Disability advocate allegedly abused by driver taking up three mobility parks



A disability advocate was given the finger and claims she was sworn and yelled at after confronting a man who parked his car and jet ski across three mobility parks.


The woman, who spoke on condition she was not identified, said the incident happened in Countdown's Cameron Rd undercover carpark last Thursday early evening.


"This what entitlement looks like," the woman, who asked not to be named, said in an email to the Bay of Plenty Times.


It was warm and because she knew how hard it could be to find a mobility park, the woman approached the driver.

"Friends and clients talk with frustration about accessible parking spaces being occupied by people just looking for a convenient parking space," she said.

"I thought, 'I've got to say something'."

The woman said she kept it "very professional" and did not raise her voice, but claimed the man allegedly told her to ''go get f***ed'' three times within the 20-second conversation.

She took photos of the man and his vehicle and jetski, which she provided to the Bay of Plenty Times.

She said she did not see a mobility parking permit, nor did she ask the man if she had one.

She told a staff member about the incident and continued into the store. When she returned to the car park, the man had left.

"That sort of behaviour, it's out of order."

"We've come quite a way, getting spaces for people that need them ... but there are so many places that don't have accessibility for people who need them," she said.

"Parking in three parking spots is just ridiculous."

Tauranga tetraplegic Amanda Lowry said people who parked in mobility spaces that shouldn't were stopping her and others from ''living life''.

"It can become a fight every day ... you are relying on everyone's goodwill to honour the mobility parking spaces."

Lowry had blocked in vehicles with her own car in the past while her support worker tracked down the culprit.

She confronted one man face-to-face who got ''shitty'' but Lowry said she held her ground and was not interested in his excuses.

"I told him I don't care about you because this is about me being able to access the community with my family and being able to do the things you are able to do without even thinking," she said.

"The minute you park there you stop me from being able to do that and you are preventing me from living life.''

Lowry said it was a big problem and could become too much for some people who struck this type of behaviour daily.

CCS Disability Action Central Regional access co-ordinator Raewyn Hailes said that kind of parking abuse occurred many times a day across New Zealand.

She said there were not enough mobility parking spaces for the people who held permits.

There was also no New Zealand legislation requiring enforcement in private spaces.

"In public spaces enforcement is often during business hours only. People who use the spaces without a permit know it is unlikely there will be any penalty to them, and because these spaces are usually close to an entrance they are ideal for a quick stop."

She said it was "definitely a problem".

"There are also hidden disabilities where people with a permit report verbal abuse because they appear to be able to walk."

Countdown Tauranga store manager Craig Taylor said it was "extremely disappointing" to see anyone misusing mobility car parks.

"Mobility car parks are positioned to ensure customers with mobility needs can more easily and safely shop with us, and they are specially designed to provide space to manoeuvre wheelchairs, walking frames or for mobility van access," he said.

"The reality is that there are only a small number of designated mobility car parks available at any one time."

While the "vast majority" of customers were respectful of mobility car parking, Taylor said, some Countdown supermarkets, including the Bureta Park store, were trialling CCS Disability Action's Access Aware app.

The app allows people to take a photograph of a vehicle that is parked in a mobility parking space without a permit and upload it to the app, which will then alert the store.

"It's another way we can help reiterate that these car parks are there for a purpose," Taylor said.

"We're still monitoring feedback from the trial but the hope is that we can extend this [to other stores]."

Team leader for Regulation Monitoring at Tauranga City Council Stuart Goodman said as this occurred in a private carpark, the council was unable to take action against the driver.

There were 187 $150 infringement notices issued for illegally parking in a mobility parking space throughout 2019, he said.