The experience of being harassed, assaulted and/or excluded is leading people with invisible disabilities to avoid using the accessible amenities designed to help them. How do we know this? We conducted an extensive Invisible Disabilities Week 2021 survey over September and discovered the fear and unease many respondents feel in public spaces has further marginalised their accessibility.
Many say they feel scared, angry, and embarrassed to park in accessible parking bays because of treatment they’ve receive from people judging them. Some no longer use their disability parking permit to avoid issues, while others avoid going out altogether.
It should never have come to this. Living with a disability doesn’t make you any less a ‘normal’ human; it simply requires a little understanding. We all must treat one another with respect because you simply can’t judge a book by its cover. Taking this path is what results in discrimination.
17–23 Oct – Invisible Disabilities Week 2021
Most of our respondents feel that public awareness campaigns can help build a greater understanding of invisible disabilities. That’s why we’re doing more than just researching it; our survey aims to increase awareness and understanding.
Invisible Disabilities Week runs from Sunday 17 to Saturday 23 October this year. The annual campaign highlights the importance and value of sharing visible courage in the face of adversity. Adversity that is often unseen by the general public and is often misunderstood.
Share this article on social media and use the hashtag #InvisibleDisabilitiesWeek to help spread the message.
Harassment unveiled in Invisible Disabilities Survey
People with invisible disabilities face harassment from other carpark users on a regular basis – especially when using accessible parking spaces. This has happened to three quarters of our survey respondents! Read about the verbal, and even physical, abuse people face in part one of our invisible disabilities week survey write-up.
If you don’t see a walking stick, guide dog, or wheelchair, don’t judge. Be aware of the effect your side-eye, muttered comment or – God forbid – judgmental tirade will have on your target. Many people with disability parking permits don’t “look disabled”, or don’t always appear to have issues with their mobility.
To avoid risking car park harassment, 18% of respondents have ensured they use their mobility equipment when entering and exiting their car and 23% make their mobility issues ‘more visible’. 20% have taken to scanning the parking lot so they can navigate their car space with no one watching.
When you live with disability, adapting your behaviour to suit those around you, specifically so as not to be challenged or attacked, is nowhere near ideal. And anybody who judges someone else based on their appearance needs to know they are discriminating.
Other eye-opening survey results
Here are more Invisible Disabilities Week 2021 survey results that might surprise you:
1. We need more accessible parking bays
A shocking 77% of respondents say they “had to give up on an outing because there wasn’t an
accessible parking space”. This highlights the importance for those who don’t live with disability not to park in the accessible parking spaces – ever.
Given this, it’s unsurprising that 85% say there simply aren’t enough disability parking permit parking bays. This is a problem architects, developers, business owners and government need to be aware of and address. Nearly five million Australians live with disabilities and a significant proportion of these people have limited mobility, so accessible bays need to be provisioned for much more widely. And then respected by all of us.
2. We need to stop car park harassment
74% of respondents have been verbally harassed or insulted for not ‘looking disabled’ when using a parking bay. The frequency of this for our respondents was:
- 14% – All the time (at least once a month)
- 28% – Frequently (every few weeks)
- 44% – Occasionally (a few times a year)
- 15% – Rarely (has only happened to me once or twice)
And this statistic is especially shocking – 21% have encountered physical abuse for not ‘looking disabled’ when using a parking bay.
If you’ve ever questioned someone on their right to take up an accessible parking spot, know that you should instead check their car for a disability parking permit. If there isn’t one on display, report it to the car park owner rather than getting into a tussle. When you do find one, be assured the permit holder has jumped through many hoops in working through how to get a disability parking permit.
Invisible Disabilities Week 2021 is a time to increase your awareness and practice compassion and empathy.
3. We need more support from parking authorities
85% of our respondents also say “owners/managers of public parking facilities don’t do a good job of monitoring accessible spaces for misuse.” We agree – much more needs to be done. Accessible parking spots are scarce as it is!
Parking authorities also don’t do anywhere near enough to follow through on incident reports of harassment or violence towards disability parking permit carspace users. When our respondents reported this, here’s how authorities responded:
- 44% – They were understanding but unable/unwilling to escalate the matter
- 42% – They were disinterested and unable/unwilling to escalate the matter
- 27% – They were disinterested but said they would try to identify/reprimand the person
- 22% – They were understanding and tried to identify/reprimand the person
This is nowhere good enough.
4. We need more accessible facilities (e.g. ramps, accessible toilets, etc.)
Can you imagine that after managing to get to your destination like the local shops or an entertainment venue you have to go home anyway? 57% of respondents say they ‘had to give up on an outing because there weren’t the right accessible facilities’.
This is degrading and so disappointing. How can we keep our own citizens out of places they want – and deserve – to be able to access.
Knowledge and awareness of the need for better accessible features in buildings will help us all. Accessible facilities are necessary for people with disabilities. They’re also safer people in general, preventing many would-be accidents. Can you imagine how helpful this is also for older Australians, and parents with kids?
5. We need to raise awareness
Respondents felt that raising public awareness is key to better accessibility and inclusivity, with 92% saying the general public doesn’t understand what invisible disabilities are or their prevalence.
In particular, here are some solutions participants listed as useful in helping to improve this:
- 80% – National awareness campaigns. By the government or disability organisations
- 76% – Better signage/education. About who can use accessible facilities in parking lots, bathrooms, public transport etc. (e.g someone’s looks aren’t what make them eligible to park, a valid permit does)
- 66% – Changing the International Symbol of Access. To represent a wider range of disabilities rather than just wheelchair users
- 62% – Targeted school curriculum. About disability in Australia, including invisible disabilities
- 61% – Driver education on invisible disabilities. Included in driving education lessons, i.e. when people first go for their licence
Remember to share this article and raise awareness about problems and solutions for Invisible Disabilities Week 2021!
Invisible Disabilities in Australia – most are just that
According to the University of Sydney, 90% of disabilities are invisible. For a large proportion of Australians living with disability, the physical, mental and emotional effects may be severe but sometimes you can’t see them. Many disabilities don’t present visually a lot of the time, if at all – such as cancer or early-stage Parkinson’s disease.
Read a list of some common invisible disabilities in part one of our Invisible Disabilities Week survey insights survey.
Disability parking permit insurance and more
Even if you hold a disability parking permit, like 49% of our 823 survey respondents, having an invisible disabilities car window sticker can really help you avoid car park disagreements.
Contact us today to find out about getting up to 25% off your disability car insurance if you hold a disability parking permit. Along with our wheelchair insurance, mobility scooter insurance and car insurance for wheelchair accessible vehicles and disability converted cars, you’ll find our cover affordable and our team highly knowledgeable about what you need for your crucial equipment.