I was taking my Mum for a haircut and some grocery shopping at a local shopping mall. I have a Mobility Parking Permit and we managed to find an empty accessible carpark.
However, it was very difficult to get out of the car because only the passenger side had wide enough access space to safely exit. The driver's side was right next to a kerbed garden, so it wasn't easy for me to get out of the car, and an extra hazard to negotiate once I did. Also the carpark was on a slope, so it was difficult to prevent my mobility scooter and my Mum's walker from rolling back into the path of traffic, and to get everything into the car after shopping.
I regularly experience barriers like this, nationwide. I've encountered numerous planters, kerbs, signposts, overgrown gardens, and so on, put right in the way of mobility aid users, who need to have a little extra space available. Such barriers often look as though they've been deliberately installed after the original accessible parking area was created - with no thought given to the intended use - presumably by able-bodied people who are just trying to get a job done, or who think it would look nicer if the planting was symmetrical or something.
I struggled on despite the access barriers, on this occasion at the mall. I usually only shop there if I can get a particular accessible carpark, on the flat, with proper space by the driver's door, and if they've trimmed the garden shrubs back. I had no choice this time because that's where my Mum gets her hair done. I often have to drive away from the mall - and other shops and parks - when I can't find an appropriately accessible car space.
This experience impacted my energy levels and ability for the rest of the day, and contributed to my overall feelings of frustration and hopelessness. I'm really struggling with depression at the moment and this stupid, senseless stuff doesn't help.
I want new access laws to ensure that accessible parking areas are of a useable and safe standard. For example: flat ground; good access to both sides of the car; safe at the rear of the car for managing mobility equipment; traffic-free access to ramps and the area being visited; and wide access ramps without kerbs. Shop staff should monitor the abuse of accessible parking spaces, and know what they can do about infringements, such as getting vehicles towed away. (I once encountered a shop that actually banned a customer who responded abusively when I nicely asked if they could please move their unpermitted car, so that I could use the accessible car space. That was amazing!)
I would also like to be better informed and empowered about my rights when I politely ask someone to move their unpermitted car, if I need to use an accessible car space - and without being subjected to a torrent of abuse! When this happens I usually just back off, or try to calm the situation down, or end up driving away, because I'm not going to stoop to their level. I have enough to worry about in my life. Still it's a really terrible experience encountering these kinds of access barriers, and I know I'm not alone.
This is a story about the barriers many face. We're sharing it because we want a law that puts accessibility at the heart of an inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.
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