Accessible Parking Permits – Part II

This is an update to my Open Letter to VicRoads article. I will say the VicRoads staff member I spoke to was professional and very helpful – as helpful as is possible under the prevailing circumstances. In a nutshell, both my doctor and I may have taken the wording of one of the questions too literally and I can (and will) apply for a review – whether that will be successful remains to be seen and involves seeing a different doctor than the first one I saw, so another medical bill. HOWEVER, while that may solve my specific, immediate problem, it does NOT solve the broader issue of many of us needing parking proximity. I reiterate, the DT (Double Time) permits are not accepted in other states, unlike the Australian Disability Parking (ADP) Permit which is recognised nationally as it is a federal scheme.

I’ve mentioned the wonderful Dylan Alcott before, in Society and Chronic Health Conditions. I am going to compare Dylan and myself. Dylan VISIBLY needs an ADP Permit, no question. He needs the extra space for his wheelchair, this is obvious to anyone. However, anyone looking at me is going to assume I am “healthy” – the problem of invisible illnesses is we keep having to justify why we look so healthy.

The issue here is energy. Again, compare Dylan and myself. Dylan has enough energy to play professional tennis at the elite level. I’m not saying that is easy, but he has that energy! As I described in Personal Energy Use, many of us have to manage our energy use down to the last joule on a daily basis. This can be particularly challenging when we MUST also do certain levels of physical activity (movement is medicine) to retain function and mobility. If Dylan had to park 500 metres from his destination, I can imagine him covering that 500 metres with the acceleration he uses on the tennis court. I could also cover 500 metres very well – IF it was one of the ONLY activities I had to expend energy on that day, or I knew about it before hand and was able to plan accordingly. But it isn’t, is it? Life’s not like that. I talk about energy because that is my issue, but many other people would risk pain being triggered by unplanned extra activity. Pain that may take 48 hours or more to settle.

We are not only an aging population, we also have increasing numbers of chronically ill people in the community, many trying to live independent lives. We work. We go to the gym. We swim. We do hydrotherapy. We go to shopping centres. We study at universities. BUT WE HAVE LIMITATIONS.

While VicRoads manage the applications for accessible parking permits and determine the application questions and categorisations, they are NOT responsible for the number of available parking spaces OR the TYPES of parking spaces. Councils are responsible for the actual parking spaces themselves. It seems councils are reluctant to provide more wide style accessible parking spaces. My suggestion is we need a second type: standard width parking spaces close to entrances (as the wide spaces are) to provide a proximity benefit to permit holders. These would require no structural modifications, just appropriate signage.

The Double Time (DT) parking permit that I now have is useless to me. I don’t need double time, I need proximity. I’m not going to spend double time in the gym, for example. What I do need is to not have to walk an unplanned extra 600 metres (300 metres being the distance I had to park from the gym the other day) as part of my excursion. And that’s the problem, we can’t plan our day if there is this great unknown of how much extra walking will be required. Do I cancel my morning walk, just in case? But then I can’t “catch up” that walk later in the day either if I find I don’t need that extra energy supply by finding a park close to the gym. That is not taking into account carrying anything either (gym equipment, shopping, text books, whatever). Activity has to be spaced out across the day for many of us. We may need rest between sessions.

On Monday last week I had a big day, for my body. It went like this: walk to tram, tram to train, walk from train to dentist, repeat in reverse, slight rest, drive to myotherapist, then home afterwards. Monday is usually a gym day as I don’t work Mondays, but after all that activity I was energy depleted: gym was not happening. So I planned to go to gym after work on Tuesday if I felt up to it. Tuesday, drove to the gym, not a park within any reasonable distance. I had to turn around and drive home again. The double time permit was of no use to me at all.

Then comes the question of who fights for change? Change usually has to be driven by those needing the change, but our energy levels won’t allow for taking on that extra load. Another illustration. Yesterday (Friday) was a reasonably heavy day of work for me, I was flying solo as colleagues had the day off. By about 5 pm I was 700 steps short for my daily step count target. I bribed myself to do those 700 steps by walking to the local shop and buying a treat.

Bad me! But they are nice.

By 7:30 pm my internal battery was completely flat. Lying in bed, I realised I hadn’t done my critical shoulder exercises but there was no way I could lift myself off the mattress to stand up and do them. I didn’t make my breakfast last night in preparation for today. This morning I realised I hadn’t even removed my “paint on” (doesn’t smudge under masks) lipstick last night. This morning it was noon before I could “do stuff”. Saturday morning is always “recover from the working week” time, and at least I did manage to paint my nails, so the time wasn’t completely wasted.

My FAVOURITE colour!

Where on earth would I find the energy to launch and drive innovation across the many councils? The truth is, I don’t have that energy available. It would be very hard work. The very people who need the innovation may not have the energy to fight for the innovation. Therein lies our problem. This whole situation, of course links back into my article Will Society Adapt? When? How?

Expansion and innovation of accessible parking availability is part of the social adaptation required for the increasing numbers of people.

The need to recognise different types of disability is paramount. Dylan and I have completely different disabilities requiring different solutions. We need to innovate.

I am told there are problems with people who perhaps really do not need accessible parking getting access and therefore there has had to be a tightening of eligibility criteria. Yet this flies in the face of the knowledge we have about the increasing numbers of people in society who may need accessible parking to retain their independence and quality of life. The solution to increased numbers of people is surely not to restrict access, but to innovate and increase availability, perhaps provide a new type of parking space as I’ve suggested. Other suggestions I am sure would be made if we thought about it.

It seems to me society is saying we can’t possibly make more or different spaces available for the increased number of people, we’ll just have to restrict access more rigorously. That’s like saying we can’t build more schools, we’ll just not educate some kids. Or we can’t have more hospitals, some sick people will just have to miss out on treatment.

Of course, if I were rich, I could have a chauffeur drive me to the door of my destination, find a park and wait for me. Like a great many of the population, I’m not rich.

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Robyn Dunphy

I offer exercise guidance to those with chronic medical conditions where exercise is beneficial.

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