Get out of my parking spot

Graham Clements
Illegal parking in disability spots inconveniences people with disabilities. Only people with valid permits can use disability parking spots. Local councils issue the permits. In Victoria people who don’t have a valid permit can be fined $148. People who illegally park in disability spots might also find a photo of their car on the internet for all to see. Disability activist Samantha Connor has created an online group to shame people who illegally park their cars. The site has hundreds of pictures of illegally parked cars. Taking pictures can result in confrontations with drivers. So reporting illegal parking to councils is a safer option.
Posted by: 
Graham Clements on 01/06/2015
A disability parking sign.
Disability parking sign

Drivers need to have a valid permit.

Getting around can be a hassle for some people with a disability. Those who find it hard to walk or are unable to walk may use mobility devices such as wheelchairs. Many people with a disability rely on parking their cars in disability parking spots. These signed spots are usually closer to businesses, meaning less distance for a person with a disability to physically travel. Often the spots are wide or have no parking strips along their sides, which leaves more space for people who use wheelchairs to get in and out of their cars.

Need a valid permit

Only people with valid permits are allowed to use disability parking spots. Permits are available from local councils. A doctor needs to assess the disability of the person applying for a permit. Permits are issued for a variety of disabilities and medical conditions, including mental health conditions. A driver can also get a permit if they have a family member with a disability. Temporary permits are available. Details about permits can be found on VicRoads and local council websites.

Fines for illegal parking

If a valid permit is not displayed on a vehicle parked in a disability parking space, parking officers will often fine the driver. The fine throughout Victoria is $148. Many drivers are fined everyday. City of Melbourne parking officers issued 2428 fines for parking in a disability space without a valid permit last year. In the Hobsons Bay City Council area– based in Altona, Melbourne – an increasing number of illegal parkers are being caught. Last financial year 172 fines were issued and eight drivers were officially warned. In the first half of this financial year 142 fines have already been issued, along with six warnings.

Wall of shame

Drivers without a valid permit risk more than a fine. Groups on sites like Twitter and Facebook are posting pictures of illegally parked vehicles. Drivers risk the humiliation of a picture of their illegally parked vehicle appearing in their mum or customer’s Facebook feed.

Samantha Connor started one of the groups in March 2013. Samantha uses a wheelchair and two of her six children have disabilities. She is very active in the disability community, including being a board member for the advocacy group People with Disability Australia.

Samantha is frustrated at the attitude of illegal parkers. For her “people parking in disability bays is not actually the issue – it is the issue of people not caring about the rights of people with disability”. She says this casual disregard for the rights of people with disability has to stop. People told her naming and shaming was a great idea as nothing else seemed to work. So she created her wall of shame page. The group has over 7,000 members.

Many of those whose cars appear on the page have contacted the site. Some are not polite. Some are full of regret, like business owners who apologise and say they will ensure their employees never do it again. Samantha says the Queensland police once investigated whether officers who parked a police car in a disability spot outside a bakery were on official business.  

Confronting illegal parkers

Members of the group are advised to be discrete when taking photos of vehicles. The page recommends that members stay safe and not confront illegal parkers. Despite this, members of the group have approached the owners of offending vehicles. Sometimes the accused driver responds with abuse. If the vehicle has a business name on it, members of the page have also contacted that business to complain.

Wrongful accusations

There are times when people are wrongly accused of illegal parking. This can particularly happen when the driver does not have an obvious disability or a family member has the disability. Kevina Atkinson told the ‘Gladstone Observer’ she was tired of being abused for suspected illegal parking. She uses disability parking because her daughter has Kleefstra Syndrome.  

Ring the council

Confrontations and wrongful accusations can be avoided by reporting illegal parking directly to the local council. A customer service officer for the Hobson Bay City Council recommends that people call them with disability parking complaints. A parking inspector will then be sent to investigate as soon as possible. And there is no need to risk being caught by an angry driver taking a photo, as the council can’t take action based on photos.




Readers comments (7)

Good article. I find that the type of people who would park in a disabled spot are also the type of people who happily speed, use their phone while driving and other selfish behaviour. Some people are merely self serving. There's a name for them. Unfortunately we will never get rid of them. We simply have to make the fines tougher. That's the only thing they care about.

Great article Graham. It is very frustrating and annoying when I am in a disabled parking area and see that those coming and going around me have no visible physical disability and just wanted to find a quick (convenient to them) parking space. It seems that a lot of Australians are selfish, it's all about them and they don't care. It must be part of our culture that does not seem to be changing but needs to - other examples are throwing and leaving rubbish around on the ground, car rage and other similar selfish behaviour. Sometimes I think even the people that incidents are reported to don't care either. Naming and shaming does seem a good idea but it also seems to make people more abusive. I do know that travelling and seeing other countries and cultures where they do care is eye opening and makes me feel like I come from a country that has a lot of improving to do. But how?

A friend of mine who is very able bodied is using a Victorian disabled permit which belonged to a deceased relation and is not due to expire until 2017
I wrote anonymously to Vic Roads some time ago but no action was taken
Is there some way this person can be reported without him knowing who dobbed him in

Hi Jim,

I have heard that some people without disabilities abuse the disability parking permit system. Local councils issue the permits, so I suggest you contact the council of the area that person lives in. If you ring them, they may not require you to tell them who you are, or they may have some sort of anonymous way to make complaints via their websites

I broke my back serving my country and have a disabled parking permit. Today I couldn't get a spot because the cops were using the last disabled bay! I have a photo to prove it. Who do I send it to?

Hi William,

It is disappointing that the disability parking spot was taken. The incident described in my article was in Queensland. In that case, according to Samantha O'Connor, the Queensland police investigated whether the car was parked there on official business, like responding to a crime at, or near, the bakery. The rules regarding police parking in disability parking spots seem to vary from state to state. In other states police may be allowed to park in disability parking spots when not on official business. I would suggest that you contact your state's police to find out.

Confronted a young man today for illegally parking in a disabled spot. Insisted he was legally parked because he was driving his grannies car and she couldn't walk. Asked him where grannie was and he said at home of course, told me she didn't own a display permit, but without the permit or grannie in the car, he could still park there because she owned the car & it was a 'disabled car'. Told him about the fine, he said he could not be fined because it was her 'disabled car'!!!

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