What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

School Parking

Recently, the parking situation changed outside BooBoo's school. It was done in response to, well, stupid lazy parents parking where they shouldn't (like in front of people's driveways) because they are too lazy to walk a few extra steps. The changes they made were sensible. But they were also impossible for me.

After some weeks of grumbling about it, I sent an email to my council and explained the situation. And look what happened.

Since Australia signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (CRDP), in 2008, all levels of government are bound to make progress towards eradicating disability discrimination.   This was the beginning of a radical shift away from a charity to a rights based approach, as the NSW government explains:
"In 2010 the Australian National Disability Strategy set out a 10 year national plan for implementing the obligations under the CRPD and improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. These commitments have driven a reform agenda designed to create a shift in attitudes across governments and communities to move beyond charity and take a rights-based response to the diverse needs of people with disability in accessing all aspects of society.
The NSW Implementation Plan 2012-2014 was the first step in implementing the priorities of the National Disability Strategy and further strengthened by the passing of the Disability Inclusion Act 2014 (NSW) which provides a legislative framework for the development and implementation of a state plan to drive disability access and inclusion.  The Act also requires NSW Government departments, and specified public authorities, to develop, implement and report on their own Disability Inclusion Action Plan. These plans must be in place by the end of 2015. Local councils are also required to include disability inclusion action planning in the development of their Integrated Community Planning and Reporting (specifically in their delivery program and operational plans) by 2017 " (NSW Government, NSW Disability Inclusion Plan 2015, page 6-7, available from www.facs.nsw.gov.au/dip)
So, what does all that mean? 
In a nutshell, it means that all levels of government are legally obliged to report on the progress they have made including people with disability.
So, if you have an access issue, write to your Council. State, in detail, what your issue is. If it's appropriate, you can quote the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). Then, if you are in NSW, remind Council of their legal obligations under the Disability Inclusion Act 2014 (NSW) and suggest  again, in detail, how council can fix your access issue.
You have just done your Council a favour. They must report on what they have done. You have presented them with an inclusion problem and a subsequent fix. All they have to do now is carry it out and hey presto, they have something to write about in their report. 

For example, here is the email I sent to my Council:
As you are aware the parking conditions have changed in F Street around KP School. There is now “No Parking” in the lower section of F Street on the left, while the right side has been designated “No Stopping”.
This measure is obviously intended to increase safety for our children, and I highly commend Council for implementing this change.
It does, however, put me at a considerate disadvantage.
I am the mother of a child with a physical disability who attends KP School. As you can appreciate, parking around the school is difficult at drop off and pick up times.
Other parents can use the No Parking zone and let their children walk to school. My daughter cannot do that, since she does not have the muscle strength to push her wheelchair that far without risking serious injury. This means I have to push her wheelchair to her classroom, which in turn means that, as the Mobility Parking rules stand, I cannot, unlike other parents, use the bottom of F Street.
C Street does not have a footpath for us to use, and while the first part of F Street does have a footpath, there is no cut in the curb for us to come down and cross C Street, to then go on the (accessible) footpath at the bottom of F Street. As things stand now, I need to park in the top of F Street or C Street and push my daughter in her wheelchair in the middle of the road.
Both F and C Street have high curbs, which make taking my child in and out of the car extremely dangerous. This morning I nearly fell on the high curb in C Street while carrying her from her car seat to her wheelchair. I could have seriously injured us both. As it happens, I “just” twisted my back.
Nor can I safely take my daughter to R Avenue because, firstly, it is significantly busier, and secondly, there is no footpath to the front entrance of the school (although Council has kindly brought forward the timing of its construction, it does not solve my current problem).
While implemented with the best of intentions, the current provision of No Parking and No Stopping around the school without an accompanying provision of a designated disability parking space has the unintended consequence of indirectly discriminating against people with disability.
There is a disabled parking space in the school grounds, but I refuse to use it on safety grounds. The spot is located in the middle of the school playground, right next to the play equipment, and I would have to drive (and later reverse!) out of this spot in the middle of dozens of young children. In addition, it requires opening and closing (on the way in and the way out) a gate, which makes this spot not only unsafe to use but impractical for anyone with mobility issues.
Could I respectfully request Council to provide a disabled parking spot (in a location of your choosing) outside KP School. Such a dedicated parking would go a long way to solve access difficulties for me (and the wheelchair using parent of one of the kids in the school), would impact less on the neighbours of the school (as it is used by a limited number of people with permits) and would be a credit to fulfilling Council’s requirements under the Ku-ring-gai Access and Disability Inclusion Plan (2014-2018).
Yours sincerely

Heike Fabig

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