PARKING in a disabled space when you don't have a disability is considered to be an inconsiderate, selfish and detestable act, but it happens and is happening on a grand scale.
Not a day goes by when I don't find a car in a disabled space without a permit.
For six years, since losing my leg, I have been politely asking drivers whether they realise they are parking illegally in a disabled bay.
I have been yelled at, argued with and given lame excuses like, "I will only be five minutes". Often the response is "so what?", "who cares?" or "why don't you call the police?"
Very rarely does the offender move their car.
I should not have to do this, nobody should.
Last week celebrity fitness guru Ashy Bines admitted regularly parking in a disabled space near her gym, causing uproar.
Many commentators offered solutions and many defended her actions.
Some believe we should provide more disability spaces, suggesting we take away spaces for the elderly and mums with prams and give them to the disabled - as columnist Jane Fynes-Clinton wrote last week.
Others believe drivers should face tougher penalties, including licence demerit points. Some think we have enough do-gooders on the ground to keep drivers honest.
After continuously battling with these drivers for years, I firmly believe the only deterrent is tougher policing and demerit points.
Last week I had an appointment at my son's school and the only disabled space was taken by someone without a permit.
All other parking spaces were down a hill that I could not walk up.
There are no mums with prams or elderly spaces at the school to convert.
Many people naively think that disability parking is about shopping centres, but we also want access to schools, public parks, inner city on-street parking, restaurants and sports clubs.
Most of these do not provide spaces for mothers or the elderly. Most have only one disabled space and often that is taken by someone without a permit.
The abuse of disability parking must be addressed.
In Queensland, we take three demerit points for disobeying a no access, no entry or keep clear sign.
Surely disobeying a disability parking sign merits the same standards?
We also take two points if a vehicle makes unnecessary noise or smoke.
Taking away someone's human right to access essential services should be as important as blowing smoke out of a car exhaust.
If you park in a disabled bay in NSW without a permit, you incur a demerit point on your licence.
It's time Queensland and other states followed suit.
We have laws in place that are supposed to ensure people with disabilities can access public places and essential services but they do not work in practice.
It is clear that a fine is not enough of a deterrent, abuse of disability parking spaces is widespread.
We need a demerit point, but we also need better policing and an education campaign that says we will not tolerate this anymore.
Ali France is an amputee and freelance writer
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.