Disability advocate Esther Woodbury condemns sale of disabled parking permits

An advocate speaking out against the sale of disabled parking permits online has recalled being abused after confronting people parked illegally.  

It was revealed there are people stealing mobility parking permits and then selling them on Facebook for up to $400, after a 70-year-old Lower Hutt man had his permit stolen and discovered it for sale online. 

Disabled Person Assembly National Policy manager Esther Woodbury is speaking out against the abuse of disabled carparks, telling The AM Show on Monday disabled carparks must be available for those who truly need them. 

"They're such important parks for disabled people and it can be a wide range of reasons why people have them," she said. 

"For some people, getting in and out of the car and getting a wheelchair in and out of the car means they need that extra gap on the side, so they're really not to be used by other people." 

Ms Woodbury said it's difficult to tell when someone is using disabled carparks illegally because, even though someone might not look disabled, that doesn't mean they don't necessarily have a legitimate reason to have a permit. 

She said she's constantly being abused by those she approaches. 

"I wouldn't say it's a weekly occurrence but it happens all the time and sometimes people can get really aggressive. I think they are embarrassed by their actions, to be honest."

There are groups on Facebook where people post photos of vehicles parked illegally in disabled carparks, attempting to "name and shame" abusers. 

Disabled parking permits are only given to those who are unable to walk and require the use of a wheelchair, people who have trouble walking because of a medical condition or disability, and those who experience disorientation or severe anxiety. 

Those who qualify receive a card from CCS Disability Action which must be clearly displayed on the inside of a vehicle or on the dashboard. The barcode on the cards allow parking wardens to scan the permit to check ownership.  

"We do know that mobility permits do get stolen to be used illegally," said Ms Woodbury, adding it's "pretty disgusting and I think it should be discouraged, not just legally, but people shouldn't be buying disability permits."

A woman called Edina wrote to The AM Show saying she doesn't believe it's okay for people to park in a disabled parking spot, but admitted she has done so. She said she has two children under the age of two and struggles to find parking for parents with infants. 

She recalled having to quickly run into the supermarket and parked in a disabled spot, justifying her actions because there are "always a lot of disabled carparks available". 

Ms Woodbury said she has sympathy for people with small children, but while it may seem like there are a lot of mobility parks, the reason they're there is so that "when someone who really needs them comes along, they have to be able to use them."