We all know the frustration of arriving at a destination and finding all the accessible parking spots are full. Then driving to more easily accessible spots to find several pram parking spots are available… as is some seniors parking… So, should you park in these areas or give up and find a park further away? In this article we explain the difference between disability, seniors and pram parking.

Once you’ve read it, share the knowledge. You’re likely aware that plenty of Australians get it wrong every day!

Who can park in disability parking spaces?

Given you’re on a website that specialises in mobility insurance, if you’re reading this blog you’re probably well aware of the laws relating to accessible parking. However, we’ll cover off the fundamentals just in case.

What it means

Australia has a formal Disability Parking Scheme that is recognised in every state and territory. Unlike many other schemes, the eligibility criteria are nationally consistent.

These parking areas have signage with the blue international symbol of ‘people with disability’. Because that is who they’re meant for. Exclusively.

The aim of these seriously important and necessary parking spots is to provide easier access to shops and other locations for people who have difficulty with their mobility.

Who can use it

Every car that parks in an accessible parking spot must have a disability parking permit (DPP) displayed. The DPP holder may be a passenger or the driver. If they’re not in the car, the permit cannot be used and the car cannot park in an accessible space.

The same applies if the DPP holder is in the car but doesn’t intend to leave it.

Permits are allocated by the holder’s state or territory roads authority, and contrary to popular belief they are not easy to come by.

Wondering how to obtain a permit? Our article here lists the steps to get a disability parking permit.

What’s required by law

As mentioned, the DPP holder must be in the car for an accessible parking spot to be legally used.

They must also display their DPP in a position that is clearly viewable from outside the vehicle and comply with all the relevant state/territory regulations of using the permit (usually written on the back).

If you abuse this, and are not eligible to park in disability parking, you can – and should – be fined. For Australians with mobility issues, being able to utilise an accessible parking spot can mean the difference between visiting a location and giving up.

Who can park in seniors parking spaces?

Seniors parking was created with a similar intention to disability parking – to provide easier access to certain high traffic locations for older Australians.

Why? Because they are much more likely to have age related mobility issues. And there are so many of them. In NSW alone, more than 1.2 million persons are aged 65 and over and 49% have a disability. Many more have trouble walking long distances.

It’s obvious why seniors parking has become a common occurrence in many parking areas.

What it means

These car spots have signage that clearly states the parking spot is for seniors only. This is often red, to distinguish it from disability parking.

In Australia, a ‘senior’ is defined as someone aged at least 60 years and over. We say at least because the age to be eligible for a Seniors Card differs between states and territories (between 60 and 65 years of age).

To further confuse things, the age eligibility for the Australian Government’s Age Pension has been on the increase recently. According to servicesaustralia.gov.au, “it’ll increase by six months every two years until Age Pension age is 67 on 1 July 2023”.

That’s among other eligibility criteria, of course. Any of which could easily change in future.

So, who can park in seniors parking isn’t as black and white as it may seem.

Who can use it

Unlike disability parking spaces, there is no legal requirement for parking providers to provide seniors parking. This means there are no permits required to use these spaces and therefore, they are not enforceable by law..

Rather than being restricted spaces, these ‘reserved’ spots are provided as a courtesy by the location’s business owner to their senior customers. They rely on others to respect the signage and park elsewhere. They expect their other patrons to leave the space/s free for the people who really need them.

This means a seniors parking spot is a wonderfully useful back up for DPP holders if a disability parking spot isn’t available.

What’s required by law

See above – there is no law around who can and can’t use seniors parking. However, the operator of the car park can ask someone to move if they feel they’re not eligible to use this kind of parking.

Who can park in pram parking spaces?

Parents with prams parking is provided by private car park owners to limit the distance young children need to travel with their parents to get to safety (ie. away from cars). These signs are often red also.

What it means

It’s obvious who these parking spots are intended for – people who have a pram with a young child in it.

Who can use it

As with seniors parking, these parking spots are meant to be for the people pictured on the sign – parents of children who are young enough to need a pram.

However, unlike parking for DPP holders, there are no laws around who can and can‘t park here. This is great news for all manner of people with mobility issues (DPP holders or not) because it means these parking spots are open to them too.

What’s required by law

As mentioned, parents with prams parking is not enforced by law so technically it’s available to anyone. However, the owner of the parking lot may ask non-parents to move and they may even find their local council slapping their wrist.

What to do if confronted about using seniors or pram parking

As stated above, if you’re unable to find an accessible space you’re allowed to park in either seniors or pram parking.

These spaces are usually larger and they’re close to entrances – making them ideal for people with disability. Especially if you use any type of mobility equipment. While there’s no need to display your disability parking permit, you may want to do so to demonstrate why you chose to park there.

Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon to find yourself facing the wrath of another driver for parking in a designated area that they feel you’re not entitled to use. This is a situation that many people with disability face every day, especially those with an invisible disability.

Here are some tips on what to do if you find yourself in this position:

  • Choose whether to respond or not. Sometimes the best option is to simply move on
  • If you do choose to respond, take a calming breath first. You want to get your point across in a measured manner
  • Take the chance to educate. Armed with the knowledge gained by reading this article, you can inform them of why you deserve to park where you have
  • If there’s no reasoning with the objector, then calmly move on
  • If you’re concerned by their anger, find security or call the police

Remember – you know your rights and you are 100% justified in parking somewhere if you have good reason to.

DPP holders and discounted insurance

Did you know Blue Badge Insurance – the first mobility insurance specialist in Australia – provides all DPP holders with discounted premiums of up 25%? We do this because we know they’re safer drivers.

Even better, this insurance also covers family, friends, carers and support workers while they’re driving the car with the DPP holder in it. Check out our policy types here.

Your thoughts?

Have you been wondering who can park in seniors parking, or pram parking? Have you had an experience where you’ve parked somewhere you’re allowed to and had someone tell you to park elsewhere? Did you take the opportunity to educate them?

Let us know in the comments below or head to our Blue Badge Insurance Facebook page.