Truth behind 'fake' disabled badge appearing in Australian car parks: 'Unacceptable'

While the sticker on the car does come with a surprising explanation, disability advocates say it's no excuse for the way it was parked.

Car parked in disabled spot illegally (left) and the sticker up close (right).
A car parked in a mobility bay without an official disability permit has been slammed online - but there's a twist. Source: Facebook

An Aussie driver has been publicly shamed for parking in a shopping centre disabled parking spot with a sticker embossed with a wheelchair logo stuck to the bonnet without a parking permit on display. The move has since been slammed online, but it turns out there is more to the story.

According to an onlooker, who posted a photo on social media, the vehicle was parked in a mobility spot at Orion Shopping Centre at Springfield Central near Ipswich, Queensland at about 1pm on Saturday.

The move was slammed on the Australian Disability Parking Wall of Shame Facebook group, with members claiming the sticker could be bought off eBay.

“Nice try,” said one commenter. “The lengths some people will go to.”

However, a closer look at the vehicle revealed it was actually a Toyota Esquire Welcab, which is a wheelchair accessible vehicle imported from Japan, specially designed for transporting people with disabilities.

One commenter said her daughter’s father had the same vehicle which comes with the wheelchair logo stickers attached.

“The chances of the driver forgetting to display are much higher than if it were, say, a Corolla (of course any vehicle can park if displaying a valid permit),” they said.

“Of course, when parking in these spots the permit must be shown. Just pointing out that there is a much higher chance this was a case of forgetting rather than ‘buying off eBay’.”

While some people said the permit may have fallen off inside the vehicle, disability lobbyist Peter Lane-Collett said: “All we know is no permit is clearly displayed which is the same as not having one.”

One more added, "Yes they should have a permit but FFS let's be sensible and make sure we're not dragging down the very people we are supposed to be protecting here."

People with Disability Australia president, former Paralympian Marayke Jonkers, said the sticker displayed on the car could be bought online but they were not valid parking permits.

“Australia has a national parking permits (system) now with a person’s name and a hologram so it’s very hard to have a counterfeit one,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“It’s highly likely that is an illegally parked vehicle. Even if the owner of the vehicle is in possession of a legal parking permit, it needs to be displayed in the vehicle whenever the person with the disability is in the car and a disabled parking spot is being used.

Marayke Jonkers in sunglasses (left) and holding up an Australian flag (right).
Marayke Jonkers, retired Paralympic swimmer who is paraplegic, said abuse of mobility parking were problems faced by disabled people every day. Source: Facebook

“It’s still illegal to drive the car with the permit and park in that spot if you don’t have the person with disability with you.

“We can’t have people circumventing the system with unofficial permits because the impact is there’s already limited availability. If it’s not in the official system they lack the data to force the action that’s sorely needed to boost supply, boost enforcement and educate the community.”

She said there needed to be more community awareness around the importance of mobility parking and stricter enforcement such as fines or removal of vehicles parked illegally.

Jonkers told Yahoo that common yet unacceptable excuses for parking in disabled spots included: "I’m only stopping for five minutes, there’s no one disabled here, I have lots of things to carry or it’s a long way to other spots".

“I think people know this is wrong, but it’s still happening,” she said. “We’re calling for community awareness training about how to obtain a valid permit and use it legally.

“Most importantly for some form of regulation so that when disabled people can’t park or others observe a vehicle parked incorrectly, there’s a single phone number or an app – something that can be utilised to solve the issue and preserve the small number of disabled spots for people who actually need them,” Jonkers added.

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