Parking Bill a big win for vision-impaired

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto, Guide Dogs Queensland client Rhett Bryant and his Guide Dog Jeffrey during last year’s Disability Parking Reform Discussion held at parliament house, hosted by Mr Dametto.

QUEENSLAND’S vision-impaired community will finally have the right to apply for a disability parking permit after the passing of a key Bill in parliament today.

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto welcomed the Bill’s passing, which came following a sustained lobbying effort from the vision-impaired community, Guide Dogs Queensland and Katter’s Australian Party.

“After much delay, I was pleased to see the government’s Transport Legislation Disability Parking and Other Matters Amendment Bill 2019 pass, which will give thousands of vision-impaired people the right to apply for and access a disability parking spot. It is long overdue,” he said.

Mr Dametto introduced his own Transport Legislation (Disability Parking Permit Scheme) Amendment Bill 2019 in parliament last October, which then resulted in the government introducing and passing their own Bill with similar amendments.

“This has been a team effort and I would like to acknowledge the people that came forward to take up this fight. People like Justin Huggett for first contacting me and Hailey and Chayd Brown and Taylor Blennerhassett, whose children have vision impairments that will benefit from this change. Together with Guide Dogs Queensland, we were able to take their plight to the halls of parliament to get meaningful change. It was obvious the previous rules governing who could access disability parking did not meet community expectations,” he said.

Ms Brown said she felt “instant relief, shock and happiness” upon hearing the news that the Bill had been passed.

“I truly cannot believe after fighting for well over 12 months, it’s finally happened and we’ve won! Whilst this should never have been an issue in the first place, it’s fantastic to know that the government is doing the right thing,” she said.

“The rule change will mean my daughters Arliyah and Mackenzie will actually be able to feel safe in public and gain confidence navigating around carparks, and it won’t be a constant fear having to get them quickly inside a shopping centre or building.

“This was never just about my girls and our family, but about the entire vision-impaired community in Queensland having the same rights as the vision-impaired do in other states and territories.”

Hill MP Shane Knuth said after many years of lobbying on behalf of vision-impaired constituents, he was thrilled with today’s outcome.

“When I first became aware that the vision-impaired were excluded from accessing a disability car park, I couldn’t believe it and raised these concerns with the Minister for Transport and Main Roads at the time,” he said.

“It’s been a long time coming but I’m pleased we have a win for this community of vulnerable Queenslanders.”

Mr Knuth said he “gained an even deeper appreciation” for the plight of the vision-impaired after participating in a disability parking reform discussion with Guide Dogs Queensland at Parliament House where he walked in a blindfold with a cane and guide dog.

“That was an eye-opening experience which allowed me to gain a valuable insight into the difficulties someone who is vision-impaired faces on a daily basis,” he said.

“The fact a vision-impaired person normally has to navigate through gutters, parked cars and moving traffic to try and get to a shopping centre when there is a parking space right beside that shopping centre they could use, is just ridiculous. I am relieved they will no longer need to do that.”

Guide Dogs Queensland CEO Michael Kightley said the passing of the Bill was “a huge win for Queenslanders with vision loss, who deserve to feel safe in our community”.

“During many years of campaigning, we found the public were surprised to learn that vehicles transporting people who were blind or had significant vision loss in Queensland were unable to use the disability parking bays provided at the entrance to their local shopping centre or outside their doctor’s office,” he said.

“As of today though, our wish has come true, with the disability parking scheme now providing equal access to those in the community who need access to these parks the most. This amendment will change the lives of many Queenslanders with vision loss who will now feel more included and more empowered to safely explore their local communities.”

A survey of Guide Dogs Queensland clients found 92 per cent felt unsafe when moving through carparks and 58 per cent avoided going out altogether due to having to navigate these busy traffic environments.

“Our clients have shared their frightening experiences of traveling through busy carparks, sometimes with their children,” Mr Kightley said.

“This change will allow Queenslanders living with vision loss to access their local shopping centres, their schools, their doctor’s office, and all other busy environments in a much safer way by providing access to the disability parking bays located close to the entrances. It will have a huge effect not only improving people’s safety, but also their confidence to get out and participate in the community more.”

Nick Dametto MP