Disability Parking Myths

Disability Parking Myths

Disability parking permit holders are eligible for certain allowances and entitlements to accommodate their needs. However, there are still a lot of misunderstandings about the scheme, so we decided to do some research and shed light on the issue by busting a few common disability parking myths and giving you the facts once and for all.

  1. Only wheelchair users qualify for a disability parking permit

One of the most common misconceptions about disability permits is that only people who use a wheelchair are eligible. This has led to many instances where people with valid permits have been challenged for using accessible parking spaces because they don’t “look disabled”. It’s important to remember that there are a host of illnesses that cause mobility issues which may not necessitate the use of a wheelchair or even be obvious to an onlooker. These are known as invisible disabilities and refers to people with chronic pain, poor vision, fatigue, balance problems, amputations and other mobility restrictions. So rather than judging someone based on how they look, judge them on their parking permit. If they have a valid permit then they are entitled to use the space, regardless of their appearance.

  1. You can buy a disability parking permit

We have all heard stories of people using someone else’s permit or even inappropriately acquiring permits to cheat the system – but the reality is that these people represent a small minority of all permit holders. Most people have a permit because they need it, so don’t let the actions of a few influence your opinion of the majority of people who genuinely require their permit.

The Australian Disability Parking Scheme has been designed for people with genuine mobility restrictions. Permits are not given out lightly and you can be certain that they are not available for sale to whoever is willing to pay. While there are different criteria in each state/territory, people must have a legitimate mobility restriction and provide a doctor’s certificate to qualify for their permit. For example, in NSW you qualify for a permit if (a) you use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, (b) your physical condition is detrimentally affected by walking 100 metres, or (c) you are permanently visually impaired.

  1. Your family and friends can use your permit

While a lot of people believe this to be true, the law is pretty clear on this: it is illegal for anyone to use a disability parking permit unless the permit holder is travelling with them in the car. So if your family or friends use your permit without you – even if they are running an errand for you or visiting you in the hospital – they risk being fined for misusing the permit.

  1. Permit holders can park anywhere, anytime at no cost

In addition to parking in designated accessible parking spaces, permit holders are entitled to certain concessions and increased time in most time-limited public parking spaces – but you can’t park wherever you choose. Parking is not permitted in restricted locations like clearways, taxi/bus zones, authorised resident areas or no parking or no stopping areas.

  1. Permits are free

While pensioners and minors may qualify for a free permit, in most situations people are required to pay a fee for their permit. The fees and charges vary in each state/territory so it’s best to check with the relevant authority in your area to find out about the applicable fees and charges.

  1. Once you’ve been awarded a permit, it’s yours for life

Once again, there are different rules applicable in each state/territory, but in most cases, you will need to renew your permit with your local authority every 3-5 years. You will be sent a renewal notice several weeks before you need to renew so make sure you submit your application within the allocated time as it’s illegal to use an outdated permit and you may face fines if you do so.

  1. You can’t use your permit when you travel interstate

If you have a disability parking permit from your home state you can use it anywhere in Australia. However, you need to be aware that road laws change from state to state so it is important to check parking laws in the state/territory that you are visiting. If you are planning to move interstate permanently you must re-apply for a permit in your new state/territory.

  1. Insurance is more expensive for disability permit users

Permit holders often struggle to find quality car insurance. Finding the right policy is particularly difficult if your car has been converted for drivers or passengers with a disability. This is because most insurers don’t understand disabilities so they often quote higher premiums because they consider disability permit users to be high-risk drivers. As Australia’s first independence and disability insurance specialist, we at Blue Badge know that permit holders are generally safer drivers who represent a lower risk and we think they deserve to be rewarded with lower prices. Find out more about our car insurance here.


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  1. h c garton says:

    thankyou, useful and very clearly explained.

    1. Blue Badge Insurance says:

      Thank you! We’re glad that you found the information helpful

  2. Len Willemsen says:

    I hate to tell you this BUT disability parking permit in Victoria ARE NOT only for people with wheel chairs. So you need to check your faces before you publish statements.

