Should people with disabilities have to pay for parking?
Palmerston North’s reputation as a disability-friendly city will be undermined by forcing people with mobility cards to pay for their parking, says councillor Lew Findlay.
The city council’s planning and policy committee yesterday voted 12 votes to three to enforce the requirement for card holders to feed the meter.
However, they will get up to an hour of extra free parking at parks designated as P60 or more.
It took the committee 2 1/2 hours of sometimes emotional debate – including public comment from three people – to reach its decision.
Cr Findlay said he moved to the city when he was using a wheelchair because of its reputation for being disability-friendly.
‘‘People have enough problems to live their lives in as normal a fashion as possible. Just to give them this little advantage would make their lives a little easier.’’
Cr Findlay said the gesture would cost the council ‘‘a pittance’’.
Wheelchair user David Vickery told the committee there was no way he would be paying for his parking.
‘‘You are making us pay for being disabled,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s going to stop disabled people going into town to do their shopping, and more importantly, to socialise.’’
He saw it as a double cost – having to pay $50 for a mobility card valid for five years, as well as paying for parking.
He said any councillor could have a stroke and then they would find out what people with disabilities had to cope with.
‘‘You cannot say you know what they are going through, because you don’t.’’
That comment drew a backlash from Crs Bruce Wilson and Jan Barnett, who talked about the frustrations of their own children with disabilities.
‘‘To have one of our citizens tell us we have no idea is pushing sand uphill,’’ said Cr Wilson.
He said he did not know what it was like to be pregnant either, but he had lived with several people who had been, and had some idea what it was like.
He had also learnt to ski on one leg, and blindfolded, so he could instruct people with disabilities.
And Cr Barnett said she was emotionally involved in the debate.
I have found this quite a distressing matter. It’s very challenging when I hear people tell me I can’t know what it’s like to be a person with a disability, when I have a child who does.’’
She said watching her daughter cope was a painful experience.
‘‘But she does not want us to have free parking.
‘‘She wants to be an equal member of the community, and not treated as something different.’’
Mayor Jono Naylor said the council’s job was to be as equitable as possible, not just ‘‘nice’’.
The proposed charges have to be confirmed by the full council at the end of the month in order to take effect.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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