vincent: You do. So it lasts about five or 10 years and there are different types of permits, you can get a temporary one for up to six weeks or something similar, if you have a temporary injury like a broken leg. I’m surprised to hear that that caller is still able to use it because in that sort of situation I would have thought they had a temporary one. Then you have the more permanent ones which last for several years and then you do have to get a new one after that

Caller John: I’m retired. My sister and I share care for my mother, we take her shopping and she’s 92. At the Firle Shopping Centre and many other shopping centres the increase in pram parks. I also look after my grandchildren, I think it’s a great idea, pram parks. But at Firle the number of pram parks, seems to be double or triple the number of disabled parks and it just doesn’t seem right. I’ve brought that up at a couple of council meetings and they just shrug their shoulders and say ‘Oh yes, that’s a need.’ But no, it’s not it really is an issue pram parks, yes, we need them but we also need disabled parks – so there should be an equity that the number of pram parks at least should be equal to disabled parks. I think at Firle probably there’s four or something, you go to Burnside Village, lots of pram parks and Marion, lots of pram parks and you have trouble finding car parks. I know a number of people who are not disabled, they have bluffed their doctors and got disabled car parks and they just laugh at it. If you’ve got a disabled sticker apparently you can get a ticket from Adelaide City Council and get a free car park at a couple of the major car parks.

Clarke: text from Rose, “A parking inspector told us last week that people with disability permits could park free anywhere in the Adelaide City Council area. Kelly Vincent, is that true?

Kelly Vincent: Can I just make a point on the pram parks, as much as we do need pram parks and we need to respect parents who need to transport their children, pram parks are not a logistically recognised park in the same way that a disability car parking space is or an accessible car parking space is they’re just a courtesy measure and we should respect it but people are allowed to park in there. We do hear stories of if people aren’t able to find and access parking space they might choose to park in the pram parking space and put the permit up because they’re not a legally recognised parking space and that’s why offences don’t necessarily apply in the same way that they do for accessible car parking spaces.

Clarke: The Adelaide City Council, do you know if that’s true?

Kelly Vincent: I’m going off the top of my head and I’d have to look into this further but it’s my understanding that it’s free up to a certain period of time. If you’re going to be there up to for two hours it might be free and then after that point in time you have to put the money in the metre. I don’t think it’s entirely free but I’d have to look into that.

Clarke: Thank you.