Serious offences require serious signage: retirees fight for disabled parking clarity

Dominic Giannini 30 July 2021 96
Mawson resident Don at disabled parking spot

Mawson resident Don wants clearer signage to mark disabled parking spots after his wife was recently fined. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A disabled parking spot outside Mawson Domino’s pizza is the latest spark in an ongoing debate about roads and parking problems in Canberra following a retired couple being slugged $615 after missing the sign.

Mawson retirees, Don and his wife, Perry, are angry their calls for the ACT Government to fix up the sign and make it clearer have fallen on deaf ears after they brought it to the attention of Access Canberra and two government ministers.

Admitting the couple is “not as sharp as we once were”, Don points out the signage is “far from helpful” due to its neglected state, not being featured in a prominent position, and not being consistent with other sites reserved for drivers with a disability.

“Because of the paucity of signage, many of your constituents (particularly those coping with age-related decline) are exposed to the same horrible, innocent error my wife made last November,” Don wrote in an email to ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel.

Exterior of Domino's pizza in Mawson

A Domino’s pizza sign covering the disabled parking sign at Mawson Shopping Centre. Photo: Supplied.

“Meanwhile, we also believe some drivers with disability permits pass this site, unaware it is reserved for them.”

In response, Mr Steel said a Transport Canberra and City Services officer had reviewed the site and confirmed the signs and line markings are up to the standards in place when they were installed.

The parking spot in Mawson does not have the blue and white disabled signage as some other spots across Canberra do.

Mr Steel said it would be unrealistic to update all of Canberra’s 85,000 signs every time new standards come into place, and that the ACT Government only updates signs when they are damaged or need to be replaced.

Disable parking spot in Mawson

The disabled parking signs are placed high on a shopfront wall and covered by the shade. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The officer decided the spot was clearly marked with signs on the building and the disabled symbol on the road, wrote Mr Steel.

But Don, who has been living in the area for half a decade, tells Region Media he had never noticed the spot was reserved for disabled drivers despite frequenting the area.

The $615 fine cannot be revoked, despite Perry’s good driving record, because it is classified as a serious offence.

Don agrees it should be classified as a serious offence, but that Access Canberra needs to reflect this in its signage.

Cars parked in front of Domino's pizza in Mawson

The disabled parking signs at the front of Domino’s pizza in Mawson are back from the curb and are often covered by shade. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“Frankly, I think the fine is unfair because the signage is inadequate,” says Don. “Someone is asleep at the wheel. They have ignored this site and they are just not prepared to do anything about it.

“It is a reprehensible offence, and I cannot have any sympathy for people who use spots reserved for the disabled.

“But being a serious offence, it is a two-edged sword. It requires the parking people to ensure they take the signage seriously.”

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96 Responses to Serious offences require serious signage: retirees fight for disabled parking clarity
Perry Burns Perry Burns 4:23 pm 03 Aug 21

We don’t learn much if we only listen to those who agree with us, so Perry and I want to thank everybody who cared enough about this matter to share their views. I write on behalf of my lovely bride because we have travelled together for 60 good years, we are discovering nasty side effects of the terminal disease of old age together and we share the consequences when things go awry. Why did we never notice small signs high on the wall, among other distractions near Dominos? Perhaps our bodies aren’t as straight as they once were. Our heads tilt down. The indignity of being spreadeagled on footpaths a few times inclines us to look downwards for threats rather than upwards. In any event some 3rd world countries have more helpful signage than we see near Dominos. Rather than pretend it was adequate once upon a time, our national capital desperately needs management that thinks positively and gets stuff done. We particularly want to thank Dominic & Michele & RiotACT for their generous community spirit.

Russell Kindervater Russell Kindervater 12:11 pm 03 Aug 21

I have sent a letter to one of my local members Guilia Jones regarding this disgraceful state of affairs.

[Frankly I believe this is totally unjust and perhaps others could take it further. I mentioned in the letter that I would be very interested in how many tickets have been issued for this spot.

We generally pay up if we think something is a “fair cop” but I don’t believe this is]

I have given up on Chris Steele. I can clearly see now why my protests about the last round of bus route changes which literally crippled residents at Alison Gardens in Pearce fell on deaf ears.

Imagine removing a bus “leg” that had been in use for 30 years at least.

Prior to that citizens of Torrens had a loop service giving quick access to Woden AND Mawson. No more.


Perry Burns Perry Burns 8:21 am 03 Aug 21

Thanks Bill. The offence, with a $615 fine, is not for parking but for stopping at the restricted site. Even though you did the right thing, you committed the same offence. Existing signage is inadequate - there is nothing on the road or on the boundary of the site to warn approaching motorists that they must not stop at that location to examine the walls for further instructions, nor are motorists warned about the severe penalty. Nevertheless a road official seems to have decided the prominent blue and white International Symbol of Access adopted in Australian Standards more than 10 years ago, is unnecessary.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 2:03 pm 03 Aug 21

    Perry Burns I will remind you that I am only alleged to have committed the same offence. If I had been issued with the penalty notice, I would have done similar to you, ticked the "go to court box" and also tried to catch Chris Steel at one of his cutely titled "mobile office" sessions. Good luck with getting this travesty of defective administration overturned.

