There is much confusion over the legality of certain parking discs for drivers with disabilities, with some users opting to download discs illegally from the internet or purchasing them from certain chain outlets. Some do it out of ignorance, while others do it out of sheer frustration with the official process.

Section 137 of the Road Traffic Act 29 of 1989 provides for special parking spaces for people with prescribed disabilities or persons who transport them, but the act itself does not provide for the confusion or frustration experienced by drivers with disabilities when they have to obtain the parking discs which allow them to use these spaces.

Each province has different procedures with regards to the application for parking permits for people with disabilities so we recommend that you contact your local Association for Physically Disabled (APD) for the procedures in your area.

The Western Cape Government says if you have a disability, you can apply for a disabled parking disc from your local municipality. This disc allows you to park in disability parking bays and in certain circumstances, it exempts you from parking provisions.

To qualify for a disabled parking disc in this province, you need to have a letter from your doctor confirming that your mobility is severely impaired by an ongoing mental or physical condition, or that your mobility is temporarily but severely impaired.

Some municipalities require the doctor to complete a section of the form, so the form needs to be collected beforehand.

“Please contact your local traffic department to confirm whether you require a doctor’s letter or a form,” is the Western Cape Government’s suggestion.

If you receive a disabled parking disc, you need to display the disc clearly in your windscreen.

In Gauteng, the issuing parking discs for persons with disabilities is regulated by the Gauteng Provincial Association for Persons with Disabilities (GPAPD)

Drivers need to apply for an official disabled parking disc.

A detailed application process has been developed by the GPAPD.

The application procedure for an accessible parking disc is as follows:

All the relevant documents must be completed in full by the applicant, as well as his or her medical practitioner.

The application should be accompanied by a medical certificate from a registered health professional or an occupational therapist, or physio or medical doctor.

The applicant must then send the completed documents back to the GPAPD, with a certified copy of the applicant’s ID document.

The disc is registered in the applicant’s name and can be used with any vehicle.

Once the above is completed an application is lodged with GPAPD, which requires the applicant to appear before a screening panel, who then pursue the final application on behalf of the applicant, with the relevant authorities.

A parking disc will be issued for up to five years, after which the applicant must re-apply.

Temporary discs (three to nine months) are also issued for short-term disabilities, but the same process has to be followed.

Other countries have made a lot of progress in the regulation of parking for people with disabilities.

The European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) agreed in 1997 to grant the same parking concessions to people with disabilities as they offered their own nationals. These concessions usually allowed special parking in areas reserved for people with disabilities, or allowed longer parking periods or exemptions from charges.

This also applies to associate countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and United States. This means that disabled motorists from all ECMT Member and Associate countries are now entitled to the same parking concessions as nationals in all ECMT Countries.

The badges to be displayed are standardized to facilitate recognition and to avoid difficulties at local level. Since 2000, all general disabled parking permits have a common style and blue colour, leading to the officially-used designation “Blue Badge”.

If you think the abuse of parking permits for disabled bays are a South African phenomenon, think again.

The misuse of disabled parking permits has been identified as a major problem in the US. Some estimates indicate the majority are used or obtained fraudulently.

Abuse most often occurs with non-disabled drivers using the vehicle, plate or placard of another person who is disabled. This often occurs with family members of disabled people.

Physician’s signatures on forms are also often forged or doctors are bribed.

Disabled parking for amputees? – A Prosthetist’s view by Heinrich Grimsehl

It took me quite a while to formulate and give my humble opinion on a subject that I am definitely not an expert on.

Covering a few blogs it became clear to me that there are hundreds of arrogant, miserable and selfish people out there that would use the parking for wheelchair users for reasons as significant as an ingrown toenail. 

Eventually I had to ask myself: “What makes the parking spot for motorists with a disability so special?”

Is it the fact that it is close to the entrance?

The answer is no. There are, after all, lots of other parking spots close to the door. Or is it because the parking is sometimes under cover? No

Or because it’s painted in a funky yellow? No.

People of the Rainbow Nation: it’s special because it is wider than the average parking bay. This enables a wheelchair user to transfer into their wheelchair from their car. It also enables the mother of a severely disabled child, for example, to park the wheelchair next to the car so that she can lift the child from the car and place him into the wheelchair.

If you give this a moment’s thought, you will realise that the above-mentioned people are completely stranded when they have to park in a normal parking bay. This brings us to an important question: “Should amputees use these parking spots?”

My answer is simple. If you can exit your car and navigate without the use of a wheelchair, you should not be parking on the spot where the wheelchair sign is displayed.

This would also be my answer to somebody with any other condition claiming the right to use the wheelchair parking. In fact, this will even be my answer to the paraplegic that exits his Kombi via a wheelchair ramp through the large rear tailgate while sitting in his wheelchair.

I realize that there are many people that would disagree with me. And they would be able to give a hundred and ten seemingly valid reasons to do so. But before you throw stones, please ask yourself one question before you park:

“Is there possibly someone that needs this parking bay more than I do?”

And if you are a human being who sharing our oxygen with a little bit of character, integrity and love and compassion in your heart you would do the right thing!

QASA member speaks up

I am glad that QASA woke up at last. There is a problem though. People in South Africa are used to calling a wheelchair sign a disabled sign. That is why everyone with a grown in toenail stops on wheelchair parking. In my town, doctors and the traffic department are in charge of supplying people with a disabled/wheelchair sign. One won’t get any of those people who parked on a disabled/wheelchair parking in a wheelchair toilet. Start making a difference between the terms “disabled” and “wheelchair”. My suggestion is to design a different sign for disabled and senior people. A walking stick, perhaps? There are parking bays for “Moms with Prams”, why not create dedicated parking for the disabled and seniors? Arrie de Klerk  

The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) is adamant that if you don’t use a wheelchair, then don’t use the wheelchair parking facilities, says Ari Seirlis, CEO of QASA.

A whistle blowing facility has been established by QASA to allow the general public to inform QASA when these facilities, which are so important to the rights and freedom of wheelchair users, are abused.  

“If you see someone misusing a wheelchair demarcated parking bay, please take a photo which shows the vehicle registration and wheelchair parking sign clearly."  WhatsApp it to 0738539675 including the location, date and time and QASA will kindly sensitize the offender.

“Wheelchair parking bays are traditionally 3500mm wide to cater for a wheelchair user who needs the extra space to enter or exit the vehicle."

“The convenience of the location, often being close to the entrance areas, is the main reason why they are abused. QASA calls on the general public of South Africa to please be considerate and not use wheelchair demarcated parking unless you use a wheelchair,” says Seirlis.