    1. Blue Badge Insurance says:

      Hi Len, thank you for taking the time to reach out to us.
      We could not agree more with what you are saying and understand that those who have a Disability Parking Permit have every right to parking in disability parking spaces, regardless of whether their disability is visible or not.
      We have also recently published an article on our blog about invisible disability in an effort to raise awareness of this issue and support those who have an invisible disability.

    2. Kim says:

      Isn’t that what they said?

      1. Helen Farquhar says:

        Yes. Exactly what they said.

    3. Rowena says:

      Hey Len, if you read the actual para and not just the heading, it clearly states that that statement is one of the biggest misconceptions. Best wishes

    4. Donna says:

      Read it again you don’t have to have a wheelchair to be disable

    5. Jan says:

      please go back & read it again, that is not what they said

    6. Norm hanna says:

      You need to read the article again, because that is what the writer is saying.

      1. Lyall Domus says:

        Lens disability is poor eyesight

  3. Catherine McCarthy says:

    You can also use your permit overseas, I used mine while in Canada, I did check before hand with the appropriate authority in the state I was visiting and as long as it is a valid permit (Not Expired) and is showing the international disability symbol I was free to use my Australian permit.

    1. Lucy says:

      Thanks for this information!

    2. Jane says:

      My mum used her NZ permit in Qld when visiting a few years ago. She couldn’t, however, use it in Victoria.

      1. Blue Badge says:

        Thanks for your comment Jane. Using international permits is a tricky topic – it’s always best to find out if yours will be accepted by the council/s at your destination.

  4. Alison says:

    You can use your permit in the U.K.

    1. Christine says:

      Unfortunately you cannot use your mobility pass in the UK. You need to apply to each county you are travelling though and there is no guarantee. I have researched through Blue Badge Uk, the UK Embassy and Foreign Affairs with no luck.

      1. Ginga says:

        Blue Badges are issued by local authorities in the UK. It may be worth calling the local council where you are spending a majority of your time. If they don’t know, the Department of Transport (Government) should know…

  5. Kelly says:

    Just so the readers are aware in NSW it is not just mobility limitations that can deem you access to a disability permit. There are also 6 mental illness that have access. I have three of them and cope a lot of flack from onlookers. I have an assistance dog for C-PTSD so I need wider spacers for her to get out of the door and also quick access to my car for panic attacks. Not all disabilities are visible ✌

    1. Lucy says:

      Good point – Thanks!

    2. Liz locke says:

      My Granddaughter aged 6 years old has been diagnosed with autism, to look at her you wouldn’t know there was a health issue, my Daughter has been given a disable sticker for her, she needs to be as close to the building as possible as she is a runner, takes off n has no idea about danger, so she has a sticker.

  6. GIll Evans says:

    MY sister was yelled at for using a Disability Permit, when she had a heart condition. the people who yelled at her saw this overweight lady wheezing, but did not know she had a heart condition arising from fibrosed tissues around the heart, from radiotherapy 20 years earlier for Hodgkin’s disease. SHe died three months later.

    1. Jeanette says:

      I am in a wheel chair now so it’s not so bad but before I required a chair my weight which is caused by weekly infusions of steroids was a constant reference to people watching me park. Even now I am in the chair they think it’s due to my weight but they don’t realise before I got sick I was normal size but IV steroids every week have increased this to double but no one wants to know that

      1. Blue Badge says:

        We understand what you are saying Jeanette. Many of our followers say they are in the same boat so you’re not alone.

  7. Highcatt says:

    In victoria if it is 2hour parking in a normal spot disability people can stay for double (4hours) and 3hours they can stay for many places we go and disability parking is taken…Is this correct??