    Perry Burns Perry Burns 2:27 pm 03 Aug 21

    My apologies Bill. Of course you are correct. It was clumsy of me to omit “alleged”. We fear precious court resources must be wasted to deal with what is more of a managerial defect than a legal issue. Competent, focussed management with positive goals would recognise everybody must be better served by allocating resources to rectifying the core problem, sooner rather than later.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 4:16 pm 03 Aug 21

    Perry Burns I will add that the stiffness of the penalty is designed to deter people from committing the offence. In your good woman's case, she seems to have committed the offence because she didn't receive fair warning that she was about to commit something that she would probably otherwise be deterred from committing. A totally wretched result.

Angie Carey Angie Carey 9:05 pm 02 Aug 21

There is also footpath signage for this parking spot.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 9:25 pm 02 Aug 21

    Angie Carey Where? I can't see any posts on the footpath with signs in the photographs. On the wall yes, but is that an official place? Unusual place for sure. Not where people are used to looking. Posts are where people expect to see them.

    Peter Simpson Peter Simpson 11:00 am 05 Aug 21

    Signage on the building now way should they get away with that the surface condition diabolical for a person with disability does not meet any standard and no kerb rampget real they are discriminating against wheelchair users

Grant Burns Grant Burns 8:06 pm 02 Aug 21

I’m no mathematician but as I see it there are 318,148 registered vehicles in the ACT (ABS Jan 2021), and according to the article 85,000 signs to maintain. So approximately 4 cars for every sign. Now I gather, good luck getting an accurate number, the average vehicle registration cost in the ACT is $1,140 per year ( So there is available, potentially, up to $4,560 for every parking sign in the ACT, EVERY YEAR. If we say just 2% of this budget is directed this way that’s still ~$90 per year, per sign. And obviously they’re not being renewed/replaced/properly maintained each year. But I’m not a mathematician.

Kerin Ayyalaraju Kerin Ayyalaraju 6:21 pm 02 Aug 21

Well done Don and Perry, I bet there are many others who have been trapped by this vague signage and have paid the $615 because they didn’t have the time and strength to defend themselves.

Russell Kindervater Russell Kindervater 5:45 pm 02 Aug 21

Absolutely disgusted by some of these self righteous smarty pants comments in this column

I went today with a friend to check this out. We are both reasonable people and we both agreed that this is travesty of a parking spot.

Some people have claimed there is a post with a sign. Strictly speaking there isn’t.

A casual (or non self righteous view of the area) would suggest that there are 3 car parks in front of Domino’s, one of which is a deceased disability park.

I have appended the photos we took.

I myself am more concerned that I suspect there are significant abuses of the disabled parking system by families with access to these cards

Although I know there are exceptions I can only wonder what significant impairment people have that still allows them to climb into and out of their SUVs and run across car parks as I have seen them do.

I was mightily impressed by the HiLux that was there today.

(I am aware I am being self righteous myself. Mea culpable)

    Angela M J Brown Angela M J Brown 6:16 pm 02 Aug 21

    Russell Kindervater I live in the area, I have a legitimate, not purloined, disability parking permit and I can never get a parkin this spot because it is either taken by domino's drivers or utes or people who do not have a disability parking permit. Disability parking is woeful at the best of times with the I'll only be 5 minutes' crew in their fancy schmancy cars, but seriously you step out of line telling people with a disability parking permit that they don't deserve one because they got out of an SUV and walked across the road. Did you know SUVs are easier to get out of many people with a disability? This whole thing is a lesson on look around you before and/or after you park and move when you realise it is a disability parking spot. Lucky it isn't NSW you also lose 3 demerit points.

    Russell Kindervater Russell Kindervater 6:28 pm 02 Aug 21

    Angela M J Brown OK. I stand corrected re SUVs and some drivers.

    As a person knowledgeable with this spot then you are well aware of the deficiencies in the signage.

    I don’t believe in all honesty that this is well signed. In fact reading back over the article- the gentleman who complained - said it all.

    It is bleeding obvious why people park in it to your detriment. It looks nothing like a Disability Parking spot.

    It is clearly in your self interest to get the situation fixed

Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:52 pm 02 Aug 21

An Access Canberra executive might be collecting performance bonuses?


Oiledpengu Oiledpengu 12:23 pm 02 Aug 21

Walk around Braddon on any week day and more than half the cars have disabled permits. It seems there’s a lot of disabled people in Canberra.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 12:32 pm 02 Aug 21

    And your point is, Oiledpengu?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:34 pm 02 Aug 21

    I think his point is that the concession is rorted heavily – just like the NDIS is being rorted.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 4:44 pm 02 Aug 21

    Obviously you are entitled to your opinion, Capital Retro

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:49 pm 02 Aug 21

    But I am not entitled to a parking concession or NDIS benefits therefore I do not seek them.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 8:33 am 03 Aug 21

    OK CapitalRetro – YOU are not entitled, so YOU do not seek them … end of story

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 2:54 pm 03 Aug 21

    I should have taken a photo of the car and parking position of a prominent and wealthy Canberran who was displaying a Disabled pass on the dash of his Ferrari.

