Today’s Post: Feminism + Activism

The thirteenth Down Under Feminist Carnival is up and is this month being hosted by Demezla of SAHM Feminist.  Demezla moved house while organising this month’s carnival, so, wow!  I am impressed at that level of commitment and the effort involved.  So go read what feminists down under have been blogging about during the month of May  (and let me tell you, it wasn’t all rugby and rape).

One of the focuses of last month was a call to activism by Lauredhel of Hoyden About Town.  Lauredhel wishes to bring to everyone’s attention the detrimental changes that are being proposed for access parking, under a scheme to “harmonise” the rules nationally, rather than the state by state system that functions currently.

The proposed new regulations would create huge problems for many people with disabilities. Lauredhel has the details here,  and an open letter to disability organisations that you can sign-up to. She’s also got a post about what really pisses her off about abuse of access parking, and it’s not what you might think.  Details about the current state and territory criteria can be found here.   Lauredhel articulates why this is a feminist issue.

Beppie has created a form letter to be copied and sent far and wide so that the proposed changes can be averted.  This letter can be modified as you wish, to suit your own circumstances and to include any additional ideas that you might have:

[Date]

Dear [Name OR Sir/Madam],

I am writing to express my concern regarding the scheme proposed in the discussion paper, “Harmonisation of Disability Parking Permit Schemes in Australia*”. The proposed scheme excludes a large proportion of people with disabilities who are adversely affected by regular parking. It does not make sufficient provisions for individuals who require a walking stick, or who use shopping trolleys or prams as alternative assistive devices. It also excludes individuals with disabilities who, although they are able to walk short distances without assistance, are negatively impacted by the requirement that they use distant or inaccessible parking. Consequently, it significantly reduces the number of Australians with disabilities eligible for a Disability Parking Permit, including many of those for whom access to accessible parking is a necessity for living everyday life.

Under current schemes, persons capable of walking only short distances without pain or other incapacitation can use disability parking spaces to access workplaces, educational institutions, healthcare services, shopping centres, and public facilities such as libraries and parks independently. Under the new proposal, these individuals will lose their independence, and be forced to rely on the assistance of others, contributing to their social and political isolation. People likely to be adversely affected include (but are not limited to) those who suffer from illnesses such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, those in the early stages of degenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, those with severe mental illnesses, and those who experience high levels of pain from past injuries etc.

In addition to having a profound negative impact on the independence of many Australians living with disability, this scheme also reinforces the harmful and narrow notion that disability must be visible—via the use of various medical mobility aids—before it is considered legitimate. If implemented, this scheme will particularly adversely affect those Australians who live with ‘invisible’ disabilities, who already suffer significant discrimination within the community.

This level of discrimination against people with disabilities is unacceptable in a nation dedicated to giving all of its citizens a “fair go”. People with disabilities are important contributors to the nation, and thus it is imperative that you expand the eligibility criteria for Disability Parking Permits before this scheme is implemented, for the sake of all Australians—but especially those who live with invisible disabilities.

Yours Sincerely,

[Name]

Emails can be sent to:
accessparking@fahcsia.gov.au

OR snail-mail to:
Australian Disability Parking Scheme submissions (East Wing)
FaHCSIA
PO Box 7576
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610

Deadline for submissions is 5pm AEST Friday 31 July 2009.

I urge you to act on this issue.  Email or write to the above address and your state and federal members.  Click on the above links to gain a deeper understanding of an issue which I have only superficially addressed here.  Join the facebook group! If these proposed changes go ahead it is going to make life a lot more difficult for thousands of people, people for whom life can be a daily battle and who often have the least (physical/emotional) resources to fight this.

Acknowledgments to Lauredhel, Beppie and Demezla.