    1. Frank says:

      No that’s not the case come council’s might bend that rule but some will enforce it

  8. Helen says:

    I would like to see some changes.
    There are many people with the blue cat1 sticker who do not require extra space to get out of the car, i would like to see these people issued with cat2 stickers. (And make them some parks near the shop front)
    Leaving the wider disabled parks for those needing the additional space. People who can not stand up who need wheelchairs. So many times i cant get a park at all and just have to go home.

  9. Debbie says:

    Do any states use photo ID and if not, why not. Surely this would cut out some of the illegal usage.

    1. maureen hulm says:

      I got my permit a month ago in NSW and I had to have my photo taken and could not use the permit until I received that photo. It is a very good idea to have the photo on the card.

    2. Madi says:

      The photo is on the back of the permit, so members of the public cannot see it, but it must be shown to parking officers upon request.

      1. Dave says:

        Not in South Australia Madi, Mine has my name on the rear of the drivers sized section of the permit should any one in authority ask me.

    3. Pam says:

      Yes Nsw do I was with my cousin who lives in Coolangatta and he’s just been issued with one as he has cancer in his hip waiting for a major operation

  10. Anne says:

    There should really be 2 categories of disability parking space – the wider one which SHOULD only be for wheelchair users ( & those with larger mobility aids like walkers) & standard-sized ones which are close to building entries for people who use sticks or have invisible disabilities.
    If there are no wide spaces available, my husband, who is wheelchair-bound, literally cannot get out of the car. Often those spaces are in use by legitimate permit holders who need the proximity to the building but not the wider space. There is even a motorbike rider with a permit in our town who takes up the wide space when his bike would fit in any space. We often have to park across two standard spaces & cop abuse for that.

    1. Jude says:

      Many shopping centers have wide pram parking by the doors but disable permit holders can’t use them

      1. Blue Badge Insurance says:

        Hi Jude, pram parking spaces are only provided as a courtesy. They are not legally enforceable like disability parking spaces, which means anyone can park in them. You can read more about this here:

  11. Sharon says:

    In Vic family cannot park just because the permit holder in the car unless the holder is physically getting in and out of the car.

  12. Alexandra Redfern says:

    It’s also possible to obtain a temporary permit in NSW – I had a double knee replacement a few weeks ago and I was issued a three-month permit upon my doctor’s recommendation.

    1. Blue Badge Insurance says:

      Yes, most states and territories will issue temporary permits to people with injuries.

  13. Michelle says:

    Not sure about the free parking anywhere. I was fined for parking in a normal park with a disabled sticker in Victoria.I could not get a disabled parking spot. I was fined because I didn’t move my car in the allocated time. The rules may have changed as this was a few years ago.

    1. Blue Badge Insurance says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment. This is correct, and we have actually named this as a myth as it is not true that parking permit holders can park anywhere for free. We advise that people should always check the regulations with their local parking authority to ensure this is something they offer before parking there.

  14. Sue Lewindon says:

    I have an Autistic Adult son who l have got a permit for as he absconds and has no sense of danger. The amount of people that give us dirty looks for using the space is beyond comprehension as he doesn’t look disabled. People need to realise that not everyone who uses a Disabled Parking space have got an obvious physical disability like Down Syndrome etc.

  15. Janelle says:

    Hi, thanks for this page, but I need to add something to number 3. In Qld to use the carpark the disabled/eligible person must be getting in and out of the car, so it is not a case of you parking there and the disabled/ eligible person stays in the car. Scroll down to permit conditions of use and you will see this -The permit holder must be in the vehicle when the permit is being used, and must enter or exit the vehicle. 🙂

    1. Blue Badge says:

      Good point Janelle, thank you for your comment.

  16. Dimi Skinner says:

    Sorry…..priority should be given to those who use a wheelchair or have no/very little mobility.

  17. Chris Mobberley says:

    Is it true that if you have a permit you can park free on metered parking if there are no disabled sites available.I was told this by a parking inspector in Shepparton Vic

    1. Blue Badge says:

      Hi Chris, this is permissible in some parts of Australia but not in others. It is best to check the rules with the local council and/or parking provider you are using.

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