Queenslanders with vision loss will be eligible for disability parking permits for the very first time after the Palaszczuk Government this week passed major legislative reforms.
The new laws will also see some of the toughest fines introduced for drivers who illegally use disability parking spaces, increasing from $266 to $533.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the reforms were scheduled to come into effect on August 31, 2020.
“This is a common sense change that will make life easier for thousands of Queenslanders,” Mr Bailey said.
“COVID-19 hit global economies, and our community hasn’t been immune, but because of Queensland’s strong health response to-date we’re now able to implement these reforms.
The existing parking scheme only provides parking concessions to people who are either unable to walk and always rely on a wheelchair, or who have a severe restriction to their ability to walk.
“Disability advocacy groups like Guide Dogs and Braille House, and a significant grass roots movement told us of the unique challenges Queenslanders with vision loss faced, and we took action. This is their win.
“These parking concessions make it possible for permit holders to go about their daily business by providing access to conveniently located bays at shopping centres, hospitals, medical centres, train stations and entertainment venues.”
Minister for Communities, Disability Services and Seniors Coralee O’Rourke said the expanded criteria for the parking permit scheme would define vision impairment consistently with the Federal Government’s Social Security Guide.
“These are practical reforms that have come from an independent assessment of the current system our government started last year,” Mrs O’Rourke said.
“It will ensure people with vision impairment and their carers are supported with safer and more convenient access in car parks across the state.”
Mr Bailey said the expanded scheme would be introduced alongside tougher penalties for people illegally using disability parking spaces.
“Drivers who illegally park in disability spaces should expect to be harshly penalised. It’s arrogant and selfish behaviour that the community doesn’t support,” Mr Bailey said.
“I’ve already written to local councils, major retailers, car park operators and shopping centre groups calling on them to adopt our tougher approach and to work with us to increase enforcement.
“I urge motorists not to park in a disability parking bay unless they are a permit holder or dropping off or picking up a permit holder.
“If everyone obeys these rules, parking bays will be available to permit holders when they need them.”
Guide Dogs Queensland CEO Michael Kightley said the move to include Queenslanders with vision loss in the disability parking permit scheme was very welcomed.
“This legislative change has been at the top of our advocacy agenda for some time and we are very thankful to the Palaszczuk Government for their support,” Mr Kightley said.
“During our campaign, many Queenslanders were surprised to learn that vehicles transporting people who were blind or had significant sight loss were unable to use the disability parking bays provided at the entrance to their local shopping centre or outside their doctor’s office.
“The consequence of this was 92% of surveyed clients felt unsafe when moving through car parks and 58% avoided going out altogether due to having to navigate these busy traffic environments.
“These common-sense changes passed today will have a huge effect on improving people’s confidence by providing access to the parking nearest building entrances.
“This is a great step towards inclusion by the Queensland Government and will be widely valued by the many Queenslanders with vision loss and their families who want to go about their daily business safely and independently.”
Mr Bailey said that later this year he was convening a summit on the reforms with vision impairment groups, councils and other government agencies.
The summit will focus on education, awareness and enforcement, and allow stakeholders to share ideas about improving access to disability parking.
“I’ve also had the issue put on the national agenda at the Transport and Infrastructure Council so we can start working towards a nationally consistent approach,
“I’ll be working with all my Ministerial colleagues across Australia to help drive reform in this crucial area.”
For more information head to www.tmr.qld.gov.au