Carers of vision-impaired secure landmark changes
TOWNSVILLE families with legally blind children have scored a landmark victory, with the State Government announcing it will change laws to allow the vision-impaired to secure disability parking permits.
Fines for those who park illegally in disability parking spots will also double, from $266 to $533.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey revealed he hoped the laws would be in place by mid next year.
Under current law, eligibility for a parking permit is based on a person's functional ability to walk.
"Queenslanders with vision-impairment and their carers have shared their stories with me about how challenging it can be to negotiate busy car parks," Mr Bailey said.
"They felt the current laws, which were introduced in 1998, ignored their situation and I think that's a fair assessment."
It is estimated 18,000 more Queenslanders will be eligible for a disability parking permit.
A number of Townsville families, with the support of Katter's Australian Party MPs, have been advocating for the law to be changed.
Hailey Brown, a mum of two legally blind albino girls who were barred from obtaining a parking permi t, said she was overwhelmed with emotion when she heard her girls would now qualified.
"It's been horrible and it's been very hard watching their stress and anxiety as we navigate our way through car parks and busy roads … it was an accident waiting to happen," she said.
"It's also about equality for people who are vision impaired, that they are treated the same as others who are disabled.
"I can't even imagine what it's going to be like without needing to be fearful for their safety, it will be much safer."
Ms Brown said she tried numerous times to contact the department about her concerns, but Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto was the "only one to listen".
Mr Dametto said the government's Bill was effectively an endorsement of his own bill which was introduced in parliament last month.
"Today's move by the government to introduce their own Bill in parliament will add significant clout to our own efforts to make these legislative changes," he said.
"This is a very important step for disability advocates and the vision impaired community who have been fighting for this change for years. It is good to see the government is finally listening."
Communities, Disability Services and Seniors Minister Coralee O'Rourke said the expanded criteria for the parking permit scheme would define vision impairment consistently with the Federal Government's Social Security Guide.
"This is a common sense recommendation that has come from an independent assessment of the current system our government started in February," Mrs O'Rourke said.
"It will ensure people with vision impairment and their carers are supported with safer and more convenient access in car parks across the state.
"The changes will bring Queensland into line with New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, which both include legal blindness as a criteria in their permit schemes."
It is understood the State Government's bill will go through the committee process, where the KAP bill now sits, and the committee will decided which parts of each bill are best suited for implementation.