Man with a disability angry at people abusing mobility parks

Terry Faleva'ai was at Pak'N Save Mill Street on Sunday evening and was shocked to see signs that said mobility cards ...
MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Terry Faleva'ai was at Pak'N Save Mill Street on Sunday evening and was shocked to see signs that said mobility cards only had to be displayed between 8am and 6pm.

A Hamilton man has lashed out at people who abuse mobility parks, saying he'd gladly exchange his permit for their legs. 

Terry Faleva'ai is also upset with Pak'N Save​ Mill St, which had signs that seemed to encourage such abuse after 6pm.

The store, however, says the signs refer to old opening hours and removed them after a disability group pointed out how they could be interpreted. It also claimed that security staff regularly police the car parks to enforce proper use, but Faleva'ai says that can't be so, given his experience on Sunday. 

The mobility signs at Pak'N Save Mill Street, Hamilton, have since been removed.
TERRY FALEVA'AI

The mobility signs at Pak'N Save Mill Street, Hamilton, have since been removed.

Faleva'ai, who uses a wheelchair, was shopping at the supermarket on Sunday night when he spotted a sign that read: "Mobility card must be displayed. 8am-6pm".

The sign implied able-bodied people can park in mobility parks after 6pm.

"To me it was like they were saying we only have disabilities between these hours, like we must be tucked up in bed after six," he said. "There aren't any time limits on a disability.

"It's rude of [Pak'N Save] to have those signs there because it's discrimination ... they're trying to stereotype me."

Faleva'ai was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which can affect movement and posture.

"There was one park left, so I got out into my wheelchair and went past the cars next to me and none of them had mobility cards.

"You can park in those places as long as you've got your card, but these cars didn't have any. I would love their legs, so I wonder if these people that use these parks ever think about that?"

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Faleva'ai said he has encountered many instances where people abuse mobility parking, and it's not limited to the supermarket or even to Hamilton. He has to use two standard car parks to get his wheelchair out of the car if he can't get a mobility park.

"Signs like these downplay why people have disabled parking, because people just abuse it," he said.

"So that's why people park there, because you've shown them it's okay. Even though the signs didn't say it's a free-for-all after 6pm, that's what it implies.

"It's wrong and it has to change."

But store owner Hamish Walton said he believed the signs were there before he took over three years ago.

"As far as I can tell, the signs were there in the early 1990s," Walton said.

"They coincided with store opening times, so the store used to be open then from 8am to 6pm and then until 8pm and now we're open until 10pm."

Walton said the signs were removed on Monday after he was contacted by numerous people. He said security staff monitor the parks to ensure mobility cards are displayed at all times and not just between 8am and 6pm. However, he could not explain why Faleva'ai spotted so many cars in the parks on Sunday night without mobility permits. 

"The signs are inconspicuous, so I actually hadn't noticed them before," he said.

"We do recognise that it's important for those with mobility cards to have access to these parks, that's why we took them down."

Joy Gunn is the national manager of quality, innovation and development for CCS Disability Action. She said it was the first she had heard of mobility park signs with a time limit attached.

"This is not an okay message to send the public, that you don't have to bother letting disabled people park in the parks after 6pm," Gunn said.

Gunn said Hamilton's public parking is policed by council and those parks do not have time limits attached. She said private businesses can choose whether to offer mobility parking, but it was not common for businesses to impose restrictions.

CCS Disability Action area co-ordinator Gerri Pomeroy said within the last eight years, mobility parks have become more visible.

"Most parks are now painted blue, so there are less deliberate acts of people abusing the mobility parks," Pomeroy said.

"It's great that the signs have been removed but people need to understand that without these parks, people in wheelchairs aren't able to access shops or businesses or wherever they need to go.

"It might look like a quick way for you to run in and do your shopping, but for us in wheelchairs, if there are no parks, we can't do what we need to do." 

 - Stuff

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