    Gave me and my colleagues a great laugh and also gave the driver unlimited Civic parking in a 15 minute parking spot.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 7:30 pm 03 Aug 21

    Did you see who got out? Perhaps the passenger was the person with the disabled permit – otherwise I’d support you ‘naming and shaming’ the individual

Pete Macca Pete Macca 11:22 am 02 Aug 21

Usually there are signs next to these parking areas. Last time i got booked for parking in a loading zone it was $45 fine in 1980. $615 is a bit much for parking in a disabled parking spot. The fine should be no more than $55.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 7:22 pm 02 Aug 21

    Pete Macca I agree, far too hefty for a parking infringement, whether for a disabled spot or not.

    The fines are not consistent - you have speeding infringements, texting whilst driving etc, which are far more dangerous, copping lesser monetary fines - go figure?

    John Wardrop John Wardrop 7:31 pm 02 Aug 21

    Nada Krstin the ACT has no industry other than government, government only gets revenue from taxes. Parking is part of government industry.

    Pete Macca Pete Macca 9:58 am 03 Aug 21

    John Wardrop Funny how motor bikes can park nearly anywhere with out being fined. Yet an old lady with no Disabled Parking card gets booked in Disabled parking area with next to no signage.

    Debbie Lizars Debbie Lizars 6:35 pm 03 Aug 21

    Pete Macca the reason the fines are that high is because they are parks provided for people that cannot manage to mobilize without causing pain or cannot use a normal car park because of a disability. A $55 fine is not reflecting the inconvenience that an abled person has caused to a person with a disability. This park in the above article has been there for over 10 years. Nine times out of ten there is an abled person parked there without a permit. This was the case even when the painted wheelchair on the road was much clearer. If a person with a disability cannot get a park close to where they need to go they just go home.

Robert Lyon Robert Lyon 9:54 am 02 Aug 21

Perry and Don - $615???? I should pay more attention but their excuse is lame! Cheers and stay well! Mary Lou and Bob

Bruce Parr Bruce Parr 11:24 pm 01 Aug 21

Up my way the disabled spots are the first to fill up. Then again every second car seems to have a disabled card.

Tracy Hutchins Tracy Hutchins 10:27 pm 01 Aug 21

I hope they take the $615 and buy a can of paint to make it clearer. With the left over cash, they can then pop up the road and remind the fruit and veg shop to stop blocking the footpath with their pallets and other stuff that is just dangerous for pedestrians and that the clearly marked loading zone behind the chemist is not their private all day carpark.

Indra Silins Indra Silins 9:22 pm 01 Aug 21

Look for the signs. Pretty obvious.

James Harrison James Harrison 9:22 pm 01 Aug 21

Good on you Don we need more people like you

    Perry Burns Perry Burns 3:24 pm 02 Aug 21

    James Harrison Many thanks James. If only we could retain youthful alertness and good looks, the way you have. Best wishes, Don

Craig Beamish Craig Beamish 8:20 pm 01 Aug 21

The same to be said of the ones in civic. Can barely see the marking on the outdoor civic carpark

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 12:18 am 02 Aug 21

    Craig Beamish most of the markings at Mawson shops are in need of refreshing.

Michael Jaz Michael Jaz 7:18 pm 01 Aug 21

Okay Don. Perhaps wifey needs a trip to SpecSavers. It's clear as day mate

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:05 pm 01 Aug 21

So we have a government which is portraying itself as valiantly crusading for the disabled when the costs are borne by others –

but it can’t find the spare change to make sure that on-road and nearby disabled parking signs are clear and unambiguous.

Absolutely typical of the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude of this mob.

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 4:50 pm 01 Aug 21

Don's missus probably deserved a caution considering her claimed good record. I pulled up into that spot once. I didn't notice the signs until I got out of the car. So I got back in the car because I didn't want to be responsible for someone genuinely disabled not being able to get to an appointment. If I was Don, I would be encouraging the missus to take the matter to court, acknowledging being in the wrong and pleading for the court's mercy because she has such a good record and is mortified that she has done the wrong thing. Of course, Don could attend and support her through the process.

Warren Brown Warren Brown 2:22 pm 01 Aug 21

There is so many issues with this fine, poor road markings and disable signs in the wrong location, Don that the issues to court, the signs, according to the road rules , should not be installed on the building and be adjacent to the parking spot , old parking inspector talking

    Perry Burns Perry Burns 3:37 pm 02 Aug 21

    Warren Brown Thank you Warren. At first we were kicking ourselves for becoming so befuddled. Now we know that a senior executive in Access Canberra knows this signage is sub-standard, has made a conscious decision to not improve it, while deliberately issuing $615 fines to unsuspecting motorists. The executive might be collecting performance bonuses. What harm does this do to our confidence and respect for government administration and the responsible Ministers who were elected to represent us?

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