Anger at permit changes for disabled parking

| 26.06,09. 04:43 AM |

Anger at permit changes for disabled parking

June 26, 2009 12:00am

Under the Federal Government's plan to nationalise the disability parking scheme, those with serious medical conditions may be denied free permits.

The planned changes would make it harder for people with disabilities, including those who rely on walking sticks, to qualify for the permits.

Disability rights groups attacked the proposal, urging that the widely rorted scheme be better policed rather than restrictions being intensified for the people who need them.

There are 300,000 parking permits in NSW and since 2008 more than 450 permits were revoked for misuse.

John Bishop, 24, whose spina bifida means he struggles to walk more than 100m without a stick, could be stripped of his parking permit.

"Just because I don't look disabled doesn't mean I'm not, on a bad day I can only walk 50m and if I did more I would be housebound for the rest of the day," Mr Bishop said yesterday.

Leading service provider Northcott Disability Services spokeswoman Wendy Hall said it would discriminate against people with conditions such as MS and cerebral palsy who do not need a wheelchair but can only walk short distances unaided.

"This scheme is meant to enhance access to the community. The scheme requires better monitoring rather than restricting the criteria," she said.

Paying for parking would eat into the not-for-profit group's budget and challenge individuals who struggle to access parking meters and fit into pay stations with modified cars and wheelchairs.

"Public transport is still inaccessible to most people with disabilities. If we impose parking restrictions on disabled drivers which prevent them from parking all day, this means they can't access their workplaces. This scheme will cost people their jobs," driver Anne-Marie Howarth, who struggles to find parking for the disabled in Sydney, said.

"While the disabled can ill-afford to feed parking meters, at the moment they can't even reliably get to or use them," she said.

Paralympian gold medallist Louise Sauvage said many people relied on the permits, which allow them to park unlimited in metered zones, for work.

"That is going to be very tough if public transport is not accessible and parking is not affordable," she said.

"The one thing I value more than anything is my independence. To lose that would be devastating. I value my parking permit over everything."

Daily Telegraph

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