26 Sep 2017

Finding a mobility parking space in Christchurch is set to get easier for people with access issues.

Christchurch City Council and CCS Disability Action(external link) have joined forces for a pilot project aimed at making it easier to find mobility parking spaces and to stop them being abused by those without a valid need.

Nigel Sharplin and Teresa McCallum with one of the sensors.

Nigel Sharplin, from Infact, and Teresa McCallum, from the Christchurch City Council's Smart Cities programme with one of the sensors that are being trialled at mobility parks.

The project involves the development of an app that identifies where mobility parks in Christchurch are located.

The Access Aware app, developed for CCS Disability Action by ThunderMaps, is due to be released on 1 October and allows users to share information about the location of mobility parks.

It also allows them to send alerts if they spot a car they believe is illegally parked in a mobility park.

If the reported misuse relates to a public carpark it will be shared in real time with the Christchurch City Council’s Parking Enforcement Team so it can take action.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding signed today by CCS Disability Action and the Council smart sensors will also be trialled at several mobility parks across Christchurch by a select group of mobility permit users.

The sensors will be capable of detecting Bluetooth beacons affixed to the back of mobility permits.

If the sensors do not pick up a Bluetooth signal they will send a real-time alert to enforcement teams that a non-mobility card holder or someone using a mobility card that is no longer valid might be parked in a mobility parking space.

“Misuse of mobility parks in New Zealand is a big issue and a real concern for those with disabilities who have a genuine need for these parking spaces,’’ says the Council’s Smart Cities Programme Manager Teresa McCalllum.

“With this project we hope to begin solving the problem of mobility parking card abuse and make it easier for those with disabilities to find parks.’’

About 120,000 New Zealanders hold mobility permits that entitle them to use mobility parks, but it is estimated that about 20 per cent of permits currently in circulation are no longer valid and are being used illegally.

CCS Disability Action Chief Executive David Matthews said this world-first initiative could prove life-changing for Christchurch residents with access issues.

“Our research shows that levels of parking abuse have not improved in 10 years, with abuse rates still unacceptably high despite increases in fines and attempts to grow awareness of the problem.

“Using a mobility parking space without a permit even for just a minute can block a disabled person’s opportunity to live life freely,’’ Mr Matthews said.