Friday, July 26, 2024

Gunnedah rolls out disabled parking protest

Gunnedah Shire Council’s Access Working Group has staged a roadside protest to highlight the issue of inappropriate use of designated access parking bays in the Gunnedah CBD.

The Access Working Group works to support the delivery of the Shire’s DisABILITY Inclusion Action Plan and strengthen Council’s commitment to being access champions.

On Sunday, wheelchairs were parked in non-designated parking bays outside Gunnedah Town Hall, each bearing a ‘Laziness is not a disability’ sign and references to common excuses used by drivers who choose to park in an access bay – excuses such as “But it’s close”, “I’ll be quick”, “Just picking my child up from school”, “I’ll only be 5 minutes”, “Nobody is using it”, “I didn’t see the sign” and “I don’t care”.

Drivers who genuinely need designated access parking spaces are often left with limited options and added stress, said Working Group Chairperson, Councillor Colleen Fuller.

“The event was staged as a result of feedback from frustrated community members, carers and the disability support sector during the development of the recently endorsed Gunnedah Shire DisABILITY Inclusion Action Plan 2024-2028,” said Cr Fuller.

“We hope to highlight to the broader community that designated access parking bays are allocated specifically for those who have a legitimate disability or impairment, and who display a NSW Mobility Parking Scheme Permit or an Australian Disability Parking Permit on their vehicle.”

Gunnedah Shire Council Manager Community Safety, Wade Berryman, reminded the community that the snap decision to park in a designated access parking bay could come at a cost.

“Fines carry a penalty of $680 and the loss of one demerit point, with these likely to be increased after 1 July 2024,” Mr Berryman said.

“The person to whom the permit was issued must also be travelling in the vehicle.”

Council’s Community and Social Planner, Debra Hilton said, “This initiative is also a timely reminder that permits are also issued to individuals with invisible disabilities or conditions that may not be apparent, and that it is important to be sensitive to others.

“It is the first of many activities to be undertaken to raise awareness of access and inclusion issues, with the Working Group rolling out a series of Access Audits in public spaces including Livvi’s Place, Pensioners Hill and Porcupine Hill, over the coming months.”

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