Acrod access denied

Disability access advocate Peter Harris. Picture: Matt Jelonek  d448463
Disability access advocate Peter Harris. Picture: Matt Jelonek d448463

That is the message of self-proclaimed disabled access activist Peter Harris.

Mr Harris has been paralysed from the waist down since falling from his balcony in a painting accident in 1973.

Although wheelchair-bound, Mr Harris has maintained an active life and regularly drives around the city.

In recent times, it has become increasingly difficult for the 84-year-old to find a suitable place to park his car, with the new configuration of 2.4m Acrod bays separated by 2.4m of shared space slashing the number of parks available.

Mr Harris is now often forced to choose between illegally parking across two regular bays, usually at a distant corner of the parking lot, or aborting his outing altogether.

“The old 3.3m wide space has always been enough for me and you could park hugging either line depending on how your car is configured,” Mr Harris said.

“For just two bays, 7.2m is an unnecessary waste and I’m now often forced to reverse park to ensure the open space is on the correct side of my car.

“The empty space, which contains a bollard, seems to be designed by people with no experience at all as a disabled driver. “

Mr Harris first encountered the new Acrod configuration during a trip to Fiona Stanley Hospital, greeted by a demolished bollard that he believes is testimony to the problems some senior drivers have with reverse parking.

Since then, his local senior citizens centre has also adopted the new configuration, reducing the number of disabled bays from seven to four.

“From my observations, at least 80 per cent of Acrod permit holders do not use a wheelchair anyway and so don’t require so much extra space,” Mr Harris said.

National Disability Services WA could not verify the percentage of Acrod permit holders who used a wheelchair but operations manager Frances Buchanan said that the number of permit holders in the State had jumped about 17 per cent from 65,000 in 2013 to 76,000 at the start of 2016.

“There are more people with permits due to an ageing population and also an increase in chronic illness across lifespan,” she said.

“The difference between a wheelchair user and a person who walks with assistance is not reflective of the actual difficulty people may have. For example, someone in a power chair may find it easier to get about than someone who uses a walking frame.

“People who are unhappy with the design requirements (of the new Acrod bays) can make a submission to the review of the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010, which occurs every five years.”